Top 5 Must-See Games on the Detroit Red Wings' 2014-15 Schedule
Every summer, hockey fans either celebrate the previous season’s success or count the minutes until the next year begins.
For the Detroit Red Wings and Hockeytown, it was a longer summer than expected.
Overall, Detroit enjoyed its first season in the Eastern Conference in 2013-14, developing new rivalries and rekindling long-lost animosity.
Looking up and down the schedule for the 2014-15 season, there are games on the calendar that stand out more than others. The opportunity to avenge disappointing losses, chances to ignite hostility or reveling in an old-time matchup figure in the rankings to follow.
These are the top five must-see games on the Red Wings' 2014-15 schedule.
5. November 14, 2014 vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Although the Red Wings have moved to the Eastern Conference, there is still some heat remaining in their rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks.
With the Blackhawks among the league’s best in recent years, the Red Wings played them tough, splitting their two games last season.
Detroit won a seesaw battle 5-4 in a shootout at Joe Louis Arena in January, but fell in a decisive 4-1 defeat in Chicago in March.
This meeting is the first of two against an old division nemesis and the only one at the Joe. Detroit was the model for success for so many years, and Chicago may be closing in on a similar label.
The rivalry's intensity should diminish as the two see significantly less of each other, but the passion still lives deep in the hearts of Detroit and Chicago's hockey faithful.
These clubs may have the league’s best cross-conference rivalry, stemming from decades of attrition and memorable battles in the Chicago Forum and Olympia Stadium.
It is also a testament to the competitiveness between the two cities that stretches across all professional sports.
Unfortunately, the games don’t carry the same weight as they used to, restricting this particular contest to No. 5 on our list.
4. October 23, 2014 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Two of the three meetings with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year were gritty battles that determined a victor by just one goal.
While Detroit would like to forget its 4-1 loss at Joe Louis Arena in December 2013, the other two games carried significant weight against one of the club’s growing rivals.
Detroit struggled to earn points in the standings when it clawed out an exciting 5-4 overtime victory that came down to the very last second of play.
Daniel Alfredsson’s shot deflected off Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi and past Marc-Andre Fleury to earn Detroit the win at the 4:59 mark of overtime.
In the third and final meeting of the season, Detroit was able to force overtime, earning the single point it needed to clinch its 23rd consecutive playoff appearance in the 80th game of the season.
Detroit and Pittsburgh put forth heated competition when the two met in consecutive Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, with each club coming away victorious on the other’s home ice.
The growing animosity between the two teams and the new annual Eastern Conference play are primary contributors to this game's spot at No. 4.
The world-class star power of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg is pretty enticing as well.
3. October 17-18, 2014, Home-and-Home vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
One of my personal favorite rivalries in all of hockey, the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs never cease to entertain at a high level.
The 2014 Winter Classic was an excellent way to rekindle one of old-time hockey’s biggest matchups built on a foundation of ferocity and hate.
Detroit and Toronto's hostility dates back to the days of Jack Adams and Hap Day and the 1942 Stanley Cup Final, when the Maple Leafs rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to win the Cup in seven games.
The rivalry remained intense into the 1980s when Leafs coach John Brophy delivered the “choke” signal to Detroit coach Jacques Demers before Detroit won the division finals in 1986.
While the coaches may have a mutual respect for each other, something about wearing blue or red ignites a fire that is white-hot.
A home-and-home series on consecutive days early in the year should make for an exciting start to each team’s campaign. On the down side, all five games between the two clubs will be completed before the end of December.
Without a meeting in the midst of a playoff run, the excitement peaks a little too soon. The division battle will no doubt be heated and exciting, but it only hits No. 3 on our list.
2. March 28, 2014 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
This will be the fourth and final meeting between the Atlantic Division foes, but another installment of what feels like a rivalry in the making.
What this writer likes to refer to as “hatred with a friendly face,” these adversaries are connected by Lightning general manager and Red Wings icon Steve Yzerman.
“The Captain,” as Yzerman was affectionately labeled, has assembled a quality club led by elite superstar Steve Stamkos, Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop and former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula.
There are many similarities in how the two clubs are assembled, and the Lightning showed their superiority by taking last year's season series 3-1. They outscored Detroit 10-6 in their four meetings.
Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist scored one of the best goals of 2013-14 against Bishop and the Lightning, leading Detroit to a big 3-2 win in its push for a playoff spot on March 30.
A late-season matchup puts this game into our second spot. Detroit and Tampa will be competing for a playoff spot all season, and the final meeting at Joe Louis Arena at the end of March will be a pivotal tilt for both clubs.
The growing animosity could make for some fun going forward, and the familiar faces combined with quality star power could make for some memorable moments.
1. October 9, 2014 vs. Boston Bruins
A little vengeance is on the menu for the Detroit Red Wings to start the season.
Detroit was remarkably competitive with the Boston Bruins last season, taking the season series from the reigning Atlantic Division champs 3-1. The Bruins returned the favor by dropping Detroit in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
Seeking retribution, Detroit will have no better opportunity than opening the 2014-15 campaign at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings can’t match the Bruins in size, but their speed and puck-possession style can make it difficult for Boston’s physical imposition. Detroit outscored Boston 13-9 in the four meetings last season, taking two games by a 3-2 score.
It's already a barn-burning contest every time these two lace them up. A second season in the same division is sure to ramp up the palpable intensity.
The Bruins and Red Wings are sure to put on a show, and it may be one of the best between the two this season, with both clubs ready and eager to get started on the right foot.
All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted.