It's a quarter after 12 and it feels funny to be up here in the Joe Louis Arena pressbox at this time of day but the schedule is what the schedule is and we've got the Blackhawks in here this afternoon with a chance to see history, sort of.
The Wings today look for their 14th consecutive win at home, which, if they can do it, would tie the franchise record. But it would, in my view, have to come with an asterisk. The record Detroit is trying to equal this afternoon was set in 1965, when the Wings won every game they played at Olympia Stadium from January 21 through March 25. Here, the night before last, Detroit beat Phoenix 3-2 in a shootout to extend their home win streak to 13. The thing is, had that game been played in 1965, it would have ended in a 2-2 tie as there was no overtime, no shootout back in those days. In other words, if the rules were the same today as they were four decades ago, Detroit would no longer be working an active win streak today, they would be taking a 13-game unbeaten streak into the contest. A slight difference to be sure, but still a difference worth noting.
Can you explain this to me? How can the Wings--or any team for that matter--be, as Detroit is right now, 16-2-1 (.868) at home and at the same time be 11-13-0 (.458) on the road? That's the record for Detroit though as we move to within a few minutes of faceoff.
We are just barely into the second half of the season (today's is game 44 of 82 for Detroit). We are then, in other words, getting deep into the season. Which makes this highly unusual: Detroit is only 4 points out of first place while at the same time they are only 5 points out of 8th. 9 points are all that separate the top 8 in the West. That's remarkable. And it means that no team, not Detroit, not anybody, can afford even a little slump over the course of the final 3 months. You could do something like lose 3 or 4 in a row and find that it winds up costing you a playoff spot.
The teams are hitting the ice. We'll have the National Anthem and then the puck will drop. We'll be here to keep you updated...
12:47 We've played almost 6 mins and nothing noteworthy has happened yet. This is the 3rd of 6 regular season meetings between these teams, the first here in Detroit. The Wings are 1-1-0 against Chicago, the Blackhawks are 1-0-1 against Detroit. Detroit lost 3-2 the night before New Years Eve in Chicago and beat the Blackhawks there a week ago tomorrow 3-2, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the first five minutes of the game to win in overtime 3-2. Chicago leads the Central division with 57 points, Detroit is third with 55. As we said earlier, the race this year looks like it will be close all the way. With that in mind, we note that Chicago will be here in Detroit for the last game of the season onn April 7.
12:52 Chicago goalie Corey Crawford just stopped Tomas Hollmstrom on a breakaway and then got lucky when the rebound hopped over the stick of Detroit's Cory Emmerton with the open net yawning. Detroit has outshot Chicago 13-1 here mid-way through the first.
1:02 The Wings are on the board on Tomas Holmstrom's power-play redirect of an Ian White shot at 12:26. Pavel Datsyuk also got an assist on the goal, which came on Detroit's 17th shot on goal today. Chicago has been held to two shots on goal, so far. Detroit is 19-7-1 (.722) when scoring first this season.
1:07 2-0, Detroit on a breakaway finish by Todd Bertuzzi (7). Bertuzzi hopped off the Detroit bench, changing on the fly and Datsyuk, inside the Detroit line, hit him in stride with a 40-foot pass and Bertuzzi had a couple of steps on the all-of-a-sudden caught Blackhawks defense. He went in and beat Crawford with a backhand high. Datsyuk's assist was the only helper handed out on the goal.
1:14 It's hard to imagine that Detroit, or for that matter any team, could play a better period of hockey than the Wings just did in the first here. They oushot Chicago 21-4 (I think the Blackhawks had only 2 legitimate scoring chances) and they lead 2-0. AFTER ONE: DETROIT 2, CHICAGO 0.
1:26 Some housekeeping as we move into the second period. An assist has been added to White on the Bertuzzi goal. So, now White and Datsyuk each have a pair of assists this afternoon. Should the Wings go on to win today, they and Chicago will each have 57 points, but Detroit would be ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings because it would have taken them fewer games to arrive at that point total than it had Chicago. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves...
1:30 This is the first game this season that it's really felt like a hockey game. We have been blessed, BLESSED, I TELL YOU, by an abject lack of snow this winter. That has changed these past couple of overnights and we woke up this morning to find flurries flying and an inch or so on the ground. It was enough to make it look like winter and to make it drive like winter so we sort of inched our way downtown to the rink, slipping and sliding a little bit for the first time this season. Which is okay, this is, after all, the winter game. The second period has just begun...
1:42 Detroit leads the NHL with only 34 goals allowed at home this season (19 games). The Wings have held their opponent to two goals or less in 15 of their 19 home games and are undefeated (14-0-1, .967) in those games. We're almost 8 minutes into the second period this afternoon and it is still 2-0, Detroit.
1:55 Nicklas Lidstrom just made a mistake which happens so infrequently that it is post-worthy when it does. He made a bad decision not to pinch, then went for the puck at center ice, got beat, and Chicago had an odd-man. But, Jimmy Howard looked like the All-Star goalie he is, made two or three really big stops, and that was the end of it. Moments later though, Howard misplayed a shoot-in trying to stop the puck behind his goal. He deflected it right out in front, and since he was behind the goal there was nobody in front of the entwined enclosure to defend it against Chicago's Andrew Shaw who tucked it into the great big wide-open to make this a 2-1 hockey game, Detroit.
2:05 The second period is over and, except for that giveaway hiccup by Howard at 14:54, it was another good one for the Red Wings. Unlike the first period though, they did not score and shots (8-7, Detroit) were much more even in the middle 20 than they were in the first when it was 21-4 Detroit, in Shots on Goal. The Game Notes tell us that the Wings are 18-1-1 (.925) when leading after two and that Chicago is 4-13-1 (.250) when trailing after two. AFTER TWO: DETROIT 2, CHICAGO 1.
2:22 The third period begins. Say, did you know there is football today? How about that. With any luck (and by luck I mean without any Auto Show traffic) I'll be home in time for the Saints-49ers game at 4:30. I'll take New Orleans by about thirty as I saw what the Saints did to the Lions a week ago tonight and because I still can't see that San Francisco ballclub. I didn't believe in them when the season began, I didn't believe in them when they beat Detroit, I didn't believe in them when they got the first-round bye, and I don't believe in them now. I am, if nothing else, consistent.
2:26 Just over three into the third and Jimmy Howard is looking in the net behind him for the puck, but it is not there as he as made some sort of miracle save which was so good even he didn't know he had pulled it off. The Blackhawks are storming the net here, getting a push just like you knew they would. They've outshot the Wings 7-0 in the period and Detroit is hanging on. You had to figure the Wings would have to withstand in this period. Chicago is a good club, you know. They won the Cup only the year before last and they don't just hand you the damn thing. Shots are now 9-0, Chicago in the period, which is 5 minutes old.
2:40 This third period has really been moving along. 7:05 left and still 2-1, Detroit. Chicago was really taking it to Detroit when Drew Miller got a double minor. For whatever reason, going on the power play seemed to take Chicago off their game. They had been doing better at even strength than they did a man to the good, although they did hit a goalpost during the power play. Shots in the period: 15-2, Chicago. It's looking like a nail-biter down the stretch and you know how this goes, I have to get downstairs to get post game interviews. I will update this blog later. Thanks for hanging out with us today!