Not to often do I get the opportunity to see my beloved Detroit Red Wings face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs on HNIC since their move to the Western Conference. I've seen them live twice, once this year in the pre-season, which was a bit disappointing since Pavel Datsuyk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and a few others weren't in the line-up. It's the Red Wings all the same, and any time you have a chance to see your favorite NHL team live it's worth it. The first game I went to was March 18, 1998 at the old barn that was Maple Leaf Gardens. I remember this day not for the fact i was going to see the Wings, but because i had the chance to see #19 Steve Yzerman 'The Captain" himself play that night as well as Sergei Federov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Darren McCarty just to name a few. It was a highlight of a hockey fan. Those same Red wings went on to win the Stanley Cup that year. When Detroit comes to town it is one of the hottest tickets on the schedule. If you don't have tickets or know someone that is willing to give a set up, you'll need a poker champions bankroll to afford them.
With the Wings on the verge of an unprecedented 21 years making the playoffs, they flew out of the gates on a pace equal to the Maple Leafs. Although sitting in 4th spot in the western conference with 51 points and the Leafs in 8th with 45 points, both teams seem to have problems with the lower ranking teams. The Leafs are off to one of there better starts in recent years with the emergence of dynamic duo of Kessel and Lupul. On the other side Datsuyk and Zetteberg have been a bit cool with splashes of brilliance. I guess when Detroit gets on a loosing streak, having a hard time finding the net. People start questioning the age of the team, I'm not doubting that one bit. That could have been a contributing factor in last years playoffs, but they always seem to right the ship.
With Darren Helm the speedy, penalty killing specialist out of the lineup Saturday night, it's one element the Maple leafs wont have to contend with. Also the ever present goaltenders nightmare Tomas Holmstrom not parked in front of the net will surely help James Reimer or Jonas Gustavsson see shots coming from the blue line. Those two guys have defiantly been missed, but the Wings can kill you in other ways. Both teams have won their last 2 games, but those winning streaks will be coming to an abrupt halt. Toronto needs the 2 points in order to keep pace for a playoff spot, with 2 points separating 8th to 5th place. Not a good time for the Wings to swoop into town for the Leafs. But not talking anything away from the Leafs, they've been playing really good hockey as of late.
I only hope for one outcome Saturday night, and that's a Detroit Red Wing victory. If they don't i will have to wear a Toronto Maple Leaf jersey all day at work. And all you hockey fans out there know you never ever put an apposing team jersey on. I've never worn a Leaf jersey, the colour doesn't look good on me.
follow me on twitter @mblacquiere