The Red Wings figure if they go hard to the net, they can win tonight. Then it's a best-of-three series.

An up-and-down season is down again, after a 4-0 loss in the first playoff game at home, against the Ducks. But the long-term trend is discernibly up.

Whether those issuing the hue and cry about the circumstances of the hometown team quite understand it, what is unfolding is as much about seasons to come as it is about now.

And that is not writing anything off. It is observing facts.

The second-seeded Ducks have not separated themselves from the Wings in this series, despite the changing roster, all of the injuries and the inexperience with which the team from Detroit plays. That should tell us something about these Red Wings — now, and going forward.

Meanwhile, they gather something only time provides: the opportunity to make mistakes.

Think a 4-1 lead in the third period of an NHL playoff game is safe? Lesson learned.

Think executing passes on the perimeter will be enough to beat an NHL goalie? Lesson learned.

Trying to skate up ice with the puck and 11 seconds remaining in a power play when you should head to the bench because you are tired? Lesson learned.

After three of six defensemen left in two years, the Red Wings sailed straight into an owner's lockout, a measly five-day training camp and no exhibition games in which they could become familiar with one another, new guys and old. Then, they got more injuries than any team in the NHL, including their entire third line for the whole season.