We have some Old Business to tidy up before they drop the puck here tonight at the Joe Louis Arena where the Detroit Red Wings will try to do something no Red Wings team has ever done before: win 15 straight home games and it concerns the game here Saturday in which the Wings tied (with an asterisk) their team record for Most Consecutive Wins at Home by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime. We say "with as asterisk" as had the game been played in 1965, which is when the Wings set the record they tonight seek to break, the game would have ended in a 2-2 tie--no OT, no shootouts in '65, of course--and thus the win streak would have ended.
That was some kind of a game here the afternoon before last. Detroit outshot Chicago 21-4 in the first period and led 2-0. Then the Blackhawks roared back, outshooting Detroit 16-5 in the third period and getting the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation. That was it for their charge however, as the Wings outshot the Blackhawks 9-0 in overtime, eventually getting the game-winner from Todd Bertuzzi a mere 39-seconds before a shootout would have been declared.
Some notes (and this is the Old Business to which we refer) on what is turning out to be quite a season series between these two Orginal Sixers. It marked the second straight time the Wings had beaten Chicago in overtime this season. And get this: all three Chicago-Detroit games have ended with the final score 3-2. Detroit is 2-1-0 in the games (4 pts) and Chicago is 1-0-2 (4 pts). The Wings have outscored Chicago 8-7 in the season series.
That's about as close as close can be. Except for this: the standings in the Western Conference right now show the top 8 teams--the teams which would qualify for the playoffs, that is--separated by 9 points. Detroit, fifth, is only three points out of first, and only six points out of 8th.
So, tonight, here come the Buffalo Sabres, a game under .500 at 19-20-5 and on the outside looking in playoff-wise right now. Ryan Miller--their astoundingly good young goalie, is back in the lineup tonight after missing his 8th game of the season due to concussion symptoms Saturday night.
7:47 1-0, Detroit as deep in the Buffalo zone Juri Hudler stole it and Henrik Zetterberg buried it. It was his 9th of the season. Zetterberg was alone below the hashmarks moving from Miller's left to right and he beat him high on the long side. The shot may have been re-directed off the stick of a Sabres defenseman, but that was not immediately clear, even on replay.
8:03 Time to Feel Old (Part One): Ryan Miller, Buffalo goalie, and Drew Miller, Red Wings foreward, are brothers. Their dad is either Kevin, Kelly or Kip Miller. I'm not sure and it's strangely not important in the instant discussion. What is important is the fact that each of those older Millers, Kevin, Kelly and Kip, played on a team for which I was the play-by-play broadcaster at one time or another. So, I am now watching the sons of a player who was already way younger than I when that player and I were members of the same traveling party to some of the finest non-NHL cities all across North America. And there is this weird curiosity. I caught a puck at an NHL game about 20 years ago. The player who shot it into the crowd? Kip Miller. Does this mean anything?
8:13 They really ought to do something, anything, about that Pavel Datsyuk. Like declare him illegal, or something. He just hit Johan Franzen with a blind, 50-foot backhand pass that sent Franzen in alone from the center ice red line and you know the rest. It was goal #18 for Franzen and Bertuzzi also got an assist, which sort of ruined the beauty of the play because really it was Datsyuk, and Datsyuk alone who did it at 18:11. He may be the best all-round player I have ever seen in person and I'll tell you what, I've seen some pretty good players with my own eyes: Howe, Orr, Beliveau, Gretzky, etc...
8:15 At 19:43, Nicklas Lidstrom makes it 3-0, Detroit; charging the net and banging a rebound past the helpless Miller who now skates off, disconsolate. Franzen and Bertuzzi had the assists on Lidstrom's 9th. Shots on goal are even at 11, but that is the only thing about this game which is even right now. AFTER ONE: DETROIT 3, BUFFALO 0.
8:29 Time to Feel Old (Part Two): So, I've been playing hockey for almost two years now with an torn left postibular (sic) tendon and I am not going to lie to you, it has not been easy. What ever it is that that tendon is supposed to do, it can't do because it is no longer there and because it is no longer there I cannot keep my left skate blade in proper attitude (perpendicular) relative to the ice surface. I can barely stand. I cannot execute a slide step. I can hardly go side-to-side at all. It used to be that I could move two meters from a standing stop to a spot I'd picked out on the ice in the time it takes to say, "move two meters." Now, I just sort of standing there longingly, remembering the good old days when my bodies wish was my command, essentially. I was fitted for a brace a week ago which I was told would, if not completely correct, would at least enable me to regain a good deal of mobility out there and, as you can imagine, I was pretty excited about it. I went it to try it on today, ready to go for tomorrow's skate, and they couldn't get the thing inside my skate. The demo I tried on last week fit just fine, but the model they made for me from a case of my lower leg and foot did not. So, I am back at square one, and that is a square I don't not want to be, in. Or something. Tomorrow we'll tape it up again and later we'll try something else. Oh, and it's 4-0, Detroit. Bertuzzi with a beauty spin-o-rama backhand early in the second. And, oh, it's 5-0, Detroit. Darren Helm is in alone to score on a feed from the Miller brother who plays for Detroit and it is that goal which drives the Miller brother who plays for the Sabres from the game after facing all of 13 shots, only two in the second period. The two Detroit goals come 13 seconds apart, at 4:19 and 4:32 and on the first, Datsyuk's assist gives him 700 career points. It has been quite a night and we've only played 25 minutes of a 60-minute game...
8:46 Did I mention I'm picking the 3 Stars of tonight's hockey game? I'm thinking of filling in 3 names right now (Datsyuk and Bertuzzi seem safe enough choices) and calling it a night. This is one of those games where the Wings are just sick.
8:57 Time to Feel Old (Part 3): I was looking at the Sabres bench and standing there behind it is a familiar face but I can't quite place it. I looked at the Game Notes to see who the Buffalo assistants are, and there is the name Kevyn Adams and, yes, I remember him and not just because of the odd way his parents spelled his first name. I had Kevyn on my team in Grand Rapids back in 1996-97 when he was a baby-faced 22-year-old kid out Miami of Ohio. He played ten years or so in the NHL and his back in the NHL this year as an assistant to Lindy Ruff, the guy who has been coach of the Sabres since 1997, which makes him the longest-tenured coach in the NHL and the third-longest tenured of any coach in any major professional sport, so there. Ruff must feel like he's coached the Sabres 14 years this night alone, as Detroit continues to lead 5-0 with just over 3 mins left in the second.
9:07 The second period is over, and I really don't know what to say. The Wings have been overwhelming in this game. Twenty minutes to go before they set the new team record for home wins in a row. Incredibly, shots are 19 Detroit, 18 Buffalo. Incredibly....AFTER TWO: DETROIT 5, BUFFALO 0.
9:46 They are going to be coming for the 3 Stars any minute now, so here you go--you get to know before anybody else. #3 Jimmy Howard (this will be a good pick if he gets the shutout, an ok pick if he doesn't). #2 Todd Bertuzzi: A highlight reel goal and a couple of assists. #1 Pavel Datsyuk: Hits the 700-point mark with a couple of the prettiest helpers you will ever see. And, with that it is off to The Room for post-game fun and commentary. Until next time, North America...
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