A few thoughts as we salute the Detroit Red Wings, who tied Montreal's record of eight consecutive 100-point seasons with a 5-3 victory against Dallas on Thursday.
|Last night, the Red Wings reached the 100-point mark for the eighth consecutive season by beating Dallas 5-3. Wings reach 100 pts
Consistent brilliance -- At some point in the future, maybe it will be easier to put the Detroit Red Wings
' eight consecutive 100-point seasons into perspective.
The Wings matched Montreal's NHL record by reaching the 100-point mark again with their 5-3 victory over Dallas on Thursday night. Though the schedule is slightly longer now than it was when the Canadiens set the record from 1974-82, the League is better balanced and player movement is much more liberal than it was in that era, when free agency didn't exist and keeping a top team together was much easier.
Rolling up eight straight 100-point seasons isn't the same as winning a Stanley Cup, but it's still a milestone for one of the NHL's elite teams.
"It means a lot to this organization," said Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
, who's been with the team for all eight. "It means that we're real consistent, that we've been able to adapt to the new system with the salary cap and everything. We've still been able to put away wins and put a competitive team on the ice.
"We should give a lot of credit to management, ownership and coaching staff as well, for what's been done here in the last few years."
The biggest difference between those Canadiens and these Red Wings is the number of Stanley Cups. Montreal won four in a row from 1976-79; the Wings have just one during this stretch, though they did win two others before the streak began and figure to enter the playoffs next month as the favorite to win another.
Marty the Magnificent
-- There had to be a sense of dread at the Xcel Energy Center when Thursday's Devils-Wild game went into a shootout. Not only had Minnesota lost its previous two games in shootouts, but the Wild would be trying to score against Martin Brodeur
, who has won more of the penalty-shot competitions than any other goaltender since the format was adopted.
Sure enough, Brodeur stopped all three Minnesota attempts and Jamie Langenbrunner
scored for New Jersey to give the Devils a 4-3 win.
''I could see it," said Wild coach Jacques Lemaire
, who spent the week calling Brodeur the best goalie he's seen while answering numerous questions about the player he won a Stanley Cup with in 1995 with the Devils. "I could see it toward the overtime, but you have to try to control that.''
Brodeur isn't flawless in shootouts -- he's only 5-3 this season -- but his teammates always have enormous confidence in him.
''Anytime we have Marty in net in the shootout,'' Langenbrunner said, ''we like our chances.''
-- In the space of a little more than an hour, the Calgary Flames
went from expecting to enjoy a night in first place to being concerned they could miss the playoffs.
That's what happens when you blow a 3-0 lead, as the Flames did in Atlanta. The Thrashers, next-to-last in the East, rallied for a 6-4 victory thanks to a hat trick by Ilya Kovalchuk
"I think anytime you have a three-goal lead and don't defend it, it will hurt you," said Flames coach Mike Keenan, whose club fell to 18-15-1 away from home after its second loss in two nights. Calgary dropped a 3-2 decision Wednesday in Washington.
Calgary entered the game in a virtual tie for first place in the Northwest Division; they left in seventh place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Vancouver and four in front of ninth-place Nashville. The only good news for the Flames is that both the Canucks and the Predators lost Thursday.
"It's a tough one to take," said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla
, who scored twice. "Anytime you have a 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 lead, that's a game you should win. We have to put this one aside and work for the next game. We need to regroup."
It's our division
-- The Ottawa Senators
went through a slump in which they lost six of seven, allowing the Montreal Canadiens
to pass them for first place in the Northeast Division. They have every intention of taking it back.
Ottawa pulled even with the Canadiens by blanking them, 3-0, at Montreal. It was a game the Senators hardly could wait to play.
"We were ready right from yesterday in practice," said Ottawa center Jason Spezza
, who scored twice. "We were snapping it around pretty good. This morning we were pretty focused. From here on in they're pretty important games so we've got to get ourselves geared up. I thought we played like a good, solid team and we played a playoff-type game."
The Senators beat the Canadiens for the fifth time in six meetings this season -- largely due to the play of Spezza, who has seven goals and 14 points in the six games. The teams play twice more in the final weeks of the season.
"You don't want to put too much stock in one game but it was an important game for us," said Spezza, who had stitches on the left side of his mouth after he was high-sticked by Guillaume Latendresse
in the third period.
|Lightning goalie Mike Smith makes a save as the Bruins' Glen Murray looks for a rebound during the first period last night.
-- Back-to-back wins have the Tampa Bay Lightning
wondering what could have been. Any team that has the Bolts left on their schedule had better be prepared for a battle.
''It could have been very easy to just kind of call it a year and not work hard,'' defenseman Dan Boyle
said after a 3-1 victory over the Bruins in Boston. ''We know our playoff chances are over, but we want to prove to ourselves and the guys who are going to be here next year, we're not going to accept another losing season again.''
One of those guys is newcomer Mike Smith
, who finished the win despite losing a screw near his heel and losing the edge on his skate. He stopped 35 of 36 shots Thursday after having allowed 13 goals in his previous four games.
''He answered the proper way,'' Lightning coach John Tortorella said. ''We defended very well, but when we needed some saves Smitty was able to come up with them. He stood in there, but I thought we did a very good job of limiting the quality scoring chances.''
-- When you're desperate for points, the last thing you need to see is an also-ran that refuses to play like one. A team, for example, like the Los Angeles Kings
, who cost Nashville two big points with a 4-1 victory at Sommet Center.
The Kings are last in the overall standings, but they didn't look like a non-playoff team against Nashville, which blew a chance to tie Vancouver for eighth place in the West.
''This is the playoffs for the Kings,'' Predators coach Barry Trotz
said. ''We have been in their situation. There is not a better feeling for a team that is out of the running for the playoffs but to be able to anger or really disrupt a team that is still trying to make it. We knew they were going to come and play their hardest. The Kings deserved to win this game.''
The Kings, who have some talented young forwards and have been getting solid goaltending from rookie Erik Ersberg
, scored three times in the final 20 minutes.
''We got a few breaks, but we earned them going to the net in the third period,'' Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford
-- On a team with big-name stars like Joe Sakic
, Peter Forsberg
and Jose Theodore
, the Colorado Avalanche
have gotten a couple of big goals this week from a rookie who was taken 288th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound center, scored his first NHL goal in Atlanta on Tuesday, and got the second one in the Avs' 5-1 victory over Edmonton on Thursday.
"I thought he had a great game tonight," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville
said of the 23-year-old. "I thought he was solid in all aspects of the game. I think he's got a real good feel, natural instincts, where to go around the ice. He's quick, he's strong, he's physical. He's got a nice set of hands, too, so he's had a very complete two games in a row."
Jones has gotten a chance to play due to injuries that have kept some of the Avs' big names out of the lineup. He's doing his best to make a case for staying in the NHL after they return.
"I'm just trying to do my best to stay here," said Jones, who has two goals and two assists in his last two games. "Every shift up here is a blessing. Hopefully, there's a spot up here for me. We have such a good team, though, you never know when your chance will be up."
-- What does an NHL coach do when his big guns aren't firing? In the case of Vancouver's Alain Vigneault
, you try to put on a happy face.
The Canucks' top three scorers -- Daniel Sedin
, Henrik Sedin
and Markus Naslund
-- continued their slump in Vancouver's 2-0 loss at Phoenix. Daniel Sedin
and Naslund haven't scored in their last 11 games; Henrik Sedin
has one goal and three assists in that span.
"These guys are trying really hard," Vigneault said. "But they're taking a bad time to lose part of their game We're aware of it, they're aware of it. They're putting a lot of pressure on themselves. I'm confident that with one good game on their part, we can get this ball rolling."
The one cheerful note for the Canucks is they're still in eighth place in the West -- even with their big guns silent.
"We've gotten 12 points out of the last possible 20 with them doing nothing," Vigneault said. "If we can get them on a roll, we'll be all right."
Contact John Kreiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.