GDB 54.0: RED WINGS ROLLING

The Detroit Red Wings have won 17 straight at home. Only three other teams, St. Louis, Chicago and Washington have won more than 17 home games all year. The Wings are on fire at Joe Louis Arena, and they haven’t lost at home since the Flames beat them 4-1 on November 3rd. Imagine going to Rexall for three months straight and never seeing your team lose, hell, you’d take three weeks without a loss.

The Wings have the longest home winning streak since the Flyers won 20 in a row at home from Jan 4th to April 3rd, 1976. Detroit plays the Oilers tonight, the Ducks on Friday and then the Flyers on Sunday. They could tie the record against the organization that holds the record, so you know the Wings will be fired up to play tonight.

Not only are the Wings going for an NHL record, they’ll have Saturday’s SO loss in their back of their minds. There was a bit of nastiness in that game, and I’d expect we’ll some of that carry over to tonight. Since the lockout the Oilers have been fairly competitive v. the Wings, 10-13-3, however, the last three years in Detroit the Oilers are only 1-5-1.

The Wings aren’t the only ones carrying a streak tonight. Nikolai Khabibulin hasn’t won a game since December 22nd. He’s lost his last eight starts, but Jimmy Howard isn’t starting in goal for the Wings so at least Khabibulin has a fighting chance.

The Elias Sports Bureau pointed out that since Howard came to Detroit the Wings are 106-44-18 in games that Howard has started, but they are only 20-22-8 when a backup, Chris Osgood, Ty Conklin or Joey MacDonald got the start. The Oilers are hoping that trend continues, and it also shows that Howard might be a bit better than some prognosticators think.

KEEP PAAJARVI SAFE

Magnus Paajarvi was recalled yesterday, and for his sake I hope Tom Renney keeps him away from The Belanger Triangle: Where offence disappears. It is clear Belanger is struggling right now, but I won’t be surprised to see him return to normal and score 12-14 goals next year, but unless Renney wants to ensure Paajarvi never scores this year he shouldn’t put them together.

People have debated over the accuracy or truths of the Bermuda Triangle, but right now it is clear that The Belanger Triangle is real. Belanger can’t escape it, and he controls it. Ryan Jones is the latest victim, and even the mullet-man Ryan Smyth isn’t strong enough to overcome it. TBT has become so powerful it can control the minds of referees and get them to waive off perfectly legal goals, even when TBT isn’t on the ice. Freaky.

**If you are creative and want to send me a TBT pic, please send it to gregor@theteam1260.com.***

I know it won’t happen, but I’d look at putting Paajarvi with Anton Lander and Ales Hemsky. I’d play Ryan Smyth with Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones and move Belanger to the 4th line with Ben Eager and Lennart Petrell. I’d like to see what Lander and Paajarvi do together, while putting them with a skilled guy like Hemsky.

I doubt Renney will do it, but I’d consider it.

LINEUP

Andy Sutton should get back in the lineup after Monday’s defensive nightmare. Cam Barker would be the obvious choice to come out, but Corey Potter isn’t far behind. Barker didn’t play for over two months, and like most players they look decent the first game or two based on adrenaline, but then reality hits. Knowing Renney he’ll likely give Barker a chance to redeem himself, and if Barker doesn’t come out then Potter could. I think they need Sutton in case it gets chippy like on Saturday. Khabibulin will get his first start since January 21st, so he’ll be rested and he’s very competitive. I’d be surprised if he didn’t play well.

Here’s my guess, this is NOT official, at what we’ll see tonight:

Hall – Gagner – Eberle
Paajarvi – Horcoff – Hemsky
Smyth – Belanger – Jones
Eager – Lander – Petrell

Smid – Gilbert
Whitney – Petry
Barker – Sutton

Khabibulin

QUICK HITS

  • With 12 points in 3 games I understand why Gagner is getting all the attention, but Eberle has 5 goals and 8 points in the same span. Eberle is tied with Pavel Datsyuk for 7th in league scoring with 54 points, and he only trails Evgeni Malkin (1.31), Claude Giroux (1.22) and Steven Stamkos (1.11) in points-per-game with 1.10. Eberle is putting together an unreal season, and if he keeps it up in the final 29 games he has a legitimate shot to be named to the first or second all-star team. 
     
  • Mark Messier was the last Oiler to be named to the 1st AS team, in 1990, while Jari Kurri was the last Oiler to make the 2nd AS team in 1989.
     
  • Eberle will also be in contention for the Lady Byng trophy. He’s top-ten in scoring, and he has the fewest PIMs off the top-point producers with only 8 in 49 games. His toughest competition will by Brian Campbell, 37 points and only 4 PIMS as a D-man, Phil Kessel, 58 points and 14 PIMS and Datsyuk, 54 points and 14 PIMs.
     
  • It is possible the Oilers could have two major award winners this year. Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the Calder. Eberle is only seven points back of Malkin, and while it is likely a long shot, you can say he’s still in the running for the Art Ross as well.
     
  • Wayne Gretzky won the Lady Byng in 1980 and Kurri won it in 1985. No Oiler has ever won the Calder.
     
  • Are we finally seeing Eberle and Hall playing more? Eberle has averaged 18:31 in five of his last six games, while Hall has averaged 18:44. I would like to see them play between 18-20 minutes a night, but I don’t see any reason to have them on the PK at this point. Harder minutes, with no offensive upside.
     
  • Zach Parise is an anomaly with seven SH points and only 8 on the PP. The Devils have the the top-three SH point producers though. Parise and Adam Henrique have 7, while Kovalchuk has 5.
     
  • Last year, only two of the top-ten leading scorers had even one SH point. Corey Perry had five and Henrik Zetterberg has one. In a year or two I can see giving Hall and Eberle a few PK shifts, but right now I want all their energy used at ES and on the PP.
     
  • Since returning from injury, Corey Potter has been a + player in only one of 23 games. I don’t think +/- is the most accurate stat, but like Willis pointed out yesterday, he’s been struggling since he returned from injury. Potter is a good depth guy, but I don’t see him being more than a #6 long-erm.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Wings are rolling, and even though Howard won’t play the Oilers will be in tough. Khabibulin keeps them in the game, but they lose 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Henrik Zetterberg pots two points. He lights up the Oilers regularly.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Now that we’ve talked about TBT, Belanger will miraculously get a point tonight, and someone with no sense of humour will post, "You’re an idiot Gregor. Belanger adds a lot to this team, did you not just see that great pass." Of course the video will show that Belanger tried to shoot the puck, but it ricochets off of two Detroit defenders, bounces over another’s stick before Smyth taps it home. Not a picture perfect pass.