Gustav Nyquist

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.

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.