Six months later, the Red Wings are showing they can still be a force in the Western Conference, while the Ducks are floundering at the bottom of the Pacific Division.
Detroit looks to continue its home dominance of Anaheim on Saturday night when the teams meet for the first time this season.
The Red Wings (9-5-3) lost in seven games to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup finals last June after winning it the previous year.
One of the teams second-seeded Detroit eliminated to reach the finals was eighth-seeded Anaheim (6-8-3) and it took a bitter semifinals series stretched to its maximum to determine the winner.
That series included five games that were decided by one goal with Dan Cleary’s score with 3 minutes to play in Game 7 securing a 4-3 win and a third consecutive trip to the conference finals for the Red Wings.
Detroit struggled at the start of this season, going 3-4-2 before turning things around with a 6-1-1 stretch after beating Vancouver 3-1 on Thursday. That came a night after a 9-1 victory at Columbus, a Central rival along with Chicago which is challenging the Wings’ run of eight consecutive division titles.
“We aren’t winning games in the same fashion that we used to, that’s pretty obvious,” coach Mike Babcock said. “But we are finding ways to grind games out and that’s what we have to do.”
A visit by the Ducks could help the Red Wings continue their strong play. They’re 24-3-0 with three ties against them all-time during the regular season at Joe Louis Arena.
The Wings could get a lift if Chris Osgood(notes), 10th all-time with 395 wins, is able to start in net after he was rested against the Blue Jackets before a bout with the flu forced him out Thursday.
Osgood is 6-3-2 with a 2.77 goals-against average and a shutout, while posting a 14-2-0 mark with a tie and a 2.48 GAA in 17 games, including six in the postseason, against the Ducks. If Osgood is unable to play, Jimmy Howard(notes) would face Anaheim for the first time.
Howard won the last two games while stopping 56 of 58 shots, improving to 3-2-1 with a 2.66 GAA in seven appearances.
“I think everybody in this dressing room believes I can do it,” said Howard, who is in his fourth season as a backup with Detroit. “I just have to keep doing it consistently.”
The Ducks dropped to 0-1-1 on a four-game trip after falling 3-2 in a shootout at Columbus on Friday.
“We are desperate for a win on the road,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “I didn’t think we played that poor a hockey game. But we will take the point and move on. It’s not easy to win on the road.”
While Anaheim is struggling, Corey Perry(notes) has been one of the few bright spots. The right wing ranks among the league leaders with 12 goals and 21 points, failing to record a point in only three games.
Perry, though, has just three goals and five assists in 15 games against the Red Wings. However, he had five of each during last season’s playoff series.
Todd Marchant(notes) scored his second goal of the season Friday. The veteran center came up big in the playoffs against Detroit last spring, scoring in the third overtime to clinch a 4-3 win at Joe Louis in Game 2.