Detroit’s Dominating Run

This Thursday night, the Detroit Red Wings will put their historic home win streak to the ultimate test as they take on the second best team in the league – the Vancouver Canucks. Since No­vember 3, the NHL-leading Wings have hosted 23 contests in the famed Joe Louis Are­na in downtown Detroit and won them all, outscoring opponents 92-34 in the pro­cess. Thursday, however, the Canucks will look to finally put an end to their Western Conference rival’s streak. Sit­ting just two points behind Detroit in the Conference standings, Vancouver has as good a chance as anyone to dethrone the near-unbeatable club.

The announcement that Detroit’s star center Pavel Datsyuk will miss two-to-three weeks after a knee surgery only adds to the hopes of the Northwest Division leading Canucks, who are an impressive 8-0-2 in their last 10 games.

Though whispers of the end of the streak are stirring with Vancouver on the horizon, for Wings Coach Mike Bab­cock, Thursday’s contest will be just an­other game. “We’ve never really talk­ed about [the streak] at all,” Babcock said in an interview with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt.

For Detroit, their coach’s approach has clearly proven successful. In what has been one of the most amazing streaks the sports world has ever seen, the Red Wings have been almost scary in their systematic, me­thodical habit of winning. Like all coaches, Babcock leads his troops off the bench and into the locker room, win or lose, wraps up the night with a quick speech and sends the players off on their own. The difference in Detroit, however, is that once they are dismissed, all able-bodied players convene in the weight room for a post-game work­out. It is this hard-nosed grind to get bet­ter both on and off the ice that has granted the Red Wings so much success. Thanks to the leadership of Babcock as well as veter­ans like Nicklas Lidstrom, 41, and Tomas Holmstrom, 39, the Wings have established themselves as the hardest working team in the league – and it has shown up in their 23 straight home wins.

There are 82 games in a hockey season, 41 played at home and 41 on the road. Through 29 games at ‘The Joe’ this season, the Wings have amassed an absurd 26-2-1 record. At that rate, after all 41 home games are played, they will have earned 75 points at home. That’s more than five NHL teams had all of last season at home and on the road. Without the yeoman’s work that all 23 players put in every day, that success could never come.

To the casual sports fan, 23 consecutive home wins may well seem impressive but, in reality, the feat is so much more. UConn women’s basketball rattled off 90 wins just two years ago, the New England Patriots had their own undefeated regular season five years ago and the L.A. Lakers won 33 straight in the 1971-1972 season. To me, the Red Wings’ accomplishment ranks right up there with these iconic sports streaks. To win 90 straight games as the Huskies did as the clear dominant force over all other women’s basketball programs is one thing, but without a doubt, competition at the NHL level is so tight and so even that losing on any given night is simply bound to happen.

The Red Wings were destined to lose at least one of their three shootouts in games 13, 16 and 18 of the streak, right? A Pavel Datsyuk highlight-reel move in the dy­ing seconds of regulation last Friday was bound to be stopped by the goalie. Or hit the post. Or shot wide. Right? Wrong. Through all the uncertainty that comes with hockey, through all the possible ways a puck could bounce or a slap shot could dip around a goalie or not, through all the instances in which Detroit should not have won (could not have won), they did just that. For 23 games and counting, they’ve just won.

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