The offseason was full of a lot of bad memories for the Detroit Red Wings. However, the 2013-14 season had its share of good memories.
The season started with a move to the Eastern Conference, something general manager Ken Holland has been advocating for years. Expectations were high for the Red Wings, who were moving to a weaker conference and had less traveling to do.
However, injuries and inexperience meant the Red Wings weren’t as competitive as they had hoped they would be.
Here are the top five moments from the 2013-14 season.
Gustav Nyquist Scores Two Goals in Season Debut
The Red Wings didn’t do a particularly good job of handling their youngsters at the beginning of the season. Tomas Tatar was a healthy scratch for eight of the first nine games, and Gustav Nyquist had to be sent down to Grand Rapids to make room for Daniel Cleary, who turned down more money from Philadelphia to come back to Detroit.
However, once the kids made it to the NHL, they made a definite impact, especially Nyquist. The Swede made his season debut against the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 21, and Nyquist needed just 17 seconds to prove to Holland why he belonged with the big club.
Nyquist would strike again late in the third period with the Red Wings holding a 3-2 lead. A bank pass off the boards by Henrik Zetterberg sprung Nyquist on a breakaway. He opened up Justin Peters’ legs and slipped it through the Carolina netminder for his second goal of the game. It ended up being the game-winning goal, as Detroit won 4-3.
Nqyuist went on to have an amazing season, scoring 28 goals and added 20 assists in 57 games. On March 24, he was named the NHL’s first star of the week and second star of the month, as he scored 12 goals and 18 points to help the Red Wings finish with a 7-6-2 record in March.
Red Wings Secure 23rd Consecutive Playoff Berth
This was the second season in as many years where the Red Wings’ playoff streak was in jeopardy. The team had been riddled by injury, losing the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm for a good part of the season.
However, a point shot by Riley Sheahan with 1:15 remaining in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 9 tied the game at 3-3 and secured the Red Wings’ 23rd consecutive playoff berth.
Detroit would lose in a shootout, but the mission had been accomplished: Find a way to get into the playoffs.
You can make the argument keeping the playoff streak alive is hindering the team from becoming perennial contenders, but it’s still an impressive feat, nonetheless. Especially in a salary cap era that spreads the talent across all 30 NHL teams, it is extremely difficult to put out a team that can continue to play hockey into May.
2014 Winter Classic
The 2014 Winter Classic was an unbelievable experience. Temperatures reached single digits on a snowy day in Ann Arbor, as more than 100,000 fans packed Michigan Stadium to watch the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs face off on New Year’s Day.
The Red Wings broke the scoreless tie in the second period, as a centering pass by Zetterberg was deflected past Jonathan Bernier by Daniel Alfredsson to score the first NHL goal at Michigan Stadium.
The Maple Leafs got goals from James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak to take a 2-1 lead in the third period, but Michigan native and Michigan State alumnus Justin Abdelkader would be the Red Wings’ savior. Brendan Smith threw a pass to the slot, and Abdelkader backhanded a shot past Bernier to tie the game at 2-2 with 5:32 left.
The Red Wings would end up losing the game in a shootout, but the magnitude of the event dwarfed the loss. Dueling chants of “Let’s go Red Wings” and “Go Leafs go” filled Michigan Stadium, as a sea of red and blue filled The Big House. While it will officially go down as a home game for the Red Wings, the amount of Maple Leafs fans made it appear as it was played on a neutral field.
It was an experience unlike any other.
Red Wings Shut Out Bruins in First Playoff Game
The Red Wings ended up settling for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, which meant a matchup with new division rival Boston.
The Bruins were heavy favorites coming into the series having made it to the Stanley Cup Final last year. However, the Red Wings played the perfect road game and stole Game 1 from the heavy favorites.
Only one goal was needed, and it came late in the third period by none other than Datsyuk. Franzen moved the puck up to Datsyuk, who creatively dragged the puck from behind up to his forehand, walked around the Boston defense and fired a shot past Tuukka Rask to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead.
That would be the sole highlight for the Red Wings during the playoffs, as the Bruins won the next four games en route to a series win.
The Red Wings used their speed to negate the toughness of the Bruins, but weren’t able to match that intensity in the following games.
Tomas Tatar Honors Late Father After Goal
During the NHL’s Christmas break, Tatar went to go see his father in Slovakia. The 60-year-old was having liver problems, and Tatar wanted to see him in case things went South.
Tatar returned to the Red Wings, but unfortunately, Tatar’s father died on Jan. 10. The next day, the Red Wings faced the Los Angeles Kings in Los Angeles. Tatar was in the lineup and playing with a heavy heart.
Tied 1-1 late in the third period, Sheahan fired a shot at Jonathan Quick. Quick made the save, but Tatar collected the rebound and scored to put the Red Wings up 2-1. Immediately after scoring, Tatar pointed to the heavens to honor his late father. The Red Wings would win the game 3-1.
It was an emotional night for not only Tatar, but the entire Red Wings community. Tatar was embraced by his Red Wings teammates in what was no doubt the most emotional moment of the year for the team.
Kronwall Scores Off Protective Netting
In one of the most bizarre goals in history, the Red Wings got a lucky bounce to secure a 3-2 shootout win against the Kings on Jan. 18.
Niklas Kronwall took a slap shot from the point that deflected off the protective netting, hit Quick in the back and bounced into the net to tie the game at 2-2 with 26.1 seconds remaining.
Since none of the referees saw the puck hit the protective netting, the goal was deemed good and the rules state video replay cannot be used to determine if the puck hit the protective netting.
This goal will no doubt be used as evidence as to why the rules should be changed, but the Red Wings were able to snatch two points before the rules changed.
The Red Wings and Maple Leafs participated in HBO’s 24/7 documentary following the two teams in the weeks before the Winter Classic. The Red Wings were a bit camera shy, which led to some boring and awkward conversations, but it still had some good moments.
Todd Bertuzzi drinking a Corona by himself, Daniel Cleary asks Siri “Who is the Magic Man?” with Datsyuk sitting right next to him and Mike Babcock kicking the 24/7 cameras out of the locker room during intermission were some of the better moments for the Red Wings.
24/7 made for some entertaining television, and it was a great behind-the-scenes look for both teams.
What was your favorite moment of the 2013-14 season? Leave a comment below if you think I missed one of the best moments.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.