Post-season heroes come in all forms from the star player to the unknown fourth-liner. We all know the exploits of the great playoff performers. However, we hardly hear about the unlikely playoff heroes. These unlikely post-season stars can contribute in many ways. Contributions could be for an entire playoff run, a series, a game or even a goal. These unlikely heroes have made big plays that no one expects. This series looks at all of these unknown stars. These are the unlikely Detroit Red Wings playoff heroes.
Detroit Red Wings Playoff Heroes
Before the Moment
Darren McCarty was drafted by the Red Wings in the second round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. McCarty wasted no time becoming a tenacious fan favourite for Detroit, earning a reputation for being the Red Wings’ proverbial middle-weight fighter on the roster during his rookie season. This role came as a sort of under study for one of the most fearsome fighters in league history, Bob Probert. The next season, however, Probert was out of Detroit after a series of controversies that left the Red Wings without one of their most impactful players. McCarty never quite became as intimidating as Probert, but he became an important part of replacing that tenacity.
The most famous instance of this influence came when McCarty took on Claude Lemieux, causing a line brawl, in a game with the Colorado Avalanche now infamously dubbed “Fight Night at the Joe” in 1997. Little did people know, the Fight Night at the Joe would not be McCarty’s most important contribution to the 1996-97 Detroit Red Wings. That moment would come in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Detroit Red Wings cruised through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, reaching the final against Eric Lindros and the Philadelphia Flyers. While many contemporary hockey pundits considered this a mismatch, at the time, the Red Wings were very much the 2010s Washington Capitals or Tampa Bay Lightning of their era. Impressive regular seasons would always be followed by disappointing post seasons. By the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals, many stopped having faith the Red Wings team… as it was constructed could get it done. This notion was quickly put to rest as Detroit blitzed Philadelphia to take a 3-0 series lead.
With the Red Wings up 1-0 in the third period, Darren McCarty pulled off a beautiful deke in the Flyers’ zone before putting the puck past Ron Hextall. Eric Lindros put the Flyers on the board with 15 seconds to play, making McCarty’s tally the Stanley Cup winning goal. McCarty’s beautiful goal delivered the Stanley Cup to Detroit for the first time since 1954-55.
McCarty continued to be an important piece of the Detroit Red Wings going forward. The rough-and-tough winger would go on to score a hat trick in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche in 2002. Like Probert before him, McCarty was no stranger to off-ice controversies. When all was said and done, however, the forward retired as a four-time Stanley Cup Champ that was the catalyst of more than one legendary Red Wings’ moments.
Before the Moment
It may surprise some to see Chris Osgood‘s name on this list. Osgood is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion that served as the starter for the Red Wings championships in 1998 and 2008. That being said, a list of Red Wings playoff heroes isn’t complete without the sturdy backstop. Osgood’s best work always came during the playoffs while his regular season stats are not reminiscent of a player of his stature. Osgood always served as a dependable backstop but his last, and perhaps most important, heroics came during the 2007-08 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Chris Osgood proved to be a near unbeatable goaltender during the 2007-08 playoffs. It is difficult to pick out a single moment because the goaltender played stellar throughout the playoffs. Osgood’s excellence played as some form of redemption, given that he often won with the team, not because of his own play. It is impossible to say the Red Wings carried Osgood to that Stanley Cup. The goaltender posted a 1.55 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage. The Red Wings captured their 11th Stanley Cup after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final.
Osgood continued to be a solid playoff performer. The veteran goaltender once again back-stopped the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup Final in 2007-08. This time, however, the Penguins skated away with the win in a seven-game series. This run served as Osgood’s final playoff experience in the NHL. Still, Osgood proved to be a Detroit Red Wings playoff hero on multiple occasions.
Before the Moment
The Detroit Red Wings drafted Joakim Andersson with the 88th pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The Swedish centre served as a defensively responsible bottom-six forward. As the Red Wings often did with prospects at that time, Detroit took Andersson’s development slow. The forward did not see regular NHL action until 2012-13. When Andersson did arrive, he filled in just as the Red Wings had imagined centreing a third line that featured Damien Brunner and a young Gustav Nyquist. Andersson served as a solid player, but hardly seemed primed to become a playoff hero entering the 2012-13 playoffs. Detroit defeated the Anaheim Ducks in the first round to set up a second round showdown with the rival Chicago Blackhawks.
Throughout the second round series, Andersson lived up to his role as an important defensive piece for Detroit. In addition to his usual defensive prowess, Andersson chipped in offensively as well. The Swedish centre anchored a very productive line and scored an important goal of his own in an ultimately losing effort during Game 6. Like Osgood, Andersson didn’t have one crowning moment, but was rather an unexpected contributor to an important Red Wings playoff moment. This makes him a Red Wings playoff hero and a very unlikely one at that. The Red Wings managed to push the heavily-favoured Blackhawks to Game 7 after jumping out to a 3-1 series lead.
Ultimately, the Blackhawks toppled the Red Wings in seven games. If this led to nothing what makes Andersson’s performance important? This importance stems more from the aftermath. Detroit was on a decline that eventually resulted in a long-standing 25-year playoff streak ending. One could make the argument that Detroit’s last real run at glory came during that playoff run. From there on, the Red Wings never really seemed primed to make a deep playoff run and are now a basement dweller. For this reason, Joakim Andersson’s impressive run makes him an unsung playoff hero.