There is one thing that hasn’t changed in Detroit sports over the last 20 years, and that is the Detroit Red Wings making the playoffs. It isn’t even a question when the season begins. A couple years ago, the team struggled through injuries, battled through a tumultuous season, and then crafted a late charge to catapult themselves to the 5th spot. All of this despite actually being on the outside looking in just a few weeks prior. It was really the only scare the team had in the last couple of decades, which has included 4 Stanley Cup Championships and 6 Western Conference Crowns. This team has only produced one 1 Hart Trophy winner over that span, when Sergei Fedorov won it while Mario Lemieux was out nursing a bad back. NHL greats like Steve Yzerman, Fedorov, Brett Hull, Niklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, and Dominik Hasek have all been along for the ride. The team itself has put up impressive numbers, such as an NHL record 62 regular season wins in 1995-96. They recorded an NHL record 12 game winning-streak on the road in 2005-06. But one of their most impressive records is happening this year, a 20 straight wins at home. Tonight, they play the Dallas Stars at Joe Louis Arena with the record in their sights.
There are many that will argue that it isn’t the same, or that it should be accompanied with an asterisk at this point. See, the Red Wings, unlike the 1929–30 Boston Bruins and 1975–76 Philadelphia Flyers, have had to win 3 of their games in a shoot-out. Those did not exist for the Bruins and the Flyers. Now, I am not a big time fan of the shootout, but I think the fact that is that it shouldn’t lessen what they are doing. I get the argument that if they played to a tie in OT, it would just be an unbeaten streak, and not winning streak. It also changes the way some teams play in OT, forcing things into shootout, and guaranteeing themselves points in the standings. There has to be an outcome in the modern NHL game. A winner and and a loser. The Wings easily could have lost the 3 games they won in the shootout, therefore, there’s no need for a footnote.
The Bruins and the Flyers didn’t even have OT, and won all their games in regulation. That in itself is remarkable. But to play extra hockey, still finish in a tie, and then win a shootout is pretty impressive as well. There is no reason to separate the eras of hockey, just like baseball doesn’t with their records. The game evolves, and it has been 36 years since the Flyers equaled the Bruins. We should celebrate what the Red Wings have done without trying to poke holes in it.
Fans and analysts alike may be taking their shots because of the Wings dominance for almost a quarter of a century. Maybe they don’t want to celebrate a team that has been the face of the NHL for so long. It is hard to find a reason, a real reason, to dislike the Wings. They win a lot of hockey games, they didn’t crumble when a salary cap was placed like many thought they would. This is just another stocking in their cap of greatness, and with greatness comes detractors.