Time with Griffins gave Blashill heads-up on Bertuzzi
Philadelphia — When general manager Ken Holland talked to Mike Babcock in 2012 about Jeff Blashill relinquishing his gig as an assistant for the Red Wings to take over in Grand Rapids, grooming a future NHL coach was the plan.
An advantage Blashill also gained was familiarity with the talent in the Red Wings system at a time the roster of the parent club was headed toward change.
While the Red Wings continue the challenging, and perhaps long, transition back to the status of Stanley Cup contenders, it has been handy for Blashill to know the young guys.
And it is paying off again.
His confidence in Tyler Bertuzzi, reflected by the decision to call up the 21-year-old rather than the hot-scoring Anthony Mantha, and putting him on the top line with Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen is a product of his experience coaching the player with the Griffins.
“He’s just got to do what he does,” Blashill said of the resolute forward, whose offensive skills have increased markedly, beginning with his last season in juniors for Guelph in the Ontario Hockey League.
“You know, he’s come in for me in a similar situation in the past, in our playoff in my last year in G.R., and was great. He’s just got to continue to play the way he’s been playing.”
After tallying 99 points (43 goals) in 68 games for the Storm in 2014-15, Bertuzzi played two regular-season games for the Griffins before a huge performance in the American Hockey League playoffs.
In seven games, he had 17 points (five goals).
Knowing the implements in Bertuzzi’s tool box also gives Blashill confidence in starting Bertuzzi with Nielsen and Larkin, and they might help the lineup — as opposed to goal-scoring capacity of Mantha.
“The way we have it set up there is we’ve got kind of a net-front guy on each line,” Blashill said.
On the top line, that is Bertuzzi.
“I think there’s a lot of forecheck pressure between the three of them,” Blashill added. “I think there’s a combination of speed, skill, size and tenacity.
“That’s what we’d love on every line.”
I resemble that remark
The Red Wings and Flyers both entered Tuesday’s game 6-6-1, and to hear the coaches and players talk after the morning skates, one might have thought they were the same team.
Both clubs believe they are improving, perhaps on the verge of greater success. And both assert if they could just move beyond a few issues, more wins will come.
Like the Wings, the Flyers talked about much better exits from their zone and better defensive coverage in it.
There were some differences, however. The Flyers feature considerable offensive power among their forwards and stumbling goaltenders, while the Red Wings have had a paucity of scoring and mostly fine goaltending.
But another strong resemblance prevailed, as measured by social media. Fans of both teams are vehemently restless.
A tweeted photograph of the Flyers starting lineup quickly drew more than two dozen criticisms, with most offering their versions.
Red Wings fans are not the only ones with their own ideas about a lineup.
Broad Street skid
Some of Detroit’s players were not putting much stock in their 12-game winless streak in Philadelphia, other than to say it has been disappointing.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard said it was unnecessary to eliminate it from his thoughts as he prepared for the game.
“No,” he said. “I mean, sooner or later, it’s got to end.”