Ranking the 5 Best Moments from Detroit Red Wings' 2013-14 Season so Far
Every hockey season is chock-full of magical moments, and in Detroit, this year has been no different.
Spectacular plays on the ice, career milestones and touching instances have created substantial memories for the organization, players and fans alike.
The first five months of the season have proven to be tough yet eventful.
The NHL Winter Classic, Alumni Showdown and Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia have made for a momentous season—all with two months remaining.
Detroit resumes NHL play on Feb. 26 at Montreal and will have a lot of work ahead to secure a playoff spot for the 23rd consecutive season.
There are plenty more moments to be shared as the year progresses, but at this point there is a handful worth experiencing again.
Extraordinary honors, unique events and actions that transcend the game make up this list. Everything that follows touches on different aspects of what make hockey such a meaningful sport in Detroit as well as worldwide.
Here are the five best moments from the Detroit Red Wings’ season so far.
5. Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson Reach Milestones on the Same Goal
During the last game before the Olympic break on Feb. 8, Daniel Alfredsson scored a goal assisted by Pavel Datsyuk.
The goal was Alfredsson’s 1,143rd career point, passing Nicklas Lidstrom for second on the all-time points list of Swedish-born players. Alfredsson is the fifth-highest scorer among active players in the NHL.
Alfredsson, 41, signed a one-year contract with Detroit on July 5 and has been a good fit. His 14 goals and 35 points each rank third on the team through his 46 games played.
Datsyuk has battled through injury most of the season, but he has maintained a good pace with 15 goals and 33 points through 37 games.
Both appear to be healthy, or at least healthy enough, approaching the last segment of the schedule with playoff hopes on the line.
Detroit will be counting on these two magnificent veterans to work some of their remarkable magic down the stretch.
4. 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic
On January 1, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs played in the sixth installment of the Winter Classic outdoor game in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The NHL could not receive an accurate attendance as not all tickets were scanned. Therefore, Guinness could not honor the final tally as an official world record. However, the game did total a record 8.2 million viewers across North America.
The game itself did not disappoint. Goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier combined to make 65 saves through three periods and overtime. Tyler Bozak scored in regulation and added the shootout winner for Toronto.
While it was Detroit’s second Winter Classic appearance, it was still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many players as well as the community.
The NHL instituted the Coors Light Stadium Series this season, a collection of four more outdoor games.
While some have considered it too much of a good thing, the Winter Classic stands on its own as a momentous experience throughout the hockey universe.
3. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk Named Olympic Captains
So much respect is given to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk throughout hockey, and both received high honors when they were named captain of their respective countries for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Pavel Datsyuk’s honor was a little more special, as he would captain Team Russia on its own home soil. While Russia would fall to Finland 3-1 in the quarterfinals, Datsyuk led the team with six points in five games.
While still recovering from a nagging injury, he was the only player to live up to the billing for his home country.
Zetterberg wore the "C" for just one game in Sochi before having to withdraw from the tournament with a herniated disc in his back. He scored the game-winning goal in Sweden’s 4-2 win over the Czech Republic.
Sweden will combat neighboring Finland on Friday to earn the right to play for gold.
While the trip to Sochi may have been disappointing for Zetterberg and Datsyuk, the honor to lead their respective teams is irreplaceable.
It is one thing for an NHL team to send multiple players to the Olympic Games, but to send multiple captains demonstrates the leadership Detroit has in its own locker room.
The respect these players garnered confirms the appreciation they receive on a nightly basis in the NHL as well as each player's reputation in their homeland.
It’s not just an honor for the players but for the organization as well, and it’s why it comes in at No. 3 on the list.
2. 'Russian Five' and Steve Yzerman Return for Alumni Showdown
The Hockeytown Winter Festival Alumni Showdown allowed fans to see their heroes suit up for the Red Wings one more time.
Detroit's famed "Russian Five" line returned to the ice, injured defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov.
To the tune of fans cheering “Vladdie! Vladdie!” he, with some help, walked onto the ice to join former linemates Slava Kozlov, Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Fedorov.
The reassembling of the line brought waves of emotion to everyone in attendance as well as the rest of Hockeytown. Sergei Fedorov was quoted as saying, “I was proud of that moment.”
Konstantinov was hurt in a limousine accident in the summer of 1997 and has remained a cherished member of the organization and community.
The Russians weren't the only headliners stirring up nostalgia. "The Captain” Steve Yzerman made his much-anticipated return as well.
Yzerman took the ice to the sound of 33,425 fans chanting “Ste-vie! Ste-vie!” The 23-year veteran, now general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, skated in Detroit for the first time since 2006.
Yzerman took a long while before accepting his invitation to play due to a busy schedule as GM for both Tampa Bay and Team Canada. He was glad things worked out, according to Brendan Savage of MLive.com:
I enjoyed it. Really happy and in the last month as we were kind of ironing out my schedule, I thought, 'You know what, it looks like I'll be able to get there and play.' I didn't have much…I didn't have any time to skate before today so all in all, I'm pleased with my performance.
These events allow so many fans to reach back into their past and recapture the spirits they once emanated from. For Detroit, it was a celebrated trip down memory lane.
Whether it was their prime, their youth or just the good old days, it is something hockey has helped fans create, experience and recollect fondly.
1. Tomas Tatar Scores, Salutes Late Father
Out of a very emotional month for Tomas Tatar came one of the most beautiful moments in sports.
Tatar earned a trip to his first Olympics when Team Slovakia named him to its roster on Tuesday Jan. 7. Just three days later, his father, Jan, passed away in Slovakia after suffering from liver issues.
The following night, the Detroit Red Wings were on the road in Los Angeles, and Tatar remained in the lineup.
With a heavy heart and the game tied 1-1 in the third period, Tatar jumped on a rebound off the pad of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, depositing the puck in the back of the net.
He immediately celebrated by kissing his index finger and thrusting it skyward, saluting his father.
That game and that goal was for him. I felt he was the last soul of the game. Right now it’s really hard to talk about. It’s a big loss for me, obviously… I can’t be more happy with this group of guys. They talked to me, helped me out, made me think about other stuff. I was ready to play the game.
Tatar has been sensational this season with 13 goals and 24 points through 49 games as a bottom-six forward. His secondary contributions have been integral to Detroit’s current standing amid countless injuries to key players.
His gesture was reflective of the heart and soul that players put into their game. For a moment, there was no score, there were no rivalries and all are were reminded that it is just a game.
The emotions packed so tightly into a fleeting moment display why there is so much love for the game of hockey. It is also why this moment ranks No. 1 in Detroit’s 2013-14 season.