While every Red Wings fan wants to see the consecutive playoff streak continue, the Red Wings aren't just fighting for a playoff spot. They are fighting for playoff experience for their young guys.
Missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-90 season would mean a shot at winning the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft lottery. However, what's more important than a possible No. 1 overall pick for the Red Wings is getting the young guys valuable playoff experience.
Sure, they may sneak into the playoffs and be ousted early for the second consecutive year at the hands of a hot Blackhawks team that has won eight of its past 10 games, but that experience will pay dividends for next year.
Four to seven playoff games may not seem like a lot, but these guys need to taste playoff hockey. That small sample of what postseason hockey is all about will have them better equipped for the next time the Red Wings make the playoffs.
Plus, why couldn't the the Red Wings get hot if they did make the playoffs? Just last year, the Los Angeles Kings proved an eighth-place finish doesn't matter as long as you play your best hockey come playoff time.
Jimmy Howard definitely is playing playoff-caliber hockey for the Red Wings. Now, the offense needs to step up and give him support.
Not to mention, besides a 7-1 shellacking at the hands of the Blackhawks, the other three games between Detroit and Chicago have gone to overtime, and two of those games have gone to a shootout.
There may be a huge gap in the standings between these two teams, but the Blackhawks wouldn't be as favored as many people might think.
Besides, who doesn't want to see the Red Wings and Blackhawks face off in the playoffs one last time before the two teams are put into separate conferences?
While the possibility of the first overall pick sounds appealing, a 1/14th chance of getting that pick doesn't justify calling it quits on the season and missing the playoffs. You don't play the game to pick first in the draft; you play to win and, in the Red Wings' case, to get their young guys valuable playoff experience.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can find Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.
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