Tuesday night was just bubbling over with interesting games, but when a team breaks a legitimate NHL record, it makes all the others bow down to its grandeur.
After tying the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers for the all-time consecutive home wins record at 20 games on Sunday, the Detroit Red Wings stormed to a 2-0 lead and ultimately beat the Dallas Stars for win No. 21. That places them alone at the top, even if some will try to rain on the parade by pointing out that the former record holders didn’t have the luxury of shootout wins.
(Mike Milbury will also tell you that the “real” record is actually 22 games, set by those 29-30 Bruins. Milbury points out that two teams needed to play “home” games against the Bruins in Boston, which the B’s won. By that logic, the Red Wings need to beat the Nashville Predators on Friday to “tie” the record and then beat the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 19 to stand alone.)
Once Jimmy Howard broke his finger, it seemed like a short-term gain for anyone who decided to add Ty Conklin, but Joey MacDonald ended up leading the way to the new record. Last we heard, Howard is shooting to return for that match against the Predators, but we’ll just need to wait and see.
As I mentioned on Monday, the fringe Red Wings are a fantasy no-brainer at home and kind of a toss-up on the road, with the definition of a mediocre away record at 15-15-1. The good news is that six of their next eight games are at Joe Louis Arena. The bad part is that things get a little hairy for most of March.
Congratulations to the Red Wings, who crossed possibly the last thing they had left off their franchise achievement bucket list last night. (Feel free to vote for when you expect their home winning streak to end in this post.)
KING HANK TOWERS OVER EAST CLASH
The New York Rangers-Boston Bruins game might just have been a preview of the Eastern Conference finals, although how often does a No. 1 vs. No. 2 match happen? (Assuming that they even remain as those seeds, which doesn’t seem like a crazy leap).
Anyway, the bold-face type will spotlight the fact that the Rangers shut out the Bruins. In a lot of cases, a goose egg is truly a team effort (see: most of Jaroslav Halak’s ones with St. Louis lately), but last night’s one was at least 80 percent Henrik Lundqvist. (And that's being generous to a Rangers team that was clearly out-played.)
King Hank made 42 saves while the Rangers managed to score three goals on Tim Thomas despite only successfully getting 20 shots on goal. This is Lundqvist’s seventh shutout of the season, which makes me wonder: is this finally the season that he’ll win a Vezina Trophy? As great as Pekka Rinne has been, Lunqvist playing in the Big Apple and his total body of work make me think that the Swede will get it if their work stays at about the same level.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his first hat trick as a New Jersey Devils forward and added an assist, factoring into all four of the team’s goals as they beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1. If he stays close to this hot, Kovalchuk might get some serious consideration for the Hart Trophy, which is quite the leap for a forward who’s been a target of some pretty harsh criticism during the last few seasons.
Speaking of talented but flawed guys who probably get a little too much abuse, Jason Spezza also had a four-point night on Tuesday, continuing his “Let me remind you I’m pretty awesome” tour in 2011-12.
Spezza’s been even better than Kovalchuk points-wise this season, with a hearty 60 in 59 games. Considering the fact that Spezza came quite a few rounds later in just about any draft, he’s been one of those steals that probably shouldn’t have been such a big steal this season. He’s also one of the leading reasons the Ottawa Senators seem likely to make the playoffs again.
Not all the extended Central Division streaks were festive occasions on Tuesday. The Nashville Predators slipped by the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 to extend the 2010 champions’ losing streak to nine games. It wasn’t exactly a meltdown, but all the silver linings can’t wash away the bitterness of the slump. (Well, to be fair, the fact that they’re still in the playoffs is a saving grace.)
The Rick Nash trade rumors are heating up, but we’ll take a “wait until something actually semi-substantial happens” approach with that idea. The buzz seems a little more credible with each day, though … Miikka Kiprusoff (41 out of 42 saves and 4-0-1 in his last five games) and Olli Jokinen continue to play great hockey as the Calgary Flames beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1. We might just have to call him Olli “Smokin” Jokinen at this rate … Evgeni Nabokov had another great game, making 37 saves in what could be a rather significant win for the Islanders. Nabby might be playing well enough to kinda sorta get the Isles in the playoff race – and ruin his chances to get traded to a more “established” team in the process … David Perron looks like he’s ready to be a regular threat after resting up during the All-Star break … P.A. Parenteau scored a game-winning goal and an assist, pushing his points total to 51 in 56 games … Ryan Callahan remains on a torrid pace … Steve Mason outdueled Jaroslav Halak last night, stopping 31 out of 32 shots. That’s not a misprint … Both Scott Gomez and Dustin Penner aren’t exactly getting along with their respective coaching staffs. Shocking, I know.
Tuomo Ruutu looks to be out about three weeks with an upper-body injury. What a trade deadline killjoy … The Florida Panthers will be without John Garrison’s rifle of a slapper for 7-10 days ... The reports of Mike Green’s progress keep getting more positive. Green was even smiling in practice on Tuesday. Smiling … Nathan Horton won’t travel with the Boston Bruins on their 11-day, six-game road trip … Carl Gunnarsson will miss at least one week … Ryan Malone returned to action and played nearly 20 minutes last night. Unfortunately for the TBL, he also registered a -2 rating, so it wasn’t all great news … Judging by the Capitals’ decision to demote Braden Holtby, I’d guess that Tomas Vokoun’s just about over his flu. (Click here for the full injury list.)