Road-tested Red Wings feeling bullish after two wins out West

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Vancouver, B.C. —  Nobody is, or was, getting carried away after one particular victory.

Or, in this case, the second win in two days, and the fourth victory in five games.

Monday’s 3-2 victory in Vancouver was the latest Red Wings' win, and there was a good vibe in the locker room what with the resolve and persistence the team showed.

“We all know we’re playing real good right now and we can’t let it slip away,” said forward Tomas Tatar, who scored the game-winner with 1:14 left in the game. “We had a lot of these screw-ups (losing leads) last year and we’ve learned from that. Now if that happens, we’re way more experienced than we used to be.”

When you look at the Red Wings’ record, it was the exact same (8-7-1, 17 points) through 16 games it was last year, with the same number of regulation wins (six), same spot in the standings (just out of the wild card) and the goal differential was plus-2 this season compared to negative-2 last season.

So, essentially, everything was similar. The only difference was the Red Wings were coming off an ugly 5-0 loss in Montreal last year at this point.

And Monday’s game wasn’t ugly at all. The Red Wings were a team that didn’t crumble.
But, maybe in another good sign, nobody was getting carried away.

“We won two (games) here (including Sunday in Edmonton), and this one could have gone either way, so I don’t want to jump too much (to any conclusions),” captain Henrik Zetterberg said.

But, then, after a brief second, Zetterberg stated some of the positives he’s seeing from this group.

“We are playing good when we do the right things,” Zetterberg said. “We are making mistakes here and there and right now Howie (goaltender Jimmy Howard) is making the saves. We could still play better.

“But we’re finding some kind of way to play, a little simpler here, and we’re not making that many mistakes. We’re putting pucks behind the other team and using our speed and it’s nice to see us get rewarded when we play like that.”

The Red Wings held a 2-0 lead Monday in Vancouver going into the third period. They were the better team for most of the 40 minutes, and Howard was erasing any mistakes the Red Wings had made.

But Vancouver rallied for two quick goals around the midway point — and suddenly the game was tied and a potentially profitable Red Wings evening appeared ruined.

Late last season, the Red Wings likely would have collapsed.

But, in a promising note maybe, the Red Wings carried the play after the two Canucks' goals, and Tatar won it with a deflected goal with 1 minute 14 seconds left.

“We were great after 2-2 to be honest with you,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “That was some of our better hockey. We gave up two goals, but we played real well.

“I do think we’re starting to continue to build an identity. The quicker we play, the more we can play attacking and get into their end….The more we (control) the puck, the better we’ll be.”

Another promising aspect, particularly coming out of the two victories in western Canada? The fact the Red Wings may have the personnel to have four effective lines.

“The one thing as we’ve gone through the year, it looks like a team that if we can build a matchup line, but you have some guys that can match a little bit, you have some guys that can produce offense, you become a four-line team, which is a positive thing,” Blashill said.

"We have pretty good depth of scoring, and (Frans) Nielsen, (Darren) Helm, those guys play real well together, whether it’s with Abby (Justin Abdelkader) or Glennie (Luke Glendening) because they play the same way. They like to play north and they all have the ability to score. Nielsen, Helm and Abby have all scored a good amount of goals in this league.

“So, it’s something that’s real important for us.”

There’s a long way to go in the NHL schedule. Injuries will happen, slumps will invariably occur.

But the Red Wings have played a good number of road games already after Thursday’s game in Calgary (12 road and only five at home) and a long stretch at Little Caesars Arena is upcoming.

If nothing else, the Red Wings have begun the season as well as could have been expected to this point, and given themselves an opportunity to think positively about the near future.

“I don’t know how many games we’ve played, but the only bad one we’ve played is against Vancouver (at Little Caesars Arena), it was a brutal game, we know that,” Blashill said. “Other than that, our guys have competed real hard and come out and played hard.”