Red Wings hit their marks, taste measure of success
Detroit — Hard on the forecheck. Use speed to attack and recover pucks.
Win puck battles.
Fulfill assignments in the defensive zone. Get the puck out quickly.
For the first time in 11 days, the Red Wings checked a lot off their list Saturday. In the previous four games they were outscored 13-3, but they beat the Ducks 6-4.
The list works.
Will they keep checking off the tasks as they begin a stretch of 10 of 11 games on the road Monday against the Hurricanes?
Given the standings, even in mid-December, their margin for error is slight.
Yielding four goals in four out of the last five games, all at home, marks a need for improvement. But otherwise, they played better against the Ducks.
“I’m most pleased with the fact that our process was really good,” Jeff Blashill said, afterwards. “It was good to see us get back to that.”
Clichés abound in sport. It is difficult to describe performance without them.
Suffice to say that when the Wings execute their system, they go on six-game winning streaks and 5-1-2 stretches. When they do not, they play like their earlier 2-8-1 stretch or the first four games of the home stand.
Team leaders and veteran free agents Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott have stepped right up this season, and say it is not a matter of energy or motivation. Blashill and the captain, Henrik Zetterberg, have said the same.
It is more about the execution.
It is also a bit about nerves. At home they’ve been tight at times.
It was as if they were too conscious of the early-season hole they dug themselves and their inabilities as a roster.
Confidence. They lacked it, and could not soar.
Then, down 3-1 to the Ducks and with much in the balance, Tomas Tatar fired a puck off defenseman Cam Fowler’s skate, it hit the bouncy end boards at Joe Louis Arena, rebounded to goalie Jonathan Bernier’s left leg pad and then up to his backside and into the net.
Fortune smiled, Tatar got a hat trick and they stuck to the list.
Can it persist?
“Well, I hope so,” Blashill said. “But part of that luck was shooting the puck, and that’s one thing we’ve talked about.
“I mean, I believe you create your own luck. … He just shot the puck, and that’s what happens.”
They need to take this show on the road, the one they performed against the Ducks.
“Now, you’ve got to build on it on Monday,” Blashill said. “That’s the biggest key. You’ve just got to keep grinding.
“(Tatar) has to come out Monday and play with the same compete level. As a hockey team, we’ve got to come out Monday and play with the same compete level.
“For us to be a great hockey team, we’re going to have to have ultra, ultra, ultra compete. We can’t have good compete.”
Some assert there is no place for fighting in hockey.
Others say, given the other violence in the game and referees already challenged to maintain order, a ban on fighting would mean more dangerous checks and the possibility of stick-swinging.
And then, there is the fighting used tactically to provide an emotional pivot.
Down 2-0 to the Ducks at about 11:00 of the first period, Steve Ott fought the forward Steve Cramarossa. The duel clearly was arranged during a faceoff.
The Wings scored 1:32 later.
It was a goal born of decent forechecking, a fine offensive play by Mike Green and a quick reaction and go-to-the-net approach by Tatar. But in a way NHL players understand, the fight helped turn things.
“Maybe a baby spark,” Ott said.
Zetterberg appreciated the situation.
“Yeah, it was nice,” he said. “I thought everyone on the bench got fired up. It was a good fight.
“That’s what (Ott) does. And he does it well.”
In 27 games, Ott has two goals, one assist and a big heart.
Red Wings at Hurricanes
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Monday, PNC Arena, Raleigh, N.C.
TV / radio: FSD-Plus / 97.1FM
Notes: Points are essential, and the Wings' 1-3-1 home stand was no antidote for a 2-8-1 stretch last month or good preparation for an extended road trip. But, playing “a simple road game” would help them… The Hurricanes under Coach Bill Peters, Mike Babcock’s former assistant in Detroit, are improved. Led in scoring by Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner, they are 8-0-1 in the last nine at home.