Red Wings’ playoff streak borders on historic, but does it matter?

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When you talk about creating a culture of winning, the textbook example would be the Detroit Red Wings. Sure there have been more successful teams in recent years like the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, but no franchise has enjoyed a period of sustained success quite like Detroit.

The Red Wings last missed the playoffs in 1989-90, which translates to 23 consecutive seasons of postseason appearances (obviously, we’re ignoring the lockout eliminated 2004-05 campaign). That’s not the longest streak in the history of the league, but its close. Boston’s streak of 29 seasons from 1967–68 to 1995–96 holds that distinction, but it was arguably easier to make the playoffs for the Bruins given the percentage of teams that got in during that period.

Detroit has not only had to face more competition, but its also overcome the salary cap system.

Regardless, with every passing year, Detroit is coming closer to reaching that record, but how does that matter? After all, while the Red Wings are making the postseason, lately they haven’t done much in the playoffs.

The Red Wings have lost many of the players that made them a force to be reckoned with during much of their 23-season run; from Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and Sergei Fedorov, to Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, and Dominik Hasek. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are still around and are two of the best forwards in the game, but they’re also in their mid-30s.

Sustained success has meant that the Detroit Red Wings haven’t been able to draft the cream of the crop prospects and while Datsyuk and Zetterberg were diamonds in the rough, Detroit hasn’t had a that big of a late-round success story since (Gustav Nyquist is arguably the closest after being taken in the fourth round of the 2008 entry draft, but he still has a lot to prove). They also haven’t been able to lure superstars to Detroit in recent years, which once wasn’t a big obstacle for the Red Wings.

This isn’t the suggest that the solution for Detroit is to abandon its attempt to rebuild on the fly and instead tank in the hopes of drafting the league’s next superstar. Chicago certainly benefited from a couple years of drafting high, but we’ve also seen with Edmonton that building through the draft can be a painful and not always effective process.

This also isn’t to dismiss Detroit’s current group of youngsters. Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Danny DeKeyser showed promise last season and they don’t represent the extent of the Red Wings’ farm system. At the same time, they have big shoes to fill and it’s far from a safe bet that they’ll be up to the task.

The question is more simple than that: Does Detroit’s consistency, by itself, matter? Would the Red Wings breaking that record be meaningful to fans if by that point they weren’t a true Stanley Cup contender and hadn’t been for years? It’s historic either way, but is it important?

Keep in mind that the next longest active streak is San Jose’s and no one seems to be celebrating the last decade of the Sharks making the playoffs.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.