Detroit — In the previous two seasons, the Red Wings showed that amid their casual rebuilding of the roster, they can be a pretty streaky team.
The winning streaks were not long enough to sustain significant success over time, and the losing ones came more often.
This season, they began 4-1, then had an 0-5-1 stretch. And after their 3-1 victory over the Sabres Friday they are 6-2-1 since Oct. 28.
Can the Wings find some consistency while they are playing well?
The recent improvement has been keyed by speed and discipline, two qualities that allow them to play with pace and within Jeff Blashill’s system, and an emerging confidence.
Especially after the 8-2 victory over the Flames and their unwillingness to back down from the Calgarians’ frustration-fueled irritability throughout the second half of the game, the players say they feel more together.
For the moment, things seem quite improved.
Will it stick?
Knowing the system
“Really, we’ve just sort of grasped playing fast within the system,” said veteran Mike Green (19 games, one goal, 16 assists). “And that makes it difficult for other teams.
“I think that’s sort of our identity,” said Green, who is powering things offensively from the back end, with a goal and 16 assists in 19 games. “And if we can stick with that game, we’re going to give ourselves a good chance to win.”
It is a matter of getting to know the system better, and each other, too.
In a lineup of potentially-emerging stars, veteran add-ons from other teams and some familiar faces looking to take the next steps in their careers, it has taken time to get comfortable.
When asked whether the adjustment was with the style of play or the new teammates, Green said, “I think a little bit of both. You know, it’s not easy to play that way, and play fast. It takes some time to get your feel.
“I think once you do collectively as a group, it’s very effective. We’ve seen that.”
Early in Friday’s victory over Buffalo, they were still pressing offensively. The forechecking and defensive zone coverage were not quite as sharp.
Regardless, one game is spare evidence.
“I think guys are playing with confidence, which is a good thing to see,” Justin Abdelkader said. “Our focus is getting pucks moving forward and getting in on the forecheck. I think when we’re successful, we’re a playing with speed and making it tough on opponents.
“For sure, for sure. I think we can carry these (positive trends) over.”
“It’s game-by-game, and each game presents different challenges, so we’ve just got to continue to go out and execute the way we want to play, and no matter who the team is over there, we’ve got to stick to what makes us successful.”
That the young guys, Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are emerging as integral to winning is some encouragement that consistency may be at hand.
“I think we’re skating well as a team,” Larkin said. “We’ve moving up the ice together, back-checking together.
“I think we’re playing in the system together, and skating together. It’s the biggest thing. We’re having a lot of fun doing it.
“It’s fun when we’re playing fast, and lots of stuff is happening.
“And then, the biggest thing at home is our fast starts,” said Larkin, who described the 0-5-1 stretch as just about his worst days in hockey. “We’ve got to keep doing that.
“It seems like every time we get an early goal or get out on the lead early, it seems like we do well in that game.”
Searching for good signs, especially so far this season and all of last season, a 6-2-1 stretch can cause some folks to get a little carried away.
But if Blashill is right about how long the process took, and what has finally kicked in, the Red Wings may well begin to produce a better performance.
He said he thinks they are finally playing with pace, and pressuring opponents.
“But that hasn’t happened in a week,” Blashill said. “That’s happened over three years.
“You know, this team played a lot different five, six, seven years ago, when the talent discrepancy was way different in the league. No one’s like that anymore.
“You have to play a certain style of hockey to be successful, here, and I think we’ve changed. We’ve been in a transition process, and I think guys are buying into it.
“I think from about the Edmonton game on, we’ve played way more simple, repeatable hockey. And I think we’re understanding as a group that simple, repeatable hockey wins.
“You actually get more chances where everyone’s on the same page and you know exactly where the puck’s going.
“It allows you to play fast, and it allows you to pressure.”