When talking about impressive streaks throughout professional sports, the Detroit Red Wings‘ streak of reaching the playoffs in 21 straight seasons is about as impressive as a team streak gets.
No other team in the four major pro sports is even within sniffing distance of the Red Wings amazing streak. The Wings have made the playoffs despite multiple strikes, rule changes and major reductions to the salary cap that has seen the game change and evolve.
However, year 22 has been anything but impressive for the Wings as they have loafed through the regular season to the tune of a 20-16-8 record, good for 48 points and the nine-seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. A rash of injuries and retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom have been a major part of the Wings’ unceremonious season.
However, those excuses won’t help the Wings secure a playoff spot as the final week of the regular season commences tonight.
The Wings still control their own destiny, but the margin to make the playoffs is paper-thin. Entering tonight’s game with the Phoenix Coyotes, the Wings are three points behind the eight-seed Columbus Blue Jackets, who they have two games in hand over.
Thus, with the season and playoff streak hanging in the balance, the Wings must start the week with a win at home tonight over the Coyotes. The Wings are 19-4-3 in their last 26 games against the Coyotes so that bodes well. The Wings are just two points ahead of Phoenix, so a win tonight would be the first big step in the right direction.
The Wings are also currently tied with the Dallas Stars with 48 points. The good news is the Wings have a game in hand over the Stars, but the bad news is the Stars currently have two more regulation/overtime wins, which is the first tiebreaker. These teams will meet on the final day of the season on Saturday in Dallas, as the eight-seed may come down to that game if the Jackets falter down the stretch.
Before that though, the Wings have three home games in four days this week. Tonight’s game against the Coyotes will start the week off before games against the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators at the Joe Louis Arena.
The Jackets, meanwhile, play at home against the Stars Thursday and at home against the Predators on Saturday. Despite trailing the Jackets by three points and two games, the Wings already have more ROW (regulation/overtime wins) so if they can simply tie the Jackets points-wise, the Wings would get the eight-seed and keep their superb streak alive.
Seeing that it is the Wings final year in the Western Conference, it would be fitting that they make the playoffs since they have been the litmus test in the West for the majority of the 21 years that their streak has been alive.
This season has by far been the roughest season for the Wings in over two decades, but the playoffs are within their grasp nonetheless. It won’t be easy but a team that features numerous Stanley Cup winners and elite players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall know how to crank it up come playoff time.
The only difference now is that the playoffs have started a little bit earlier than normal for a team who is always comfortably in the playoffs come the final week of the season.
After 21 consecutive years of postseason hockey being played in Hockeytown, it would be foolish to think the Wings don’t have one more trick up their sleeve. With one of pro sports’ most treasured team streaks hanging in the balance, the playoffs start tonight for the Wings.
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