DETROIT — Once upon a time, the Detroit Red Wings were mired in a six-game losing streak, including three losses at home.
It’s hard to believe that was earlier this season, especially now that the Wings appear invincible at Joe Louis Arena.
With Monday night’s 5-0 rout of the struggling Buffalo Sabres, the Wings set a new record with 15 consecutive home victories. The previous record of 14 in a row occurred in 1965, even before ageless captain Nick Lidstrom was born.
Lidstrom’s Wings have won four Stanley Cups, 62 games in a season and eclipsed numerous milestones but this was a new accomplishment.
“It’s something special,” Lidstrom said. “The last time it was done was back in the mid-’60s, 1965, I believe. It’s a special record, especially with all the great teams that we’ve had here over the years, over the last two decades going back to the ’90s when we had some great teams and early 2000s, too.”
The last time the Wings lost at home was the end of that six-game skid, a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames Nov. 3, 2011.
According to STATS, LLC, the longest home winning streak is 20 games, originally set by the Boston Bruins from Dec. 3, 1929-March 18, 1930. The only other team to reach that mark was the Philadelphia Flyers from Jan. 4-April 3, 1976.
The victory continued another streak. The Sabres have now lost nine straight road games.
It was a very unhappy homecoming for former Michigan State star Ryan Miller, the Sabres goaltender.
Miller allowed five goals on 14 shots and was pulled at 4:32 of the second period after Darren Helm scored on a pass from Drew Miller, Ryan’s younger brother.
“I have to play the game and make plays, thats how it goes,” Drew Miller said. “Its unfortunate that he got pulled, its a tough game, but I think hell bounce back and hell be fine.”
Ryan Miller is not accustomed to being ranked 42nd in goals-against average at 3.12 and 40th in save percentage at .898.
“Its embarrassing,” Ryan Miller said. “I got family, friends everybody came to watch Drew and I play and, you know, at least they got to watch Drew perform.”
On the other end of the goaltending spectrum is the Wings’ Jimmy Howard, who made 27 saves for his fifth shutout of the season and 10th of his career.
There’s no question that a big reason that the Wings have won 15 in a row at home is because of Howard, who is fifth with a 1.98 goals-against average, ninth with a .926 save percentage and first with 27 victories.
“Hes been playing great and he keeps getting better,” Drew Miller said. “He works hard in practice and I thinks thats why he has the success that hes having and well deserved and one that hes worked hard for.”
Another big factor in the Wings’ success is Pavel Datsyuk, who makes it a habit to have at least one jaw-dropping pass leading to a goal every game.
The beneficiary this game was Johan Franzen, who got a backhand, cross-ice pass for the second goal of the game.
“Just his vision,” Lidstrom said, marveling. “He knows before he gets that pass that Mule is taking off far side. The way he got the pass and got it on his backhand and threw it right away, not many players can make that play that quick and get it off that accurate, too.”
Datsyuk claimed Franzen called for the puck.
“Looked like he stole something, I just throw to him,” Datsyuk said. “He handled it himself.”
Todd Bertuzzi, who also had a three-point night, got a pass from Datsyuk after he stole it behind the Sabres net. Bertuzzi made a nifty spin move and scored for the fourth goal of the game.
Datsyuk also assisted on the third goal, scored by Lidstrom.
The three assists gave Datsyuk 700 career points.
“I’m really happy for 700,” Datsyuk said. “I was never thinking about it before, making any milestone. It’s hard but I appreciate chance to play with good players.”
For coach Mike Babcock, he certainly appreciates coaching self-motivated, talented players such as Datsyuk.
“Since I’ve been here Pav’s always been able to do that,” Babcock said. “His commitment to the other side of the game, he’s gotten better and better and better. To me, that’s put him into the upper echelon of players in the league. He’s the best two-way player in hockey, bar none.”
Now that the home record has been earned, it’s time for the Wings to pick it up on the road, where they have an 11-13-0 record.
“It’s good how we play at home but we need to play the same way on the road, a little bit struggled,” Datsyuk said. “But every game is better and better. Now it’s test, two games on road.”