Impressive record set by the Detroit Red Wings


Impressive record set by the Detroit Red Wings

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Red-and-white clad fans haven't seen the Detroit Red Wings lose at home in more than three months. The NHL has never seen such success at home in one season. The Red Wings beat the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Tuesday night for their 21st straight win in Detroit -- breaking the single-season mark of 20 set by Boston in the 1929-30 season and matched by Philadelphia in 1976. During the final minute of the latest home win, the crowd showered the Red Wings with a standing ovation -- and chanted, "21! 21!" "In the end when they were really cheering, before and after the buzzer went, it was a pretty cool feeling," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. Zetterberg and Brad Stuart scored midway through the first period and Detroit went on to surpass the long-standing record. After time expired, the Red Wings went to goaltender Joey MacDonald and then skated toward center ice to thank their passionate patrons by raising their sticks. Detroit extended the streak with three wins in shootouts, which became a part of the league in 2005 after the lockout and has led some to downplay the significance of this record. In the past, the Red Wings would've had to settle for ties and an unbeaten streak instead of a winning run. "There's really no way to combat that argument," Stuart said. "But still, it's an incredible accomplishment regardless of what you're going to compare it to." Since the shootout eliminated ties, the longest previous home winning streak was 14 by Boston during the 2008-09 season. Detroit's run began after a loss to Calgary on Nov. 3. Adam Burish, who scored for Dallas, said what the Red Wings have done isn't watered down by the fact they have chances to win games that used to end in ties. "I think it's harder than it was in the 70s, just because of the parity," Burish said. "There are no games where you can just show up and think you're going to win." Detroit has an NHL-high 39 wins and 80 points, but the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers are just a point behind and have played three fewer games. "Anytime you're in a race like we are, you need the points," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. The resurgent St. Louis Blues, steady Nashville Predators and talented Chicago Blackhawks won't make it easy for the Red Wings to win the Central Division, and top seeding in the West will likely be closely contested with the defending conference champion Vancouver Canucks. That is why the Red Wings have been more focused on the standings than the streak. "It's something we're going to cherish, but we've talked about getting more points to stay where we are in the standings," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. MacDonald made 20 saves, filling in again for the injured Jimmy Howard, and was 32.8 seconds away from his third NHL shutout. Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots for the Stars. The Red Wings' next two games are at home -- Friday against Nashville, and Sunday when they host San Jose. That will give them a chance to break another record by the Bruins. Boston won 22 straight home games, spanning two seasons. The Bruins closed the 1929-30 season with 20 victories at home and then won its first two in Boston the following season. "That's something I didn't know of, but we'll refocus again and go to work again for Friday," Lidstrom said. The NBA's longest home winning streak in a season is 37, set by Chicago during the 1995-96 season. The 1978 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1988 Boston Red Sox both won 24 straight at home for baseball's longest single-season, home-winning streaks since 1919. The Miami Dolphins won 27 straight at home from 1971-74 for the NFL mark. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said before Tuesday's game that the team wouldn't make room for a banner in Joe Louis Arena's crowded rafters if a record was set against Dallas. Holland said the club can hoist four banners each season for winning the Stanley Cup, the Presidents' Trophy, and Western Conference and Central Division titles. Detroit hopes it doesn't follow the path of the last two teams to win 20 straight at home. The Bruins eight-plus decades ago and the Flyers nearly 36 years ago were defending Stanley Cup champions and went on to lose in the finals. Detroit essentially finished off Dallas in the first half of the opening period. "We started on time," Babcock said. "I actually thought their goaltender was really good. Without him it could have been worse. "If you can play with the lead, you're always a better team." Zetterberg scored off his own rebound on the power play 7:57 in, and Stuart's wrist shot sliced through traffic from the top of the right circle 1:18 later to make it 2-0. "We made it real hard on ourselves," Burish said. "They're too good to have to chase." After the Red Wings held onto the lead rather comfortably, Jiri Hudler slipped behind the Stars on a shift change and scored with 4:49 left in the game to give Detroit a three-goal lead. NOTES: The Red Wings are shooting for Howard to return on Sunday. Howard has missed six games with a broken right index finger. ... Dallas, which is not among the top eight teams in the West, has lost three straight after winning four of six.

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The Cubs felt so nervous just before a 7:09 first pitch on Saturday night that Javier Baez found the camera looking into the home dugout, waved with a big smile and started pumping his fist, hamming it up for the video board as Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” blasted through the Wrigley Field sound system.

The Cubs then ran out onto the field and systematically destroyed the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending this National League Championship Series in six games with a 5-0 win that featured almost no tension or suspense, obliterating for now the narrative around this franchise.

The old stadium still kept shaking, from Kris Bryant’s RBI single in the first inning to the clapping to Anthony Rizzo’s “Intoxicated” walk-up music to a standing ovation for Kyle Hendricks, who outpitched the supposed best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw.

“We don’t care about history,” Bryant said. “This is a completely different team, different people all around. It doesn’t matter. This is a new Chicago Cubs team. And we are certainly a very confident group.”

Sure, 1908 will hover over the entire World Series, which begins Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. But this is the new normal for Bryant, who within two years has won 200 games, four playoff rounds, a Rookie of the Year award and probably MVP hardware.

This team isn’t going away, either. With a chance to win the pennant for the first time since the Truman administration, the Cubs started two rookies who began this season at Triple-A Iowa – catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Albert Almora Jr. – in a lineup that featured Bryant (24), Rizzo (27), Baez (23), Addison Russell (22) and Hendricks (26).

Contreras caught a shutout and posed for a moment at home plate watching his line-drive homer off Kershaw fly into the left-field bleachers in the fourth inning. Rizzo – who had looked overmatched earlier in the playoffs – became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Kershaw during this calendar year.

And when Rizzo tried to wave off Baez for the ball Josh Reddick popped up to the right side of the infield in the fifth inning, Baez cut right in front of Rizzo to catch it, continuing a long-running gag among the Cubs infielders.

“I don’t think they’re oblivious, because that’s sort of insulting in some ways,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “They know the history. I just don’t think they care. They think they’re a good team and they love to play. And we have some guys that definitely shine on the big stage.”

Baez – a September call-up last year who couldn’t get an everyday spot during the regular season – showed off his bat speed and unbelievable defensive instincts and emerged as the NLCS co-MVP along with big-game pitcher Jon Lester. Sold on the idea of all this young talent someday coming together, Lester joined a last-place team after the 2014 season, taking a leap of faith, even at $155 million.

“I don’t feel like there’s pressure at all in our clubhouse,” said Almora, the first player Theo Epstein’s front office drafted here in 2012. “There’s just hunger and excitement and desire to win.

“None of us were around in 1945…so we just got to write our own history.”

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This is what the Cubs have been talking about since the New York Mets swept them out of last year’s NLCS, since the Ricketts family invested almost $290 million more in free agents, since unconventional manager Joe Maddon made “Embrace The Target” the theme of spring training.

Whatever your preconceived notions of the old Cubs are, know that this group has an amazing sense of balance. They are youthful and experienced. They play as a team and with individual flair. They have style and get dirty. They are analytical and sort of oblivious. They are loose and intense. And the ending hasn’t been written yet.

“We still got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “We’ll enjoy tonight – don’t get me wrong – we’ll have a celebration. We’ll have a good time. We’ll smile, we’ll hug each other, probably get drunk a little bit…but we got some work to do.”

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities] 

The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”