Who of us wouldn’t want to trade places with Jeff? His Red Wings set an NHL record for consecutive home wins, his Frozen Tide keep rolling and he’s able to combine his passion for hockey with Glee and musical theater.
They haven’t lost at home since November 3, and they’ve now bested the 20-game record that both the 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers and 1929-30 Boston Bruins held.
The home crowd, of course, ate this up, shouting “21! 21!” during the final minutes of the game. The Joe Louis Arena fans were acknowledged by the Red Wings as the players stood at center ice and raised their sticks to the fans after the final buzzer sounded. It seems like the team is keeping their wits about them by not basking in the glory of the streak. Said coach Mike Babcock after the game: “I’m proud of the guys, they’ve worked hard—and now let’s get on with it.” I couldn’t agree more.
The team has looked incredible of late, putting together wins better than they were earlier in the season. They’re going to need to keep that going too. As I write this on Thursday afternoon, Detroit leads the league with 39 wins and 80 points. The Rangers, however, are just a point behind them and have played three fewer games. Plus, in the Central Division, St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago are all in striking distance of the top spot.
It’s possible, I’d even go so far as to say likely, that we’ll see the 22nd and 23rd consecutive wins by the time the NBC telecast ends.
Before we look to the upcoming games, let’s take a quick look at some key things that happened during the 22 games that played since the last time I posted:
• Of the 22 games, the guys in red won 16 (10 home and 6 away) and lost 6 (all away, obviously).
• The road still gives the Wings trouble. There were two devastating away losses during this time: a January 10 5-1 loss to the Islanders and a January 25 7-2 wipeout courtesy of Montreal. After a shootout win at Dallas on the 17th, Babcock said this about away games; “We talked a lot about that today. We’re averaging 1.7 (goals against) at home and 2.7 against on the road.”
• All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard’s been out with a broken finger since the February 2 Vancouver game. Joey MacDoanld got called up and was in net on February 4 after Ty Conklin got pulled after the first period. Joey Mac was the net minder for the record-tying and –breaking games and kept the Wings in the running for the record. Since then MacDonald has won more games in a shorter period than Conklin has, some fans are calling for Conklin to be sent down when Howard returns. No word on if that will happen, but Joey Mac certainly looks like he’d be better to have in the backup seat.
• Speaking of Howard, he put away his 100th career win during the January 12 game against Phoenix.
• On February 10, Tomas Holmstrom played his 1,000th Red Wings game. Only five other players have hit that milestone.
• Then, in the game against the Flyers where the Wings got their 20th home win, Nicklas Lidstrom played his 1,550th game, which is the most by an NHL player who has spent his entire career with a single team. The record was formerly held by another Red Wing, Alex Delvecchio.
• The biggest announcement of all came February 9 with the official word (after a month of speculation) that Red Wings will host the 2013 Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor as well as a Winter Festival in Detroit during December. With the Red Wings/Maple Leafs game in the huge Big House, the NHL will shatter previous Winter Classic attendance records. I am going to do my best to be there for this historic game. Road trip anyone?
The next two games are going to be great to watch. Not only is there the usual drama as the Red Wings try to pick up four points against Western Conference rivals, there’s also that streak that needs to be extended.
First up is Nashville, Friday night at 7:30. Nashville is 5th in the West and 8 points behind Detroit. Their record in February is 2-4 after a five game win streak at the end of January. They’re going to be hungry for a W to give them two consecutive wins (they won Tuesday vs. Chicago), but the odds will be stacked against them coming into the Joe. A major question mark here could be the return of Jimmy Howard. It’s possible, though not a sure thing at this writing, that he might play. It’ll be great to see him back, but I hope they have Joey Mac on the bench just in case he needs to step out. Regardless, I see this as a win, probably by a couple of points.
Sunday brings San Jose into Red Wings territory. This is such an exciting rivalry to watch, but the Sharks haven’t been on much of a roll lately. For February they are 3-3 (they’ll play two more games before they hit Detroit). Sunday’s game is at the mid-way point of a nine game travel stint and, while they’ve got Saturday off, I expect them to be road weary.
They need the win though, with only 68 points they are behind. Rest assured they’d like nothing more than to snap the Red Wings home streak. I don’t think they’ll get the satisfaction, but this one I can see going to shoot out because the game will be won or lost by a point.
Glee Factor Continues to Play Well: Glee is on a streak of its own with some excellent episodes so far in 2012, which is great for this fan. It was the funny and romantic Valentine’s Day episode, “Heart,” which aired as the Red Wings shattered that record Tuesday night.
Glee episodes aligned with the Wings two other times since 2012 started. On January 17, the “Yes/No” episode featured the engagement of two main characters and the team got a 3-2 shootout victory at Dallas (talk about a great engagement gift). The outstanding “Michael” episode, which was the long-awaited Michael Jackson tribute, aired on January 31 and a 3-1 win at Calgary was posted.
One wrinkle to the Glee factor—reruns don’t always have a positive impact. We’ve seen some cases in the past where solid reruns have aired on winning nights. However, the January 10 rerun of the hysterically funny season two episode “Sue Sylvester Shuffle” aired as the Wings were collapsing against the Islanders.
There’s one more Glee to air before the show goes on winter break. As the Wings meet up with Chicago on February 21, “On My Way” will air and feature the annual glee club trip to regionals. This is usually a standout episode for the season, so I’m looking for a road win here. After that, the show won’t be back until playoff time in April.
Alabama’s Frozen Tide Rolling Strong in the South: In late January I made my usual trip to Bama to see family and friends. This time out the trip included a trio of games played by the University of Alabama Frozen Tide. After “watching” many games play out on Twitter, it was a treat to watch them take the ice in person at the Pelham Civic Complex, which is one of their two home rinks. The occasion was the Tide hosting the SECHC Showcase, which featured 10 teams playing 11 games over three days.
I also caught the Florida/Old Miss game, which was a 4-3 win for Ole Miss.
There’s really excellent hockey getting played amongst the SECHC schools. For any hockey fans in the south, you should check out the team near you to see some strong competition. You’ll also find reasonable prices. A weekend pass to the Showcase was $25. I don’t think you can get into any NHL rink for that price and the games were just as exciting to watch. Possibly more so because, at least at the Pelham rink, you could sit so close to the ice it was almost like you were on the bench.
Another bonus of the trip was to introduce one of my best friends, along with two of her daughters, to live hockey. I also got to take in a couple of games with my mom, which was great since we hadn’t been to live hockey in a few years.
The Frozen Tide heads to the SECHC playoffs next weekend as the #1 seed in the SECHC West (their record in SECHC play is 10-0). They’ll battle South Carolina (#4 in the SECHC East) at 8:40pm CT at the Huntsville, Alabama IcePlex. I can’t get there in person, but I’ll certainly be there in spirit. I’m hoping to see Tweets about a Frozen Tide championship on Sunday, February 26 (the championship game plays at 2:30pm CT).
Hockey: The Musical! into Hockey Hall of Fame: It’s true, there is a show called Hockey: The Musical! I first encountered this show back in early 2008 when its creators got in contact with the New York City Gay Hockey Association to see if we could help them do some fund-raising. I jumped at the chance to help because it’s not often my love of hockey and musicals get meshed together into such a tight package.
It was at the fund-raiser, which was an exhibition hockey game between NYCGHA players and a team of “Straight Arrows” the producers put together, where I first heard some of the music. Hockey: The Musical! went on to make its world premiere as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival in July 2008. A cast recording soon followed the premiere. While I’ve never seen the show staged, I’ve enjoyed the CD and some of the songs have made it into a constant shuffle rotation on my iPod.
A huge honor was bestowed on the musical at the end of 2011 as it was announced that a collection of show memorabilia—including a cast-signed copy of the script, a playbill, postcards and poster—became part of the collection at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
So what’s the show about? Here’s the show’s quick synopsis: “The show follows the story of Pavel Riccardino, a gay, professional hockey player who is forced to keep his private life a secret from his teammates, his friends, and the world. An unfortunate series of events leads to his outing, and a public sex scandal erupts, which creates a strain on Pavel’s life both on and off the ice. When it seems that all is lost, his teammates rally around him, and their mutual love of the game keeps them together and leads them on to glory.” The creators say there’s more work to be done on the show. Currently it’s a 90-minute show, but they are working on turning it into a full-length, two-act musical. You can learn more about the show, hear some song clips and get details on getting your own cast album here.
You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc