What a team. When you look at this roster, it’s hard not to believe this wasn’t an All-Star team. The 2008 Detroit Red Wings were an incredibly stacked team. Just look at some of the players on their roster:

Goalies: Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek

Defencemen: Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall

Forwards: Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk, Kirk Maltby, Jiri Hudler, Kris Draper, Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom

Detroit Red Wings 2008 Stanley Cup Photo
The 2008 Detroit Red Wings celebrate with the Stanley Cup after a six game series against the Pittsburgh Penguins

There’s no doubt the 2008 Detroit Red Wings were incredibly talented. Their goalie tandem alone is something every team would fear, and we haven’t even gotten to their defencemen. Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, and Chelios (though he didn’t play in the finals) formed a stacked blue line of guys who could both stop and score goals. Then there are the forwards. Stars like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Draper, the list goes on and on. In this edition of the Champions Series, we’ll take a look at what it took for the 2008 Detroit Red Wings squad to defeat the Penguins in six.

GAME ONE, MAY 24, 2008:

Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux drop the puck to their teams' respective captains for game one of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals
Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux drop the puck to their teams’ respective captains for game one of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals

In a game Pittsburgh fans don`t like to recall, the Red Wings shutout the Penguins with an emphatic 4-0 victory on home ice to open the series. Two goals from Mikael Samuelsson, one from Zetterberg, and one from Dan Cleary helped lift the Wings over the Pens in game one. The Penguins failed to register a goal on four consecutive power plays during the game and were outshot 36-19 after 60. The Red Wings sent a message with that victory, and the Pens knew they needed to focus.

GAME TWO, MAY 26, 2008:

Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for the puck during the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals
Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins fight for the puck during the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals

Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Michel Therrien, made some line changes in preparation for game two. However, the changes proved to be ineffective as the Wings won game two with a score of 3-0. The Pens were shutout once again in the Stanley Cup Finals. Brad Stuart, Tomas Holmstrom, and Valtteri Filppula netted a goal each throughout three periods to take a 2-0 series lead heading to Pittsburgh for games three and four.

GAME THREE, MAY 28, 2008:

Segei Gonchar and Tomas Holmstrom battle in front of Marc-Andre Fleury during the 2008 stanley cup finals
Segei Gonchar and Tomas Holmstrom battle in front of Marc Andre Fleury

The Penguins were down 2-0 in the series but now had two games at home to figure things out. Thanks to their young captain, Sidney Crosby, the Pens were on the scoreboard for the first time in the series. Sid the Kid wasn’t done just yet as he netted a second to take a 2-0 lead. Johan Franzen of the Wings cut that lead in half with a goal of his own, but the Penguins regained their two-goal lead when Adam Hall scored in the third. The Red Wings weren’t done fighting, the Pens would have to work if they wanted to steal a  game. Mikael Samuelsson scored his third goal of the series to pull the Wings back within two. However, the Wings couldn’t get another to force OT and dropped this game.

GAME FOUR, MAY 31, 2008:


Skip to 1:31 to see Zetterberg’s game saving play on Crosby

Still in Pittsburgh and coming off a hard-fought loss, the Wings wanted a win in the Steel City. The Penguins knew the game was a must-win. Petr Sykora said it was a “do-or-die game” for the Pens. At less than three minutes into the game, the Penguins were up a goal thanks to Marian Hossa. With about 7 minutes left in the first, Nick Lidstrom scored to tie the game at 1 a piece. After a scoreless second period, Jiri Hudler got one by Marc-Andre Fleury to take a 2-1 lead. Preserving this lead proved to be incredibly difficult for the Wings as they were soon on a 5 on 3 penalty kill. Thanks to an incredible defensive play by Henrik Zetterberg on Sidney Crosby, the Wings would hold on to the lead and take a 3-1 series lead on their way back to Detroit.

GAME FIVE, JUNE 2, 2008:

Penguins celebrate Petr Sykora's game-winning goal in the third overtime period of game five
Penguins celebrate Petr Sykora’s game-winning goal in the third overtime period of game five

Pittsburgh was on the brink of elimination now and a win was obviously needed, the pressure was on in Detroit. The Pens opened the game with a 2-0 lead over Detroit thanks to goals from Hossa and Hall. Detroit answered back with three of their own consecutive goals from Helm, Datsyuk, and Rafalski. The score was now 3-2 and the third period was winding down. The Wings were on the cusp of becoming Stanley Cup Champions for the eleventh time. But then it happened. With 34.3 seconds left in the third, Maxime Talbot put one past Osgood to tie the game up and send it to OT. After two scoreless overtime periods, the Penguins were able to break the tie halfway through the 3rd OT period to win the game 4-3.

GAME SIX, JUNE 4, 2008:

Henrik Zetterberg’s series-winning goal in game six of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals

You could probably imagine that the Wings were upset they were playing a sixth game after being less than a minute away from a Stanley Cup on home ice. They wanted to end the series this game in Pittsburgh.

At 5:03 in the first, Rafalski snuck one past Fleury to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. Later in the second, Filppula tallied one for himself and increased the lead to two. The Pens needed something to help them get back in this game. That something was Evgeni Malkin who scored his first of the series to bring the Penguins within one. The Wings weren’t comfortable with a 1 goal lead and needed another for insurance. In the third period, Henrik Zetterberg managed to squeak a shot by Fleury in a sequence that Fleury can’t be too proud of. After stopping Zetterberg’s initial shot, the puck trickled between Fleury’s legs but still didn’t cross the line. It was only after Fleury noticed and fell back on the puck that it got knocked into the net and gave the Wings a 3-1 lead. With a few minutes left the Pens pulled Fleury for an extra skater and were able to get back within one on a power-play goal from Hossa. Despite some last minute efforts from Crosby, the Penguins would not have the same luck as they did in game five.

The Wings were now champions and lifted the cup for the eleventh time in franchise history. Henrik Zetterberg took home the honors of MVP and was awarded the Conn Smythe along with his Cup.

Stay tuned for more posts in our Champions Series where we look at some of the greatest teams to hoist the cup!

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