The NHL Closer is written by Greg Wyshynski, of The FanHouse and The Fourth Period. He is also the author of Glow Pucks And 10-Cent Beer.

The last thing the world needs is another New England Patriots dynastic supremacy group wank-off, but it does have its benefits: Fans seems to care more about a predestined juggernaut than, say, a team like the Florida Panthers. I've been waiting all season for the NHL to embrace the Detroit Red Wings — they of the 76 points at the All-Star break — as hockey's model of Belichickian efficiency and the League's invulnerable (at least outside of their division) must-see team. So does last night's bruising 2-1 win over the defending champs in Anaheim finally cement the Wings as the closest thing the NHL has to Brady & Co.? And does that mean Brian Rafalski is their Randy Moss?


The problem with anointing a future king in the NHL is that, this season, the League is about as predictable as a shit-faced Dana Jacobson at a celebrity roast dais. Consider that the Ducks defeated Detroit back in October without Todd Bertuzzi, Mathieu Schneider, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Scott Niedermayer; the Red Wings won last night without Henrik Zetterberg and with Dan Cleary injured in a first-period fight with noted interior designer Chris Pronger. It's all a crap shoot, made crappier when a team is expected to win it all. Being the prohibitive favorite to win the Cup is like the SI cover jinx of hockey: You're placed on a pedestal only to have some eight seed with a goalie in the zone knock your ass back to terra firma.

But from what I've seen, Detroit's the real deal. They've got that quick-strike offensive depth, exhibited by Tomas Kopecky's silly two-on-one assist on Valtteri Filppula's game-winner last night. Lidstrom and Rafalski give the team a nicer back end than Jessica Biel. Returning to the strained comparison with the Patriots, Maltby and Draper are their Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel; I can't figure out if Chelios or Hasek is Junior Seau. In the end, any resemblance between the Red Wings and Patriots is purely coincidental, because Henrik Zetterberg is much better looking than Brady. You hear me, Gisele?

A Leetch That Did Not Suck. Brian Leetch will have his No. 2 retired tonight at MSG before the Rangers face the Kovalchuk-less (for one game ... pathetic) Thrashers. He was a dynamic offensive defenseman, but wasn't a total pussy like Phil Housley on the other end of the ice. I always wondered what Leetch's legacy would have been had he starred in another city; as an unassuming guy in a media circus, he might have actually been a little underrated during his career in NYC — if that's possible for a Ranger.


(Ed. Note: In his honor, Bryan Leitch — who has been jokingly asked "Hey, you play for the Rangers?" for about 15 years now — will be in New York City tonight for his son's book release party. We will not be retiring his jersey, but he will be retiring several Natural Lights.)

Puck Headlines

* The Pensblog initiated a Photoshop Expo after then-Flyer Ben Eager refused to fight Big Georges Laraque last month. The result is a random collection of bitter satire targeting Eager, the Flyers and Don Cherry, while celebrating Sidney Christ and ConkBlock ConkSuck. This Steve Gibbs tribute to Eager reminds me of lonely nights on the Garden State Parkway:

* Speaking of the Penguins, Tyler Kennedy is out of the YoungStars game after he came down with mono. I'm sure he tried to convince his parents he only shared somebody's soda at school, but I think we all know the real story. [The Sweater Ted]

* How do you make a Canucks' 3-2 shootout win over the Blues even more entertaining? Put a Canadian sitcom star in the color commentary chair. Incidentally, one of my perpetual NHL fantasy scenarios is having a Game of the Week on HBO with Dennis Leary and Jeremy Roenick in the same uncensored booth. []

* A radio race war in Atlanta over the NHL All-Star Game? [Access Atlanta]

* Spector lists 19 big names that could move at the trade deadline. Fox Sports' blog profanity filter changes Dick Tarnstrom's name into "BLEEP Tarnstrom." Fascists. [Fox Sports]


* There are hockey moms who bring brownies for the team to share after the game ... and then there are hockey moms that will bring booze, weed and blow their son's underage teammates. Too bad they sometimes look like Ric Ocasek. [FanHouse]

* Finally, in honor of the city hosting the All-Star Game this weekend, let's recall one of the greatest moments in Atlanta hockey history: When Cincinnati Cyclones coach Don Jackson snapped and assaulted Atlanta Knights mascot Sir Slapshot. Vintage NHL2Nite graphics! Bill Pidto and Bob Boughner sightings! Mascot carnage!