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Detroit Red Wings’ Top Five Playoff Rivalries

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The playoffs are just a couple of weeks away, and the Detroit Red Wings are in unfamiliar territory as they are battling for a postseason berth.

During the past 21 years, the Red Wings have developed rivalries with a number of teams. Some rivalries the Red Wings have dominated, and others haven't worked out in their favor.

Here are the top five playoff rivalries for the Detroit Red Wings:

Colorado Avalanche

During the mid to late 1990s, this was one of the best rivalries, not only in hockey, but in all of sports. Claude Lemieux's hit on Kris Draper in the 1996 Western Conference final jump started a war between these two teams.

The Colorado Avalanche got the early advantage as they beat the Red Wings in the 1996 Western Conference final and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

However, the Red Wings would get revenge the next year as they beat the Avalanche in the 1997 Western Conference final on their way to their first Stanley Cup in 42 years.

The Red Wings lost to Colorado in back-to-back conference semifinals in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons before beating the Avalanche in the conference final in 2001-02 on their way to a Stanley Cup, and again in 2007-08 on their way to yet another Stanley Cup.

The rivalry has died down as Colorado has gone through some rebuilding years, but these two teams gave us some memorable games, as well as some memorable fights.

San Jose Sharks

Here's a rivalry that hasn't gone in the Red Wings' favor in recent years. It started when the top-seeded Red Wings faced the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference quarterfinals in the 1993-94 season.

The Sharks upset the heavily-favored Red Wings 4-3 and forced Detroit to put any hopes of ending a Stanley Cup drought on hold.

However, the Red Wings would get their revenge next year as they swept the Sharks in the 1994-95 conference semifinals. The Red Wings wouldn't see the Sharks in the playoffs until the 2006-07 year when the Red Wings won 4-2 in the conference semifinals.

The Sharks began putting Cup-contending teams together and have knocked the Red Wings out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals in two of the past three playoffs.

In 2009-10, the Red Wings avoided a sweep by winning Game 4, but ultimately lost in Game 5. In 2010-11, the Red Wings nearly came back from a 3-0 series deficit but, once again, fell short to the Sharks.

The Red Wings -- known more for their finesse and puck-handling skills -- were pushed around by the bigger, stronger and grittier Sharks teams of recent years.

Pittsburgh Penguins

This rivalry has just started within the past seven years, but with the Red Wings moving to the "Eastern" conference next year, it could intensify down the road.

The Red Wings would get the upper hand first in the 2007-08 season when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 to clinch their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years.

It was Sidney Crosby's first time in the Stanley Cup Final, and there is no doubt in my mind every Red Wings fan reveled in watching Sid lose.

However, Crosby would have the last laugh as the teams met again the next year in the 2008-09 Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins won in seven games, and Crosby got his first taste of Stanley Cup glory.

The other interesting aspect of this rivalry was Marian Hossa. He was on the Penguins when the Red Wings won, then was with the Red Wings when the Penguins won. Talk about jumping ship at the wrong time.

Hossa would appear in a third consecutive Stanley Cup Final with the Chicago Blackhawks, which he ultimately won.

Nashville Predators

The first two times these division rivals met in the playoffs, the Red Wings were the No. 1 seed facing the No. 8 seed Nashville Predators.

Despite being a much lower seed than the Red Wings, the Predators always gave the Red Wings a tough time.

The Red Wings won both series 4-2, but Shea Weber, Jordin Tootoo and the rest of the Predators were a much more physical team and roughed up the Red Wings.

It wasn't until the 2011-12 season when the Predators won a series against Detroit, and quite handedly. The Predators lost Game 2, but won the next three games to move on to the Western Conference semifinals.

The Predators liked using the Red Wings as a measuring stick to determine just how good their own team was. It paid off as the Predators finally were able to come out on top of their division rivals.

Phoenix Coyotes

It's hard to call this one a rivalry as the Red Wings have dominated the Phoenix Coyotes, but the Coyotes certainly proved they can push the Red Wings to the brink of elimination.

It started in the 1997-98 season when the Red Wings beat the Coyotes 4-2 in the conference quarterfinals on their way to their second consecutive Stanley Cup.

The teams wouldn't see each other for 11 years until they faced off in the 2009-10 conference quarterfinals.

The Red Wings were the No. 5 seed and didn't have home-ice advantage. It was the first time the Red Wings were a fourth seed or lower since the 1999-2000 season.

The Red Wings needed seven games, but they came out on top of a Coyotes team that held 1-0 and 2-1 series leads.

The most recent playoff matchup between these two teams wasn't even close. The Red Wings swept the Coyotes in 2010-11.

The Coyotes made a deep run in the 2011-12 postseason before being eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference final proving they could match up with the best in the NHL.

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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