With the Detroit Red Wings season beginning today, Jordan and Christina join me to look back on last season. Here are our favourite moments from 2011-12.
The Red Wings home winning streak: The Red Wings were one of the best teams on home ice last season and seeming could not lose in the Joe. The streak started on November 5th against the Anaheim Ducks, a game in which the Red Wings won 5-0, and ended on February 23rd against the Vancouver Canucks in a 3-2 shootout loss. Jimmy Howard was magnificent between the pipes and when he was injured, Joey MacDonald stood on his head kept the streak alive. The streak spanned four months, two goalies, and produced 23 straight home victories setting and NHL record.
The Red Wings home winning streak – Game 22: Why was win numebr 22 so special that it has its own moment? Because of Pavel Datsyuk, that is why. The game was a duel between goalies, both Pekka Rine and Joey MacDonald played spectacular. The scoring opened in the 1st period with an amazing pass from Datsyuk laying on his stomach to Bertuzzi, who fed the puck to Franzen, who buried it behind Rinne. Nashville tied it up in the 2nd period by capitalizing off of a Jakub Kindl turnover. What makes this game special though is what happened in the 3rd period. Datsyuk deked out Ryan Suter and fired the puck past Rinne blocker-side to keep the streak going.
Todd Bertuzzi versus Shea Weber – In game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Weber slammed Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass; breaking his helmet. Weber received a paltry fine, but no suspension for this action. In game two, Bertuzzi decided to take matters into his own had a challenged Weber to a fight. Weber accepted and both dropped their gloves and got some good shots in on each other. Neither won the fight, but Bertuzzi stood up for Zetterberg; while holding his own against a bigger and younger Wener. That earns him the win in my book and is the reason fighting needs to stay in hockey.
My favourite moment of the 2011-2012 season without a doubt was Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series vs. the Nashville Predators. I was in attendance at what turned out to be Nicklas Lidstrom’s last game played on Joe Louis Arena ice. Heading into the game I had a sinking feeling this might be my last opportunity to see Lidstrom play so I made a point of zoning in on number 5 every time his Bauer’s touched the ice. Despite the fact he was dealing with an injury Nick was impressive as ever. His poise, positioning, and pinpoint puck precision was something to marvel at right up until his final game.
My number two Red Wing moment of the season is Detroit’s remarkable streak of 21 consecutive playoff appearances. I recognize that anything less than a Stanley Cup in Hockeytown is considered a disappointment, but the Red Wings’ consistency over this 21-year stretch is something unparalleled in major professional sports. When you consider that second place is the San Jose Sharks with 8 straight playoff berths, and that my Buffalo Bills have the longest NFL playoff drought of 13 seasons, one really comes to appreciate the steadfastness that is Red Wing hockey.
The continuing emergence of Niklas Kronwall on the blueline. From start to finish Kronwall was the best Red Wing defender, and that’s the first time I have ever said that in the Lidstrom era. Kronwall took the reins last year leading all Wings defenseman in points and was the most consistent performer game in and game out. In a lot of ways “Kronner” has become the 2012 incarnation of Vladimir Konstantinov; a punishing and feared body checker who has a touch of offensive flare.
Back-to-back shootout wins with Zetterberg and Hudler: When Zetterberg’s up in the shootout, Red Wings fans expect the Peter Forsberg deking move, which seems to work about seven percent of the time. Those times when it does, it leaves you speechless. For once, Zetterberg pulled it off. To top that, the game the following evening also went to a shootout, and Jiri Hudler decided he would become a Swedish forward and try the Forsberg move. I remember sitting on my couch, screaming, “HOLY CRAP, HE JUST DID THE FORSBERG MOVE, AND IT WORKED!!” And that’s entertaining hockey.
Game Two against the Nashville Predators: This was the game Red Wings fans wanted to see. Not only did the Red Wings win on opposing ice, but they were bringing the series back home and it was tied 1-1. All they needed to do was win the next two games – or at least go back to Nashville tied 2-2. There was that blind faith in the fanbase that the Red Wings could do it. In the end, even though they lost in five games, Game Two prevented us from being swept, because that would just kill Wings fans.
The Toast Of Hockeytown: This wasn’t a part of everyone’s Red Wings season, but it was part of mine. Finally being the legal drinking age, my brothers and I could attend the annual wine tasting with the Red Wings team to benefit the Detroit Red Wings Foundation. What can I say about that evening? It was one of the best of my life. I asked every player their favorite arena aside from the Joe. From hearing Datsyuk’s broken English in person, to interacting with the Nicklas Lidstrom, to jokingly asking Ty Conklin when he would be in another Winter Classic (since he was in the first three), and even to telling Niklas Kronwall that he has a wall named after him on our ice rink! So many memories, so many fun stories…it was definitely the highlight of last season for me personally.
Today the Red Wings take on the Blues to begin the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. All of us are looking forward to another memorable Red Wings season, which we all hope will end a bit better than last years.
Now that you know our favourite moments from last season, what are some of yours?