Pierre LeBrun and Craig Custance discuss the Red Wings' streak and the Ducks' push for a postseason berth.
Custance: Hello, Pierre. Hope you've found time to recharge your phone after a long day chasing Rick Nash rumors on Tuesday. It's a crazy time. It's been pretty wild here in Detroit lately as the Red Wings have worked their way into the NHL record books. Tuesday night's 3-1 tally over the Stars was Detroit's 21st home win in a row, breaking the record of 20 set by the Bruins (1929-30) and Flyers (1975-76). It honestly felt like a playoff series win when the final buzzer went off. The fans were chanting "21! 21!" The players, led by captain Nicklas Lidstrom, gathered at center ice and raised their sticks in salute to the home fans. Even in the parking garage on the way out, the honking of car horns continued late into the night. It certainly didn't feel like a regular-season win in February.
With Mike Babcock leading the way, the Red Wings have downplayed the streak, but you could tell it was a special moment for the players.
"The record has been secondary, but it's pretty cool now when we first tied it last game, and now that we pulled it off and got the record, it was awesome," said Henrik Zetterberg, who is starting to find his game offensively.
It was a neat moment for goalie Joey MacDonald, who told us that he watched Detroit's 17th consecutive home win at home on his couch. He never dreamed he would be the guy in goal to break the streak.
"No way," he said. "Two weeks later, what do you know? Hockey is a funny game."
I think it's time to put Babcock's name into Jack Adams consideration. I know it's hard for the coach of a contending team to win an award that typically goes to someone who helps a team overachieve, but even the most optimistic Red Wings fan probably didn't think this was a Presidents' Trophy-winning team. It's starting to look the part.
LeBrun: Craig, I would have loved to have been in Detroit with you Tuesday night. You know, some people are poking holes in the record because the shootout since 2005 has forced a result in NHL games -- no more ties. But I would argue given the league’s incredible parity that Detroit’s achievement is even more impressive.
The Wings have a four-point advantage over Vancouver for the Western Conference lead and are five points ahead of St. Louis. It’s going to be more important than in other years, in my opinion, to grab that top seed in the West because, to me, there’s a drop-off after the top seven teams. That’s not to say a first-round matchup with Phoenix, Calgary, Dallas, Colorado, Minnesota or Anaheim (yes, Anaheim!) would be a cakewalk, but I think most people would agree you’d rather have any of those matchups rather than face Los Angeles, Chicago or Nashville, for example.
Now the question is, can the Red Wings make their roster even more potent? I thought you did a great job in your Insider blog Wednesday morning breaking down the Wings’ trade deadline scenarios. No question they’d love to add Teemu Selanne, but given the Ducks' surge, that’s becoming a long shot at best. Selanne won’t pull the plug on a team that still has a chance. He’s way too loyal for that. The Wings also coveted Tuomo Ruutu, but the Hurricanes say he’s no longer on the trade market because they plan to re-sign him and he’s injured. Still, the Wings have the most cap space they’ve had since the advent of this system in 2005, and GM Ken Holland is the best in the business and will definitely add a piece.
Custance: Yeah, they'll have a ton of cap space at the deadline. Holland said that was by design, although it sounds like the focus is on adding a veteran defenseman to round out the top six or a forward for the bottom two lines rather than someone making big money.
One thing we can put to bed, and I know you've already done this, is the notion that Detroit is looking for a backup goalie. MacDonald's emergence has only solidified Holland's belief that trading for a goalie isn't necessary. "I'm not looking for a goalie," he said when we chatted before Tuesday's game.
We've been doing those team-by-team trade deadline previews on Insider, and the consistent message I've heard from buying GMs is that there's nothing available. If this weren't a family website, I could put Brian Burke's exact words right here. Holland was the first one to say that maybe we're seeing a thawing of the market this week. "There's a little more chatter the last few days than there has been because the deadline is coming," he said. "We're going to explore."
LeBrun: One GM told me Tuesday that suddenly his phone is blowing up after being dead quiet last week. So yes, the calendar is at play here.
Speaking of the calendar, you have to think the Ducks will run out of time, but I have to mention again what a run they’ve been on. It’s insane. Make it 13-2-3 in their past 18 games after Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over fading Minnesota. The Ducks are right back at it Wednesday night in Pittsburgh in what will be a difficult task in a back-to-back situation against a good team. But so far, so good on a season-high eight-game road trip that has seen the Ducks pick up five out of a possible six points in stops through Detroit, Columbus and Minnesota. After Pittsburgh, the Ducks go to New Jersey, Florida, and Tampa Bay before wrapping it up Feb. 23 in Carolina. Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau told me last week that if somehow they can return home within four to six points of eighth place, they’ll have a shot. They’re eight points out right now.
Custance: Yeah, that's the thing about the Ducks. This is an incredible run they're on, but they dug such a hole for themselves that the margin for error is zero. Minnesota has been on a free fall, but the Wild still have three more points than the Ducks. I was in the Ducks' dressing room a few days ago, and they're all very well aware of the run Boudreau led the Capitals on during his first season in Washington, and this is remarkably shaping up to be a similar scenario. It wasn't too long ago that Ducks GM Bob Murray was publicly questioning the future of some key players in that lineup, and when I spoke with Anaheim players about the coming trade deadline, they were hoping he'd add, not subtract. That's amazing. They've at least given Murray something to think about.
LeBrun: If the Ducks’ streak runs out of steam a few days before Feb. 27, I think you’ll see the likes of Jason Blake and Niklas Hagman -- both pending UFA forwards -- shipped off. But obviously not if they’re still in it. While the Ducks are soaring, the Toronto Maple Leafs are suddenly free-falling. The Leafs lost 5-1 in Calgary on Tuesday night and have dropped four straight games in regulation for the first time all season. The Leafs have been outscored 16-5 during the four-game skid and are clinging to the eighth spot in the East just one point ahead of Washington. Toronto doesn’t have time to feel bad for itself, turning around Wednesday night and facing the Oilers in Edmonton. Then it’s off to Vancouver for a tough game Saturday. This is a critical juncture in the Leafs' season.