So, the Red Wings set the NHL's all-time record for home wins at 21 and the achievement is at once impressive and divisive. What it takes to get the desired result -- a victory -- that many times in a row and send your fans home happy each time is mind-boggling. It is a testament to preparation and focus.
The Wings' collective will to win is at a high yet again. Sure, there was a 4-on-4 OT win and a few shootouts along the way so naysayers in Boston -- and Philadelphia especially, where the Flyers of 1975-76 reeled off 20 straight regulation wins in an era with ties galore but no OT and certainly no shootouts -- can snipe away accordingly.
Of course, any of this derisive talk is just fan-smack for the sake of defending one's team. All of which is fine, even though comparing different eras is impossible. But on another level, the Red Wings' streak proves again that while change over time delineates eras, it also links the present with the past.
Current fans hear snippets of what the NHL looked like in the mid-'70s when the Broad Street Bullies terrorized a league that was in the throes of an identity crisis brought on by the start-up of the WHL earlier in the decade. The ultra-inquisitive can Google the 1929-30 Bruins and glean just a little more understanding of Eddie Shore and old-time hockey.
I even heard a Kansas City Scouts reference in all of this analysis, comparing the Red Wings' new record to the previous 20-home win benchmark. The point is that all the talk matters in and of itself -- the content, not so much. A feat of this magnitude that gets fans talking and engages them to find out a little more about the sport and its history is refreshing. It is something positive that elevates the dialogue above another Brendan Shanahan vigilante-busting vignette involving the likes of, say, Zac Rinaldo.
The timing is perfect as well, with the Red Wings accomplishing their record-setting exploits in the dead zone after the Winter Classic and All-Star Game and before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. Detroit's streak, at a bare minimum, filled an NHL news cycle that was in need in mid-February.
Of course the streak did more than that. To coach Mike Babcock, it meant 42 for 42 in terms of standing points in a Central Division that has the St. Louis Blues hanging around five points back with two games in hand. That's why the Wings didn't talk openly about any streak until it was at hand. They demonstrated the organization's resolute nature when it comes to winning. It's a culture that has been 20 years in the making.
For the Red Wings, it is very cool to be part of history. The players' smiles of satisfaction afterwards said so. And Babcock pragmatically pointed out that the record was "good for the logo and good for owner Mr. Ilitch."
The reality is that the Red Wings in total look at the big picture -- the ultimate prize -- and go about their business to put themselves in position to challenge for the Stanley Cup year after year. Local fans even debated the relevance of the home winning streak as it pertains to the playoffs. I guess you can cut them some slack since their expectations are elevated due to the team's 20-straight playoff appearances. There's a streak worth talking about.
Anyway, that type of conjecture is yet again simply fan gab. The team's pursuit is to finish first in the division and conference in order to secure home ice in the playoffs should a series need a Game 7 conclusion. That's the goal for these Red Wings and it has been since the beginning of training camp. The players and their fans are conditioned to think this way.
Even so, this new home winning standard is different. The streak warmed the hearts of the Red Wings' faithful -- such high expectations and all. They packed the Joe and cheered wildly and unabashedly. The players dug in and delivered as they have done so often for these folks. For a night in February -- a record-setting night in February -- everyone stayed in the moment and enjoyed it for what it was... special.
With no looking ahead, nor any need to defend against the days-gone-by record holders, everyone gratefully embraced another gratifying Red Wings moment.