‘Lightning’ speed propels Wings’ Athanasiou
Dallas – Pavel Datsyuk corrected the reporter instantly
No, rookie Andreas Athanasiou doesn’t have speed.
“Lightning,” is how it was described by Datsyuk, the savvy veteran who joked he used to have that kind of speed (he didn’t).
Like a flash, a quick strike, Athanasiou seems to hit high speed in an instant and gets the defense on its heels.
He did it so many times Monday, in the Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime victory in Dallas, scoring two goals, drawing two penalties, and seemingly intimidating the Stars every time he stepped on to the ice.
But it was Athanasiou’s second goal, a spectacular show of speed and skill – capped by an inside-out move and nifty backhand goal – that forced jaws to drop.
“It was great,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who stopped 39 shots and was himself a star in the victory. “He used his speed and you definitely saw his skill come out there.”
Athanasiou’s speed has always been his biggest asset on the ice, and he’s definitely learned to maximize it over the years.
“It feels nice when you pick up that much speed and you get it there in the neutral zone at top speed and you almost know the defense is going to back up,” Athanasiou said. “It has always been an asset of mine and I’ve been working on it every year.”
Athanasiou credited fellow speedster Dylan Larkin with a big help on the highlight-reel goal.
“I was picking up a lot of speed in the D-zone, the puck funneled up to Larks on the wall, and he made a great play to take the defenseman out and kind of leave a little room to pick up the puck,” Athanasiou said. “I was coming in with a lot of speed. Fortunately, that move worked out.”
Coach Jeff Blashill has watched Athanasiou progress the last couple years in Grand Rapids and seeing Monday’s goal wasn’t a shock.
“We want guys that can make plays out of nothing and that was certainly a great one,” Blashill said. “You either separate yourself with speed or with strength and he does it with his speed.
“It’s hard on goalies, on defensemen, when he’s attacking with that level of speed. He’s like Larkin in that they can skate full speed and make plays. That play might be a toe-drag (which Athanasiou used), might be a shot, might be a pass. Very few guys can do it. He can do it.”
Athanasiou appears to have cemented an NHL job for the time being and his ice time is gradually increasing. But with only 18 NHL games on his resume, Athanasiou is still relishing every moment of what’s going on right now.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Athanasiou said. “I’ve been learning so much. I’m just trying to battle here as much as I can to help these guys win every chance I get.”
Blackhawks come to town
The Chicago Blackhawks are as close to a dynasty as there is these days in pro sports, having won three Stanley Cups in the last six seasons.
They made no mistake about their intention of winning a fourth this season by acquiring forwards Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff before the trade deadline.
“Isn’t it amazing how they keep adding players?” Howard said. “They got some special way there. They definitely made their team stronger with the additions they made.”
The Blackhawks make their only regular-season appearance at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday.
“It’s another big one for us,” Howard said. “They’re a team that’s a measuring stick throughout the league with the success they’ve had in the past several years. It’s going to be another tall task.”
Howard ended a nine-game winless streak with his victory in Dallas.
“I felt like it was coming for a while,” Howard said. “I’m just happy I was able to be out there and get two points for the guys.”
… The power play ended an 0-for-20 drought with Datsyuk’s game-winning goal against the Stars.
“When I watched the game against Colorado (Saturday), we had four big-time chances that we didn’t score on,” Blashill said. “The rest of it wasn’t good enough, certainly in the last stretch it hadn’t been good enough.
“But the power play needs to score, just like a player does, so it’s a big goal we scored.”
… Blashill expects goaltender Petr Mrazek (groin) to start against Chicago. Mrazek wasn’t available Monday because of a tender groin.
“We expect him to play,” Blashill said. “We were precautionary (in Dallas). We wanted to make sure he didn’t injure it any more. We’ll know more for sure Wednesday but we expect him ready to play.”
Blackhawks at Red Wings
Faceoff: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Joe Louis Arena
TV / radio: NBCSN / 97.1 FM, 1270 AM
Notable: The teams play again Sunday in Chicago. … Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane is the leading MVP candidate (36 goals, 49 assists).