Tonight, the Red Wings will host the Stars at Joe Louis for a shot a history — a win would be Detroit’s 21st in a row at home, setting the all-time NHL single-season mark set 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers.
So, how did the Wings get to this point?
It’s been a balanced, total team effort — head coach Mike Babcock called the Wings “one of the most consistent teams I’ve ever coached” — yet there have been some outstanding individual efforts worth profiling.
Pavel Datsyuk: He’s scored 25 points during the winning streak and has at least one point in 15 of the 20 wins. Datsyuk also drew high praise from Flyers forward Scott Hartnell, who lost 4-3 at the Joe on Sunday.
“They’re a puck-control team and it seems like Datsyuk can hold onto it for five minutes straight, just like [Jaromir] Jagr can. He gets in the corners, passes out there and no matter how good your stick is you can’t get the puck. He’s got great vision where he can find players in the slot, or back door.”
Valtteri Filppula: On pace for a career year, the 27-year-old Finn is second on the team in home goals (nine) and has been a point-a-game guy (26 in 26) at Joe Louis this season.
But the one guy that’s really appreciative of Filppula’s emergence isn’t even a Red Wing — it’s fellow countryman and Anaheim Ducks winger Teemu Selanne.
“I always knew he has all the tools,” Selanne told MLive.com. “He really has no weaknesses. He can skate so well. He’s strong, he can see the game, he can pass.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time because this guy has everything you need to be at the superstar level.”
Todd Bertuzzi: Bertuzzi was placed on a line with Datsyuk and Johan Franzen back in late November…which just so happened to coincide with the start of Detroit’s streak. Bertuzzi had a minus-1 rating through his first 11 games but has been a plus-22 since joining Datsyuk and Franzen, and Big Bert’s inspired play has pleased his head coach.
“I think he’s been real strong on pucks and a real good net presence for those guys and good defensively and energized and playing well,” Babcock said. “It’s given us a real good line there.”
Jimmy Howard: Sadly, he won’t be in goal to set the NHL record — he’s out with a broken finger — but Howard was the goalie of record for the first 17 wins of the streak. That run included shutouts over Edmonton, St. Louis and Buffalo and one-goal efforts against Nashville, Winnipeg and St. Louis. The 27-year-old also made his first All-Star appearance this season and leads the NHL in wins, with 32.
Nicklas Lidstrom: One of the great moments of this streak wasn’t about wins — it was watching team captain Nicklas Lidstrom move past franchise legend Alex Delvecchio for games played (1,550). Only Gordie Howe has appeared in more contests wearing the winged wheel, but soon Lidstrom will hold that record as well.
Regular season and playoffs combined, Howe has appeared in 1,841 games for the Red Wings while Lidstrom is next at 1,808 — meaning that, barring an unforeseen circumstance, No. 5 will break Mr. Hockey’s record this postseason.