DETROIT (AP) — Riley Sheahan was not born the last time the Detroit Red Wings failed to make the playoffs in 1990.
In fact, the 24-year-old forward is one of nine players on the Red Wings’ roster that wasn’t alive back then.
Sheahan, and his teammates, young and old, desperately hope to fare well enough in the final five games of the regular season to avoid the dubious distinction of being a part of a streak-busting team.
“We’ve talked a few times about not wanting to be on that roster that doesn’t make the playoffs,” Sheahan said.
Detroit took a step back in its quest to extend the franchise’s postseason streak to 25 on Tuesday night, losing a third-period lead in a 4-3 setback at Montreal.
The Red Wings are a point behind the Boston Bruins for the third and final guaranteed spot from the Atlantic Division. Detroit is tied with Philadelphia for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, but the Flyers have two more game to earn up to four more points.
The Red Wings’ run is the tied for the fourth longest in NHL history, one shy of St. Louis’ streak from 1980 to 2004. It is longer than the combined active streaks Pittsburgh (nine), Chicago (seven) and the New York Rangers (five) had entering the season.
The San Antonio Spurs have clinched a spot in a 19th straight postseason, the longest active streak in the NBA. New England and Green Bay have the best active playoff streaks in the NFL at seven years each. In baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals have been in the postseason the previous five years for the longest current run.
Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, who is from Michigan, has watched the Red Wings’ run closely. He was playing hockey for Bowling Green as it began and he coached Pittsburgh against the Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals when they was a win away from winning it all for a fifth time during the streak.
“It seems like they’ve been a contending team my whole life,” Bylsma said Monday night. “It’s hard to wrap my head around it to provide context, knowing the second-longest streak in the league is going on 10 years.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who has led the front office since 1997 and been a part of the organization for 33 seasons, said the storied franchise has maintained the streak even after it had to retool during the salary cap because of one key reason.
“We’ve had a lot of great players,” Holland said.
Steve Yzerman was arguably in the prime of his Hall of Fame career when the streak started in 1991, and future Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov was a rookie, beginning his 13-season run with the franchise.
Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the top defenseman in league history, started his 20-season run with the team a season later. Four years after retirement, he can reflect on the streak much more than he did as a player.
“When you look at other teams over that span, a lot of them have been going through rebuilding processes and have a chance to start over so to speak,” Lidstrom wrote in an e-mail earlier this week. “But the Wings have been able to find new talent and still make the playoffs every year.”
One of those new talents has been 19-year-old rookie Dylan Larkin, the team’s only All-Star this season. Growing up in Michigan, he has no idea what it’s like to see the Red Wings end their year when the regular season ends.
“I think everyone is aware of the streak and everyone in the league knows about it, so there’s no hiding from it,” Larkin said. “But it’s not going to help us right now. We’ve got to earn it. It would be nice to be part of the streak. In my first year, I’ve realized how tough it is to earn a spot and it’s going to be a dog fight until the end.”
GAME OF THE WEEK: The New York Islanders host the Penguins on Saturday afternoon in a possibly pivotal game for the Metropolitan Division’s third and final guaranteed spot in the playoffs. Pittsburgh won two of the first three meetings.
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