Series Storylines: Red Wings-Blue Jackets
First-Time Playoff Success: The Blue Jackets qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in their nine-year history. In the last 40 years, two teams have reached the Stanley Cup Final in their first-ever trip to the post-season -- St. Louis Blues (1968) and Florida Panthers (1996).
Rookie Goalies Leave Their Playoff Mark: Since the League's first expansion in 1967, three rookie goaltenders have led their teams to the Stanley Cup in their first post-season appearances: Cam Ward (Carolina, 2006); Patrick Roy (Montreal, 1986) and Ken Dryden (Montreal, 1971). The record for playoff wins by a rookie goaltender is 15 -- shared by Roy, Ron Hextall (Philadelphia, 1987) and Ward. Dryden and Mike Vernon (Calgary, 1986), each won 12 games.
Playoff Experience: While the Blue Jackets will compete in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, they have 16 players that have a combined 401 games of playoff experience. Detroit players have a combined 1,793 games of playoff experience.
Bench Experience: Coach Ken Hitchcock ranks ninth all-time among coaches in playoff wins with 66 (66-51 career record) as he makes his first appearance behind the bench since 2006 with Philadelphia. Hitchcock ranks second to Mike Keenan (94) among active coaches in playoff wins. Scotty Bowman is the all-time leader with 223 wins.
Tough To Repeat: The Red Wings will look to do what no team has done since 1998: repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Detroit won the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998.
Power Play: The Red Wings registered the League's best power-play this season (25.5%). The Blue Jackets ranked last in the League (12.7%).
Babcock's Post-Season Success: Red Wings' coach Mike Babcock's .642 playoff winning percentage ranks third all-time among coaches with 50-or-more games. Glen Sather ranks first (.705) followed by former Montreal coaching legend Toe Blake (.689).
Detroit Red Wings
NHL Playoff Appearance: 57th (18th consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 11 (1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008)
Last Playoff Series Win: 2008 (Stanley Cup Final vs. Pittsburgh)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 62-45
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 285-254-1
The Red Wings will be attempting to repeat as Stanley Cup champions for the first time in more than a decade. They were the last club to accomplish the feat, winning back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998. Five of the players who competed for both of those champions are on the Red Wings' active roster (Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby and Chris Osgood).
Detroit set an NHL record by posting its ninth consecutive 100-point season with a 4-0 victory at Columbus Mar. 15, surpassing the Montreal Canadiens' eight-season streak from 1974-75 through 1981-82. The Red Wings also clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 18th consecutive season -- the longest active streak of qualifying for the postseason among the major pro sports teams -- and captured the Central Division title for the eighth consecutive season.
The Red Wings had three defensemen in the top 11 in NHL defense scoring - Nicklas Lidstrom (third, 16-43--59), Brian Rafalski (fifth, 10-49--59), and Niklas Kronwall (11th, 6-45--51). Lidstrom has recorded 997 career regular-season points, just shy of becoming just the eighth defenseman in League history to reach the 1,000-point milestone.
C Pavel Datsyuk finished fourth in the NHL scoring race with 97 points (32 goals, 65 assists), equaling his career high set in 2007-08. He led the club in scoring for a fourth consecutive season, surpassing the three-year runs of franchise greats Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman. Datsyuk also excelled in the defensive end, ranking third among NHL players in plus-minus with a +34 rating.
The Red Wings were counting on big production from RW Marian Hossa when they signed him as an unrestricted free agent last summer and he responded, notching the third 40-goal season of his NHL career. Hossa, who also tallied 40-goal seasons with the Ottawa Senators and Atlanta Thrashers, is just the eighth player in NHL history to do so with three different clubs. Hossa will look to repeat the form of his 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he ranked third in NHL scoring with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 20 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
LW Henrik Zetterberg tallied his fourth consecutive 30-goal season, finishing second on the Red Wings in scoring (31-42--73). He enters the post-season as the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He finished at or near the top of several playoff categories in 2008, including points (1st, 27), goals (T-1st, 13), plus-minus (T-1st, +16, shots (1st, 116), game-winning goals (2nd, four) and assists (T-3rd, 14).
LW Johan Franzen continued his knack for clutch scoring this season, sharing the Red Wings lead in game-winning goals with Marian Hossa (eight). Last season, Franzen set franchise records for most game-winners in a calendar month (six in March 2008) and in a single playoff year (five). "The Mule" ranked second on the Red Wings in goals this season with a career-high 34.
Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as one of three NHL goaltending tandems of which each made at least 40 appearances this season, joining Jean-Sebastien Giguere/Jonas Hiller (Anaheim) and Cristobal Huet/Nikolai Khabibulin (Chicago). Conklin set career highs in wins (25-11-2) and shutouts (six), while Osgood rose to 10th on the NHL’s all-time victories list (389) and second on the Red Wings' all-time list (305).
Oct. 11: It didn't take long for the Red Wings' Johan Franzen to resume his clutch goal-scoring from the Stanley Cup-winning 2007-08 season. Franzen tallied twice in the third period to give the Red Wings a 3-2 comeback victory at Ottawa in the club's second game of the season. Franzen set a franchise record with 13 post-season goals in 2008 after scoring 15 times in Detroit's final 16 regular-season games.
Dec. 13: Johan Franzen scored the game-tying goal with 19.9 seconds remaining in regulation and Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler tallied in the shootout as the Red Wings recorded a 5-4 victory at Phoenix. The game also marked the return of Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios for his 25th NHL season. Chelios had missed Detroit's first 28 games due to injury.
Jan. 1: Playing in front of 40,818 fans outdoors at Chicago's Wrigley Field and the largest NHL regular-season television audience in nearly 13 years, the Red Wings posted a 6-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2009 Winter Classic. Trailing, 3-1, after the first period, the Red Wings scored five consecutive goals, highlighted by strikes by defensemen Brian Rafalski and Brett Lebda 17 seconds apart in the third period.
Feb. 4: Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom celebrated his 1,300th career regular-season game in style, scoring a power-play goal with 39 seconds remaining in the third period to give Detroit a 5-4 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena. The goal negated a third-period Phoenix comeback from a 4-2 deficit with five minutes remaining in regulation.
Feb. 25: Henrik Zetterberg scored twice, including a highlight-reel shorthanded effort, as the Red Wings defeated the San Jose Sharks, 4-1, and earned a split of their season series. The home club won every one of the four contests between the Western Conference leaders.
Columbus Blue Jackets
NHL Playoff Appearance: 1st
Stanley Cups: n/a
Last Playoff Series Win: n/a
All-Time Playoff Series Record: n/a
All-Time Playoff Game Record: n/a
Jan. 14: Acquired C Jason Williams from Atlanta for D Clay Wilson and San Jose's 6th-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft (previously acquired).
Jan. 17: Claimed G Wade Dubielewicz on waivers from NY Islanders.
Feb. 21: Claimed C Chris Gratton on waivers from Tampa Bay.
Mar. 4: Acquired LW Antoine Vermette from Ottawa for G Pascal Leclaire and Columbus' second-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft.
The Blue Jackets qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history and have set multiple team records in the process. They registered single-season marks for wins (41), points (92) and goals scored (226).
The biggest individual storyline in Columbus this season was the emergence of rookie goaltender Steve Mason, who posted a 33-20-7 record, led all NHL goaltenders with 10 shutouts and ranked second in goals-against average (2.29). He posted those sterling numbers despite undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in September that sidelined him for the first month of the season. He made his professional debut with AHL Syracuse Oct. 29, was recalled by the Blue Jackets Nov. 4 and proceeded to win his first three NHL starts.
LW Rick Nash was a key source of offense and leadership in the Blue Jackets' successful run to the playoffs. The Columbus captain scored 40 goals with 39 assists in 78 games, leading the club in scoring for the fifth consecutive season and setting career highs in assists and points. He also tallied five shorthanded goals, tied for the second in the NHL.
Antoine Vermette has flourished on the Blue Jackets' second line since his acquisition from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline. Moving back to his preferred center position, Vermette has excelled in the face-off circle (57.7 winning percentage) and has chipped in offensively with 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 17 games as a Blue Jacket.
LW Raffi Torres, who missed 49 games last season and was sidelined for 29 of this season's first 43 contests with a knee injury, stepped up as the Blue Jackets' clutch scorer in the second half of 2008-09. Five of his nine goals in a 16-game span from Feb. 26 to Mar. 31 were game-winners.
Ken Hitchcock will enter the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a career record of 511-345-127 record in 983 regular season games with the Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars. He became the 13th coach in NHL history to win 500 or more games with a 4-3 shootout victory over Toronto Feb. 19 and was the third-fastest to 500 by doing so in 960 games. The only coaches to reach the milestone in fewer games were Scotty Bowman (825) and Toe Blake (911).
The Blue Jackets' playoff appearance will be particularly satisfying to D Rostislav Klesla, the Clubs’ first-ever pick in the National Hockey League Entry Draft (2000) and the lone current Columbus player who appeared in the first game in franchise history (Oct. 7, 2000 vs. Chicago). Klesla ranks second on the Blue Jackets’ all-time games-played list with 444. He was limited to 34 games this season due to injury.
Nov. 5: Blue Jackets rookie goaltender Steve Mason made his NHL debut and registered the victory in a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Mason got the start after Columbus' top two goaltenders, Pascal Leclaire and Fredrik Norrena, were sidelined with injuries. The Blue Jackets scored three unanswered goals in the third period to overturn a 4-2 Edmonton lead, capped by Manny Malhotra's game-winner with 1:09 left in regulation.
Feb. 7: On a four-game losing streak, missing their top three goaltenders due to injury and in danger of falling out of the playoff picture, the Blue Jackets registered a 3-2 overtime victory over the first place San Jose Sharks at Nationwide Arena. The win keyed an 11-4-1 Columbus run that vaulted the Jackets into the Western Conference top eight. Goaltender Dan LaCosta, an emergency recall from AHL Syracuse, made 28 saves to earn the win in his first NHL start.
Mar. 7: The Blue Jackets gave their playoff hopes a jolt and established multiple franchise records in an 8-2 victory at Detroit. It marked the first time Columbus had scored eight goals in a game and represented the club's largest-ever margin of victory. Rick Nash tallied his second hat trick of the season and the third of his career against the Red Wings while becoming the first player since Montreal’s Maurice Richard in 1948 to score three unassisted goals in a game.
Mar. 21: Held off the scoresheet for more than 57 minutes and trailing 1-0, at Florida, the Blue Jackets engineered a stunning reversal when Raffi Torres scored the tying goal at 17:14 of the third period and notched the game-winner at 18:27 in a 3-1 victory. The Blue Jackets set a franchise record for points in a season with 82, eclipsing the previous mark of 80 set in 2007-08.
Apr. 8: In the arena where the Blue Jackets played their first NHL game in 2000 and where captain Rick Nash scored a goal in his NHL debut in 2002, the club clinched its first Stanley Cup Playoff berth in franchise history with a 4-3 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Blue Jackets won with the same perseverance they showed over the season's first 78 games - coming back from a 2-0 deficit after the first period and from 3-2 down in the waning minutes of the third. Nash's 39th goal of the season tied the game with 5:30 to play, giving Columbus the precious point it needed, and defenseman Fedor Tyutin was the unlikely hero in the shootout, tallying the lone goal.