In what is being referred to as “Hockey Day in America”, the first of three nationally televised contests on the NBC Sports Network Sunday will feature the Detroit Red Wings hosting the San Jose Sharks.
Boy oh boy, could we ask for a better match-up at a better time? The Red Wings are on a historic run, winning 22 straight home games and a win on Sunday would set a new record for the most consecutive home victories in the history of the league.
And guess who “decides” to show up to spoil the party? That’s right, those pesky Sharks who have knocked the Red Wings out of the postseason the last two years and despite a lack of championship success, have a significant history of being a Red Wing nuisance.
The national media has been all over Detroit’s historic run, as two games ago they set the single season mark of 21 games in a row with a win over the Dallas Stars.
The talk of late has been about just how good the Red Wings have been lately. Questions like “Can they be stopped,?” or “Are they the best team in the league?” have been bantered about over this recent stretch.
But this isn’t the same as the NBA’s “Linsanity” movement. No need to overreact. The Red Wings are hardly a different team than they have been the last two seasons.
Sure, you could argue goaltender Jimmy Howard gets better with experience. You could also argue that Nicklas Lidstrom and Todd Bertuzzi get slower as they age.
In other words, this year’s Red Wings squad is by and large the same team that was eliminated by the Sharks in each of the last two playoffs.
And while the Sharks aren’t on any historic streak, they still lead the Pacific division and are also one of just three teams to have already beaten the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena this season. Not to mention they are hungry and ticked off group of skaters after dropping back to back games in Tampa Bay and Carolina.
Furthermore, it is hard to argue that the Sharks are not clearly better than a year ago. Brent Burns was added to the defense unit for extra physicality, scoring punch, speed and well, just about everything you could ask for in a defenseman.
Logan Couture is now a full fledged All-Star, Jamie McGinn is having a career year, and the recently acquired Dominic Moore brings added speed and sound defensive play to the Sharks roster.
Detroit may be ahead of the Sharks in the standings but the Sharks and their head coach Todd McLellan (former assistant of Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock) still match up incredibly well against the team from Motown.
If any team were to break the streak, it’d be wise money to take the Sharks. It’d also be wise to take them in a third straight playoff match-up if it comes down to it.
One thing we do know is this: Sunday in Motown will be an epic show down.