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May 31, 2008

2002: Dominator Leads Wings To 3rd Cup In 6 Years

The year is 2002. For the third time in six years, the Detroit Red Wings are crowned as the Stanley Cup champions.

The Wings team still featured some of the top talent from the previous Cup reigns, most notably Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Kris Draper and Brendan Shanahan. Some veteran presence was added, with sure-fire Hall of Famers Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull and Chris Chelios all joining the team.

But the key addition was goaltender Dominik Hasek.

Hasek, more so than Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur, had been the dominant goalie of the 1990s, but he could never quite get the small market Buffalo Sabres to Stanley Cup supremacy.

So Hasek specifically joined the Red Wings, feeling they would give him the best chance to win.

And win they did. Hasek posted an amazing 6 shutouts in the playoffs and finished with a 1.86 GAA and .920 save percentage.

Steve Yzerman was simply awe-inspiring in these playoffs. Playing on an experimentally reconstructed knee, Stevie Wonder put forth one of the grittiest playoffs ever witnessed, and all essentially with one leg. Yet Yzerman still finished with 23 points, second best behind only Colorado's Peter Forsberg.

Nicklas Lidstrom was especially dominant, as his nod for the Conn Smythe trophy suggests. He was the first European player to win the playoff MVP award.

Despite parachuting in all of those pricey free agent veterans, this was a bit of a transition year for Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Jiri Fischer all experienced Red Wings success early in their careers, with super Swede Henrik Zetterberg soon to join the team, too.

This would be the last Cup and last stand for many of the Red Wings veterans, and also their Hall of Fame coach. Knowing he would not return the following season, Scotty Bowman did something he always wanted to do but, despite winning 8 previous championships. Scotty put on his skates, and joined his players in a victory lap.

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