After a six game home stand that included plenty of drama as well as some late-game heroics, the Detroit Red Wings still have their NHL-record home winning streak alive. The streak is now 23 straight at Joe Louis Arena after the Red Wings topped the San Jose Sharks 3-2 today.
The streak has had remarkable moments, and none more so than Friday night’s game between Detroit and the Nashville Predators. The game was a defensive slugfest, and was tied 1-1 with just seconds left in the third. With overtime seemingly inevitable, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom corralled the loose puck near his own blue line, backhanded it off the boards to Henrik Zetterberg, who then fired a beauty of a no-look pass right on the tape of Pavel Datsyuk. From there, Datsyuk baffled Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and launched a top-shelf laser over the blocker of goalie Pekka Rinne with just five seconds remaining.
Bedlam naturally ensued at The Joe, as over 20,000 saluted the Wings’ 22nd straight at home.
The key for Detroit during this amazing 23 game streak has been the outstanding play of their stars, especially Datsyuk, as well as above-average play from the third and fourth lines.
Helm has been one of the reasons for the third line's solid play
Datsyuk has been nothing short of brilliant this year, showing off his dazzling puck handling skills and sneaky goal scoring ability. He has been a major reason for Detroit’s success, and leads the team with 59 points.
While Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, and the rest of the Wings’ stars have been outstanding, it has been the play of their third and fourth lines that has solidified them among the league’s elite. Today’s win over San Jose is a classic example of the later lines winning a game. Today’s third line of Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader, and Derren Helm tallied two goals and four points. Miller lit the lamp in the second to put the Wings up 2-0, then Helm extended the lead to 3-1 in the third.
The fourth line, which has included players such as veteran Tomas Holmstrom as well as rookies Cory Emmerton (played 2 games with the Wings last year, so not technically a rookie) and Jan Mursak, has been effective as well. Holmstrom, who just played his 1,000th game as a Red Wing, is nearing the end of his career but still wreaks havoc in front of opposing goaltenders as well as anyone. Emmerton has scored six goals this year and Mursak has blinding speed.
The emergence of these young players has been key for the Wings this year. Throw out Holmstrom and the average age of the third and fourth lines is under 25. If these young players can continue to improve, the Red Wings will be dangerous for years to come.
Another major factor for the Red Wings this year has been the play of their netminders. Jimmy Howard has 32 wins thus far this year and made his first career All-Star appearance in January. Then, he went down with a broken finger. Enter Joey MacDonald. The 31 year old stepped out of relative obscurity and has led his team to the last six home wins. With today’s win, the Wings have allowed two goals or fewer in 21 of 23 during the streak, a testament to their great defense and goaltending.
What to watch for
Jimmy Howard will make his return from a broken finger on Tuesday at Chicago
Tuesday @ Chicago (8:00pm, NBCSP, FSD)
Thursday vs Vancouver (7:30pm, FSD, NHLN)
Saturday vs Colorado (7:00pm, FSD)
Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny