Larkin's stubble starting to bubble for Wings' playoffs

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dylan Larkin

Detroit — Dylan Larkin watched the NHL playoffs growing up in Waterford and wondered what it would be like to be playing in them.

Now at the tender age of 19, Larkin gets his first opportunity.

With a developing playoff beard, at that.

“I have a few weeks head start,” said Larkin, proud of the growing whiskers on his chin. “Just have to keep it going.”

Getting an opportunity in the playoffs looked dicey at times, but the Red Wings were able to secure a 25th consecutive berth Saturday.

Now, with the first-round series against Tampa Bay beginning Wednesday, Larkin can’t wait for the excitement.

“There’s nothing like the first round, the intensity,” Larkin said. “I’m excited to be part of it.

“Every time you watched the team lift the Stanley Cup, you get chills. To have the chance to do that th is year, it’s really great. This is a bonus. I just wanted to make the team.”

Larkin did that, and then some, leading the Red Wings with 23 goals and being their most consistent offensive threat through stretches of the season.
“I’m just going to do my part and try and help the team,” said Larkin, of what the expectations are for the playoffs.

Coach Jeff Blashill wants his rookies such as Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou to “enjoy the moment.”

“These are the opportunities you play for,” Blashill said. “But focus on the shift to shift details it takes to be successful. I don’t think either one of them will be fazed by the moment. They’re excited for the opportunity.”

Good friends

Blashill and Jon Cooper have been good friends for more than a decade, since the two were coaching in the junior ranks around Michigan.

Blashill was asked about Cooper’s path to becoming an NHL player, having started as a lawyer.

“Must have been a bad lawyer,” Blashill joked, capable of needling a good friend.

“Coop’s journey is great,” Blashill said. “In the end he followed his passion. I was with him the day he left for Texarkana to leave his law business for good and go to a spot that not many people have been to, and certainly is not a hockey hotbed.

“I watched him grow a junior program from scratch in Texarkana. It was a pretty big risk, but he followed his passion."

Toughest round

You hear it all the time in the NHL this time of year

The first round of the playoffs is the toughest, the most difficult to advance from.

Why is it?

“Everyone you could play is hard, there are no easy matchups,” forward Brad Richards said.

The first-round is essentially still a continuation of the final few days of the regular season, when the intensity is great for teams on the playoff border.

“All the round are hard, but the first round, once you get through you feel you’re in the playoffs,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s just a different feeling in the second round.

“The first round, in my experience, is the hardest one. Really for the last month or so there’s been a lot of teams who’ve been doing that (playing to get into the playoffs).

“You just have to get in and have a chance. Basically it’s a new season and you have to be one of those teams that have a chance and we have one of them now.”