Red Wings remain grounded despite sizzling start
Las Vegas — Nobody is getting too carried away, that’s for sure.
The Red Wings had a 6-2 start last season and wound up not making the playoffs. Not even close.
So winning four of their first five games, and getting off to the hot start they wanted to, is refreshing and needed on many levels.
The Red Wings didn’t want to get into a deep hole again.
Through one week in the schedule, they didn’t. In fact, gave themselves reasons to be optimistic about the months ahead.
“It’s huge, you can’t play from behind in this league,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the successful start. “You can’t be climbing all year. We knew when we looked at our schedule, the structure of the beginning of the year was a lot of road games and at the end of the year there were a lot of road games.
Quick starts are a big factor in success.
“We have done a good job in this organization for a long time. With that said, we had a good start last year and didn’t finish good enough. So, every game is critically important.”
There were several factors Friday that made the 6-3 victory over expansion Vegas a good early-season win.
The Golden Knights were undefeated through three games and making their home arena already a difficult place for opponents to play in.
Also, the Red Wings had played and won in Arizona the night before, and back-to-backs this early season, against any quality of opponent, isn’t easy.
But the Red Wings persevered.
“We’ve got leadership in our room and everyone knows what’s at stake. You saw it tonight in the third period,” said Blashill, noting the Red Wings trailed 3-2 after two periods. “We’ve got a leader in Henrik Zetterberg (four points Friday) that will go down as one of the greatest leaders in this generation. We just talk about doing it right every single time you can and our guys did a great job.”
The main thing, early, tough is confidence. The Red Wings are getting re-acclimated to the feeling of winning and earning valuable points in the standings.
“The most important thing is we know we can play well if we do it right,” Zetterberg said. “We have a good mix on the team. We still have to get better in a few areas but, obviously, we’ll take this start.”
Nyquist breaks through
Forward Gustav Nyquist was held without a point through the first four games, but scored early Friday in the first period on an odd-man rush with Zetterberg.
Nyquist added a second goal in the third-period Red Wings’ explosion (along with an assist), a good sign going forward.
“That was nice, to get on (the scoresheet) finally,” Nyquist said. “I felt good in the preseason but haven’t been able to put one in here at the start, so that felt good for sure.
“But the most important thing is we got the win here on a back-to-back. That’s big for our club.”
If all games in Vegas will be like this, T-Mobile Arena is going to be a fun game to watch a hockey game.
Golden Knights fans have taken to their first professional sports team quickly, but this being Vegas, there are a ton of transplants and visitors simply coming in from the opposing team’s hometown to make a weekend out of it.
There were plenty of Red Wings fans Friday, some from Michigan, some who’ve moved from Nevada, some from elsewhere.
“We saw a lot of red and white in the stands,” Zetterberg said. “We are used to that, especially in Phoenix and Florida. It’s fun for us to play when we have fans.
“But it won’t be just us. A lot of fans will come here and make a trip of it to see their teams.”
Said Blashill: “It reminded me of some of those games at home, Detroit and Toronto, going back and forth. It was a great atmosphere, great for the NHL.”
A little lost in Friday’s victory was the steady play of goalie Petr Mrazek, who kept the Red Wings in the game through two periods.
“He was excellent (early), he kept us in there,” Blashill said. “As long as I’ve known Petr the biggest thing he is about is winning hockey games. He really isn’t about individual stats.
“He found a way to dig in and win a game (Friday).”
…The Golden Knights looked on their way to another victory through two periods Friday, then looked like an expansion team they are for the final 20 minutes.
“They’re great players,” said Vegas coach Gerard Gallant of the Red Wings’ offensive players. “We held them in check for the most part of the game, and we outplayed them for a period and a half. Then in the third period, they totally dominated.”