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01-22-2013, 12:27 PM
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Location: Indianapolis, IN
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Just covering the pre-Cup Wings . . .

Between '92 and '96, Detroit still really hadn't learned how to play "grind it out" playoff style hockey. This was especially evident in '93 and '94. The Wings won the games they could skate and make pretty plays. But when San Jose and Toronto really clamped things down, the Wings tended to start clutching their sticks and trying to force plays too much.

The same thing happened in '95, except the Wings never got the chance to play free-wheeling hockey. By that point, Detroit had learned how to play defensive hockey, but they still weren't really prepared to play *against* defensive hockey. So when New Jersey clamped down with the trap the Wings skated right into it all the harder. Rather than wait for breakdowns, they tried to create them, which resulted in the puck going into their own net more often than not.

In '96 I really think they just choked. They dominated the regular season playing a very aggressive left wing lock, but when the playoffs rolled around they got a little bit tentative, especially at their own blue line where they backed in rather than holding strong. The Blues used this to push the series to 7 games, and Colorado had the super-skilled forwards to run all over the just slightly tentative Wings. And they had Roy for those times when Detroit got their stuff together.

'97 was really the first year the Wings started believing they could win any game and any series, no matter the score, circumstances, or playstyle. When things got tight they were willing to grind them out, and never panicked when they fell behind or when the games tightened up. They were willing to wait for opportunities rather than try to force them, correctly figuring out their skilled guys could win even when the game was reduced to a series of individual mistakes and breakdowns.

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