SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Detroit Red Wings are no longer the Western Conference's biggest playoff underachievers of recent years - and they might have even found a team to take their place.
Mikael Samuelsson scored two first-period goals, Dominik Hasek posted his 13th career playoff shutout. and the Red Wings rolled into the conference finals with three straight victories in their second-round series, beating the deflated San Jose Sharks, 2-0, in Game 6 last night.
Hasek made 28 saves in his first shutout of the spring for the top-seeded Red Wings, who are headed to the conference finals for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2002.
The Red Wings open the next round Friday at home against the Anaheim Ducks.
Detroit had won just one playoff series in the previous three seasons despite winning at least 48 games in each, earning two Presidents' Trophies as the NHL's best regular-season team. But the Red Wings, who finished second overall this season, finally parlayed their veteran experience into playoff success against a young opponent that took another postseason of lumps.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 20 shots for the Sharks, but the best regular season in franchise history ended in another mystifying collapse after San Jose controlled most of the series' first three games. The club also blew the 2004 Western Conference finals against Calgary.