Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Red Wings fans not accustomed to early losses

April 25, 2001

As a Detroit Red Wings fan for the past six years, Matthew Smith has never said goodbye to his team in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

So this is something of a shock for the computer science senior.

Detroit lost Game 6 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night, 3-2, ending the best-of-seven series at 4-2. The Wings started the series 2-0.

Detroit hasn’t lost four playoff games in a row in most fans’ recent memory. It hasn’t been eliminated in the first round since the 1993-94 season when the team lost in Game 7 to the San Jose Sharks.

And now, MSU students who are Wings supporters are left with nothing to cheer about.

“I don’t know what happened,” Smith said. “It had to be the lack of leadership. They were just playing dead. They weren’t playing like the Red Wings.”

Many fans are chalking up the less-than-stellar performance to their absences.

“I think if both of them had been in, we would have won this,” physiology sophomore Leigh Kendziorski said of injured Steve yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. “I think without Yzerman’s leadership, they didn’t have what they needed. I think a lot of the ‘no heart’ came in not having Shanahan and Yzerman.”

Kendziorski, a center on the MSU women’s ice hockey club, didn’t tune into the game until the third period. The Wings were up 2-1 with less than 10 minutes left.

“I thought they could pull it off with only seven minutes left,” she said. “Then, once L.A. scored, I kinda lost my confidence.”

Smith said he, too, started viewing with high hopes, yelling and high-fiving friends as they watched the season-ending game at home.

“I had a pretty good feeling,” Smith said. “I’d seen them be down and come back before so I thought they could do it.”

But as the Kings scored, sending the game into overtime, and then slipped one more by goaltender Chris Osgood, Smith said the party quickly ended.

“It was different,” Smith said. “We’re so used to them going to the second and third rounds, it was just really shocking.”

Now fans are packing away their red and white and trying to move on without the Wings in the tournament.

Smith said he’d still watch, but didn’t have a front runner to root for. Kendziorski hoped Pittsburgh would claim the Stanley Cup, because of the emotional return of Mario Lemieux.

But the end of April won’t be as exciting, no matter what, said biochemistry junior Shawn Martin, an avid Wings fan.

“I usually watch the playoffs a lot longer than this,” he said. “I guess I won’t watch every game like I have been.”


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