With chants of “TWEN-TY ONE” raining down, the Wings saluted those in attendance after beating the Dallas Stars 3-1 Tuesday night. It was a record-setting night, and one that fans won’t soon forget. But what does this streak mean for the team moving forward?
The Wings haven’t lost at Joe Louis Arena in over three months. That statement alone doesn’t do the streak justice.
The home loss to Calgary on November 3rd had Detroit at a very un-Wing-like 5-5-1 for the season. Since then, the team has gone on to win 21 home games in a row, including nine games against teams currently in the playoffs and have outscored their opponents 84-31. In addition, Detroit has allowed three or more goals just twice, including four shutouts. Dominance is the only appropriate word.
While some will insist that comparing this streak to that of the 1975-’76 Flyers and the 1929-’30 Bruins is blasphemy, it is nothing short of astonishing. There are interesting comparisons to make, however.
With wins piling up, publicity has created higher expectations for the team. Fans’ reactions to the last two seasons of disappointment have run headlong into this 21-game show of supremacy, perhaps even creating expectations that aren’t quite attainable. Is it reasonable for fans to expect this streak to parlay into a Stanley Cup?
If history is any guide, the answer is no.
In the Bruins’ 20-game home winning streak, they outscored their opponents 94-33 with three shutouts. Boston won their division by 30 points, earning a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They went on to beat the Montreal Maroons in the semifinals, but lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens.
Philly’s home win streak saw them outscoring visitors 106-33 and winning their division by 17 points. They met Toronto in the first round, winning the series in seven games. They then beat Boston in five games to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, where they were swept by Montreal.
While setting the record is great, and I’m sure the publicity didn’t hurt, this could very well be the long lost cousin of the President’s Trophy Curse. Not that it has happened enough to warrant any sort of direct correlation, but teams with 20-plus home winning streaks have never won the Stanley Cup.
All this winning has also had an interesting side effect: it has helped cover up Detroit’s dirty little secret.
While Detroit has been near-unbeatable at home, the exact opposite can be said for road trips. The Wings are sub-.500 on the road. Yes, you read that right. They have a losing record away from The Joe. With all the jubilation of breaking a record, it’s a stat that gets lost in the shuffle.
While the Wings play 14 of their final 24 games at home, they might need to keep the streak going if they hope to maintain the top seed in the West. With teams like Vancouver and St. Louis nipping at their skate blades and games in hand, Detroit could very easily be a No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Having to start a second-round playoff series away from the friendly confines of 600 Civic Center Dr. could be a recipe for disaster.
Don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing regular-season achievement. But put emphasis on “regular season.” This team has always focused on postseason success. Now that they’ve broken the record, visiting teams will be eager to start Detroit’s home losing streak.
Enjoy your record Detroit fans. It is truly a feat to behold. But remember that regular-season success promises you nothing come April.
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