Playing chicken on skates: The Predators and Red Wings pull the goalies in Detroit

We are headed back to Hockeytown this weekend to watch the Red Wings host the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. My first time at Joe Louis Arena, one year ago, was so great, and I can’t wait for this next visit.

Detroit and Nashville used to see a lot of each other when both played in the Western Conference’s stacked central division. They have fewer opportunities to square off since Detroit’s move to the Eastern Conference this year, though, so each meeting takes on greater importance.    Continue reading

Red Wings Prospectus

More like Gustav Nyquist Prospectus. The generous folks at Hockey Prospectus have offered up the Red Wings chapter from their annual season preview free of charge. Despite laudatory language sure to please any Detroit fan, HP projects the Wings to be worse this season than they were last season, and one of the worst teams in the league overall. Chapter author Adam Gretz‘s thesis is that the Datsyuk-Zetterberg era is coming to a close (just as I’d learned how to spell their names!), and, with next-gen’er Nyquist’s meteoric scoring rate due for a regression, the depth and readiness of Detroit’s prospects will be tested.

As for the individual players, HP projects notable improvement over last season’s performance for Justin Abdelkader, Datsyuk(!), and (EGR’s own) Luke Glendening. On the downside, they see regression for Johan Franzen, who already was facing criticism for a perceived lack of production at the end of last season.

To date, the Red Wings sit in fourth place in their division. They have the eleventh-most points overall, suggesting that, at least for the first quarter of the season, they’ve outplayed their expectations.

Hockeytown, Hockey home

joelouisoustideOn Saturday, January 18, 2014, the Detroit Red Wings beat the visiting Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in a shootout. It was the best hockey game I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched innumerable Red Wings games over the years, including playoff wins over rivals and Stanley Cup wins. I’ve seen them in person before too, watching them lose to their rivals in Denver, Nashville, and Chicago. (I even saw an intra-squad scrimmage.) This was my favorite game.

It was my first trip to Joe Louis Arena, the historic home of hockey in Detroit for only a little while longer, and everything went perfectly. We stayed in Greektown, where we enjoyed an authentic Greek lunch prior to the game. When we were ready to head to the arena, we took the accurately named People Mover and were there before we knew it.

Once inside, we had time to enjoy the statues of great Red Wings past on a full lap around before finding our great seats, where we watched the team warm up and tried to read all of the banners hanging from the rafters. The experience was extremely satisfying and fulfilling, as was the Little Caesar’s pizza, which is better there than it is anywhere else in the world.

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Hockey games are subject to all kinds of random variation, so it was especially wonderful when the game itself matched and then elevated the tenor of the evening. After a scoreless first period, the Red Wings could not kill off successive minor penalties, and the Kings’ power-play goal gave them a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later, however, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg tied the game with an even-strength goal. That sequence essentially repeated itself in the third period, when the Kings scored a power-play goal with just 2:15 to go in the game. Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall tied the score at two with just twenty-seven seconds to go in the game, sending it to overtime.    Continue reading

The “unkillable” Detroit Red Wings make the playoffs again

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When a late goal sent their game into overtime and then a shootout against the Penguins in Pittsburgh last night, the Red Wings earned a point in the standings and secured a playoff spot for the twenty-third consecutive year, keeping alive the longest postseason streak in professional sports. As Deadspin put it this morning,

“the Red Wings sneaking into the playoffs” sounds like an underachievement. But this is a team that has absolutely no business being where it is, and it’s a triumph as big as anything Detroit’s achieved in years.

More on the Red Wings soon.

The Hockey is Back: ALDLAND goes live to Joe Louis Arena

Yes, hockey’s been back in season for a few months now. In fact, in terms of games played, the eighty-two-game season already is past the halfway point. With college football done, the NFL effectively over, the NBA continually unwatchable, and college basketball not quite fully warmed up, this is hockey’s time to shine.

It also is time for another ALDLAND field trip. The Detroit Red Wings are my favorite hockey team, and while I’ve been fortunate enough to see them play a handful of times– in Colorado, Nashville, Chicago, and a scrimmage in Grand Rapids— on the road, I’ve never seen them in their famous home, Joe Louis Arena. When I realized last spring that the Joe’s days were numbered, I knew I had to make it there for a game. Thankfully, that time has come.

On Saturday night, Detroit hosts the Los Angeles Kings, the former Western Conference foes’ second meeting in a week. The Red Wings beat the defending champs 3-1 in L.A. last Saturday, and they’ll try for a sweep of the season series this Saturday.

Both teams are sitting in the middle of their respective divisions, but the Kings (28-14-5) have a decidedly better record than the Red Wings (20-16-10). Los Angeles also has the advantage in goal with Jonathan Quick, while Detroit’s recently returned starter, Jimmy Howard, still is finding his legs in the crease.

In general, the Red Wings’ injury report is full of familiar names, making it hard to know how good this team, if healthy, could be. Until its frontline starters return, Detroit has been forced to offer essentially an extended, NHL-level audition to its young prospects. This obviously is not a long-term solution, but it does seem to have infused some new energy into their team as the young players try to make the most of their opportunities on the big stage.

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I’ve been to Detroit for baseball games, some of which have been described on this site, but, as stated, never for a hockey game, so I have been soliciting suggestions elsewhere, and I will do the same here from anyone with prior Hockeytown experience. (I’m already planning to start my day with a generous bowl of Detroit Hockey Heroes cereal, but let me know about anything after that.) Please use the comment section below.

Thanks, and go Red Wings!

You can watch the game on your regional Fox Sports Detroit and West channels beginning at 7:00 Eastern, and we’ll have updates here and on twitter.

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How did the Detroit Red Wings manage to take a 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks?

I’m not exactly sure, but it sure has been a fun series to watch so far. My main concern is not that the Blackhawks may get a game back when the series returns to Chicago Saturday night, but that one of their players will do something to injure one of the Detroit players. This undoubtedly is one of the NHL’s oldest rivalries, stoked in recent years by the matching successes of both squads, but as last night’s game demonstrated, one team’s handling most of the extracurricular physical activity, and one team’s handling most of the goal scoring.

NHL playoffs start tonight, and the Red Wings’ streak is alive

With a shutout win over the Dallas Stars in the final game of the regular season Saturday night, the Detroit Red Wings extended their playoff streak to twenty-two years, continuing the longest active postseason streak in all of professional sports. Their immediate reward? A seven seed, and a matchup against the high-flying Anaheim Ducks, beginning late tonight in Southern California.

Before the puck drops this evening, check out what Grantland has identified as the top five moments of the past twenty-one years of Red Wings playoff appearances.

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Big changes afoot in Hockeytown?

Big changes afoot in Hockeytown?

The Detroit Red Wings have the longest active playoff-appearance streak– twenty-one years– in all of professional sports. With two games to go in the regular season, they barely are hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The way this season has gone, failing to make the playoffs couldn’t be called a surprise, but the end of their postseason streak would be monumental for a historically great franchise.

As big as that seems, even bigger changes may be on the horizon for Detroit. Buried at the bottom of the ESPN.com story on last night’s win over the Los Angeles Kings was this note:

Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, which owns the Red Wings, said progress is being made on a new arena for the team.

(By way of background, Chris Ilitch is the son of Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and the Little Caesar’s Pizza empire.)

I have been fortunate enough to see the Red Wings play in person three times– at Colorado, at Nashville, and at Chicago, plus the Red & White game in Grand Rapids— but never in the epicenter of Hockeytown: the legendary Joe Louis Arena.

I can’t imagine most fans will be happy to hear this news. For me, knowing that little is likely to stand in the way of the winged wheel of Progress, all I can do is redouble my efforts to make it to the Joe before time runs out.

[Cross-posted at Winging It In Motown. -Ed.]

The Detroit Red Wings’ season in one play

Things aren’t quite what they used to be around Hockeytown this year, and with realignment looming, it isn’t even clear that the Red Wings will get to seek needed playoff revenge against the Predators this year, much less turn the tide against the Blackhawks. Right now, the Wings season in one play looks something like this:

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