Red Wings’ Larkin flashes brilliance in latest loss
Detroit — This is was the way the Red Wings want to see Dylan Larkin play.
Larkin was using his speed, playing with tenacity, and creating scoring opportunities for himself and linemates.
This was happening later in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to St. Louis, a game in which Larkin was a factor.
“The third period was one of Larks’ best periods,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Larks had good jump in the third (period). That was one of his better periods in a while.”
Larkin played just over 16 minutes — more than he had since Jan. 22 — as Blashill put Larkin on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar, while switching out Anthony Mantha.
Larkin was credited with two shots on net, was strong on the puck, and was noticeable — something that hadn’t always been the case in recent games.
“I switched Mantha and Larks because I thought Larks had a little more compete in him (against St. Louis),” Blashill said.
The second NHL season hasn’t gone as smoothly for Larkin as his first.
In 54 games, Larkin only has 19 points with 12 goals and seven assists and a minus-18 rating. Larkin has been unable to find chemistry with consistent linemates.
But Blashill has seen progress.
“I also would say this, I see him doing tons of good stuff,” Blashill said. “I see him doing the types of things that it takes for long-term success that you guys won’t see, and it won’t show up on the score sheet.
“But he’s stopping on pucks, he’s playing from the defensive side of the puck, and those types of things are critical in order to be a real good player in the league.
“He’s really taken steps forward.”
Goaltender Petr Mrazek hasn’t had a memorable season, either, being too inconsistent or simply not good enough in some games.
So the Red Wings are looking for hopeful signs, going forward, and Mrazek supplied another one in Wednesday’s loss.
Mrazek stopped 27 of 28 shots — the second Blues’ goal was into an empty net — after allowing a goal on the first shot of the game,
“In the end he gave up one (goal),” Blashill said. “You have to score more than zero to win. He had a good game.”
Mrazek feels he’s turned a corner since January, making adjustments in his technique and playing with confidence.
“I’ve worked a lot around the net, be big in net, and challenge shots,” Mrazek said. “I can be happy with myself.”
With Jimmy Howard (sprained knee) suffering a setback in his rehabilitation — Howard will attempt to play a rehab game next week in Grand Rapids — Mrazek will get at least two, and possibly all three, of the starts before the Red Wings go on their five-day bye.
Mrazek has appeared to raise his level of play with an increased workload.
“You can’t ask for more than one goal against, even though he didn’t get a lot of help on that one (Mrazek allowed),” Zetterberg said. “He was good again. He’s been real good the last four or five starts. ”
The Red Wings have now allowed the game’s first goal 35 times — and 17 times in opening opening five minutes of the game. That’s not usually a formula for success.
“When you’re playing from behind, you can’t afford another mistake, or we need big saves,” Blashill said.
… The Red Wings’ 30th-ranked power play (11.8 percent) again faltered against St. Louis, something that’s been a season-long plague.
“Our power play’s definitely has to be better,” Justin Abdelkader said.