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Wings not thinking about record

Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 6:38 PM / NHL Insider

By Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

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Wings not thinking about record
The Red Wings are one win away from tying the NHL record for consecutive home wins, but they're more concerned with just beating the Flyers.
DETROIT -- The purists have already spoken up.

They say that even if the Detroit Red Wings beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night at Joe Louis Arena for their 20th straight victory on home ice – tying the NHL record shared by the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Flyers – it should come with an asterisk.

They argue that because neither of those old Bruins and Flyers teams had the advantage of winning games in overtime or shootouts, their home winning streaks are still more impressive and more "legit" than the current run the League-leading Red Wings are riding.

If that logic bothers the Wings, however, it's near-impossible to tell – not because they're so focused on joining the NHL's history book yet again, but because they seem so nonchalant about the whole ordeal.

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"It's fun that we're going to have Philly in here," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after his team's 2-1 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night at home, in a game the Wings were largely outplayed. "We'll have a good skate [Saturday] and [try to] tie that record. I haven't even thought about that record until now, so we might as well tie it with Philly coming in here.''

He wore one of those sarcastic smiles on his face, one only Babcock can produce, as he answered. Then a reporter tried to frame the potential feat in historic perspective.

"I like the points more than anything," Babcock responded. "But when you can have a record, you might as well tie it [and] see if you can break it. But Philly's going to be a tough opposition for us."

And if you're hoping that Red Wings players were going to be more effusive about the streak, you'll probably be disappointed to learn the only one who really admitted it’s something of any real merit was journeyman goalie Joey MacDonald.

He's won the last two games in this stretch by playing well in place of injured starter Jimmy Howard (broken finger), who won the first 17. It was MacDonald, however, who came up big on Friday night for win No. 19 in the streak – prevailing in a thrilling third period, overtime and shootout sequence.

"With 19 [wins] now, it's a streak that only a few teams ever in the NHL have done," said MacDonald, who made saves in the shootout against Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan after spending most of the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League. "Just to be part of it, Howie's been in [net] for 17 straight and that's just incredible. Just to take part in it and chip in a few myself, it feels good."

Imagine how it will feel on Sunday night, if the Wings find a way to win a 20th consecutive home game and beat the Flyers. MacDonald, who'll likely start that game, admitted that beating the Ducks on Friday was probably the biggest win of his turbulent career.

It's hard to argue. Most of his teammates, however, remain steadfast in their shoulder shrugging when asked about how much the streak means to them.

Listening to them talk about it is like listening to an old .45 record with a scratch down the middle. They say the same things about it over and over and over again.

"It really hasn't come up at all," said Todd Bertuzzi, whose almost slow-motion-at-live-speed backhand goal decided the shootout against the Ducks. "We're in a tough race right now in our division, so we're trying to get the two points as much as possible and kind of go from there."

Nicklas Lidstrom
Defense - DET
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 28
SOG: 113 | +/-: 25
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who tied the legendary Alex Delvecchio on Friday night for second on the franchise's all-time list of games played (1,549), was only slightly more forthcoming.

Asked if a streak like this inherently comes with some added pressure the higher the win total climbs, the even-keel Swedish superstar just shook his head.

"I don't think so," he said. "As a group in here, we don't talk a whole lot about it. I think it's more brought up when the media comes in and talks about it, but it's just business as usual for us."

Will it still be "business as usual" if they win on Sunday night?

Most likely, yes.

The way a lot of the Red Wings are approaching this mark is that they've already broken the franchise record – originally set at 15 straight home wins in 1965 – so every victory piled on top of that is just a bonus now.

"It is [special]," Lidstrom said of Detroit's unprecedented home-ice win streak in hockey's modern era. "I think we're just happy with our accomplishment so far in beating the team record for [consecutive] home wins. We still have a lot of games to go before the playoffs start. That's mostly our focus right now, to get ready and stay as high as we can in the standings."

Consider that mission accomplished as well – at least for the time being.

Thanks in large part to this home winning stretch – which spans more than three months – Detroit has clawed its way into the top spot of all League standings with an impressive 74 points.

Aside from a bevy of talent and taking advantage of the last line change in the ever-important game-within-the-game, the Wings' narrow short-term focus is at the heart of this home dominance.

"I think the biggest thing with our guys is we've got a game on Sunday," said Detroit general manager Ken Holland, standing just outside the Red Wings locker room after Friday night's win in a hallway adorned with pictures, plaques and other cherished keepsakes from this team's rich Original Six history. "We've got a veteran team. They don't get too high. They don't get too low. This game's over. They've got their two points and now they're going about their business and getting ready for [Saturday's] practice."

It's the kind of razor sharp in-the-moment focus that's made this organization so great, really, for the past two decades. It might seem kind of boring, but winning never gets old here – which is why they stick so rigidly to this even-keel approach.

"I like the points more than anything. But when you can have a record, you might as well tie it [and] see if you can break it. But Philly's going to be a tough opposition for us." -- Red Wings' coach Mike Babcock
"We are so proud with the Red Wings that we are not a hit-and-miss franchise," Babcock said on Thursday, while standing field level at the massive football stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he'll coach Detroit in the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. "We do it each and every year. I don't care what business you are in or what walk of life you are in, there's lots of people that are Coach of the Year this year and they don't work the next year, team's good this year and they miss the playoffs the next year. To me, that's not the measure of success."

Neither is an extended home winning streak, as fun as it might be for fans to witness.

"To me, the measure of success is 'keep on keeping on,'" Babcock continued. "The only way to do that is to get better each and every year and do things different and to have continual growth. That, to me, is what I am most proud of about the Red Wings."

Still, what his team is doing on home ice this season really is a big deal in terms of historical perspective.

Even if they lose on Sunday and fall one win short of tying the NHL record, what the Red Wings have accomplished to this point – simply stacking home wins and concentrating on the next one – is nothing short of amazing. Purists are correct that Detroit has had the advantage of winning games in overtime and shootouts, but their opponents have had the same opportunities to end it.

And the simple fact of the matter is that none have ended it since the streak began on Nov.5 with a 5-0 shellacking of Anaheim – which was coached by Randy Carlyle at that point, not current bench boss Bruce Boudreau.

That win put a merciful end to a six-game winless skid for Detroit that had many writing the Red Wings' epitaph for this season after a 4-1 loss on Nov.3 to the visiting Calgary Flames. Following that game, Holland answered questions of a much different variety on his way out of the arena.

"All I can tell you is we've got to keep doing what we're doing," he said that night. "We've got to stick with it. We're not the only team that’s been through it and we've got to find a way to get a win. [Sometimes] you can say, 'We've got five regulars out,' and stuff. No, we're healthy. I don't have an answer for you."

For the most part, he still doesn't, even 100 days and 19 straight home wins later.

"It's funny, because last year we had the best road record in the League and we gave up the second-most goals in the League at home and weren't very good," Holland said on Friday. "We talked about it in [training] camp, then we were 2-2-1 [at home to start] and all of a sudden we rattled off a bunch [of home wins]. I don't know. It's one game at a time and we just come out and feel we've got a chance to win. We're playing good at home."

Purists be darned.

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