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PLAYOFFS: Red Wings 3 - Stars 0

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Ronald Martinez

Amazing.

I can't even begin to describe my feeling right now. Ecstasy. Amazement. Immense pride.

These players were under more regular season pressure in the last week than any Red Wing team of the past 21 years. Coming into the final week and a bit of the season, the Wings controlled their destiny but only if they won every single one of their games. It was a relatively easy schedule, with only one playoff team among the Wings' final 4 opponents.

But if the 2013 Red Wings have shown us anything, it's that they never make it easy on themselves. Too many times this season did the Wings have points in their grasp or a win in sight only to blow it, sometimes in hilarious fashion. I can count more bad moments than good this year, at least in the memorable ones. There was the opening night debacle against St. Louis, the Easter Massacre against the Blackhawks, back-to-back losses to Columbus, going 0-3 against Calgary.

Yet this last week we saw what the Wings really are. Their best players elevated their games to levels we haven't seen since Cups were being won. Pavel Datsyuk reminded us that he's a magician. Johan Franzen earned his entire contract in the last 8 games. Jimmy Howard got rich and then played even better than he did before he signed the extension. And Henrik Zetterberg conjured Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom, put the team on his back, and carried them to the playoffs.

The playoffs. 22 straight seasons the Red Wings have played beyond the final game of the regular season, and this year is probably the sweetest because of everything. The retirement of Lidstrom, the injuries, the rookies, the roster turnover, their own GM admitting it might not happen. Not only are the Wings in, but they're heating up at the right time, and get an Anaheim team who they beat in back-to-back games in their building not too long ago. If you believe the "experts", Anaheim may be a bit of a paper tiger and not as good as their record indicates. We'll have plenty of time to rekindle that rivalry while breathing a huge sigh of relief that the Wings avoided Chicago (because we're all thinking the same thing).

We'll have playoff previews, trash talk, stats, predictions, and all the regular stuff that goes into the playoffs. For now, here are the stat lines for some of the Wings' players in the last 4 games:

Henrik Zetterberg: 2 G, 8 A
Pavel Datsyuk: 2 G, 6 A
Johan Franzen: 4 G, 1 A
Jimmy Howard: 3 GA, .961 SV%, 2 SO

Enjoy this moment. It means a lot more this year.

Let's Go Red Wings.