Detroit — After having lost seven consecutive games, there were quite a few things to like about the Red Wings’ victory Tuesday against Winnipeg.
All four lines contributed at various times, and the passion which had been missing of late definitely returned.
But one unit that may have gone somewhat undetected during Tuesday’s good times was the penalty kill. That’s maybe not a huge surprise, considering how good it has been this season. But Winnipeg is one of the better offensive teams in the NHL and its power play was ranked third entering Thursday.
When the Red Wings needed a big penalty kill Tuesday, they got it.
“It’s an excellent power play,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They have two units (but) the first unit of theirs is real, real powerful.”
The Red Wings saw that unit score, on a patented one-timer by Patrik Laine, cutting the Red Wings lead to 2-1 while Winnipeg enjoyed a two-man advantage. The Jets still had over a minute of power play time after Laine’s goal. But the Red Wings held.
Then on two other Winnipeg power plays, the Red Wings gave Winnipeg an opportunity to tie the game, only to see the penalty kill and goaltender Jimmy Howard make a huge stand.
“(The game) easily could have turned,” forward David Booth said. “That was the key to the game, there. They could have scored another quick one (goal), but we kept our composure and Howie making some big saves, or a big block goes a long way.”
Looking at Thursday’s NHL statistics, the Red Wings’ penalty kill has dropped to 10th at 82 percent, after being in single digits for a lengthy period of time. But it’s been a brief slip.
After killing five of six Jets power plays, and doing so during crucial points of the game, the Red Wings again showed how effective their penalty kill can be.
“Our (penalty) kill has done a real good job,” Blashill said. “When teams get time to set up in the zone, they generally get some (offensive) chances. But we’ve done a pretty good job on the forecheck, and our killers did a real good overall (Tuesday).
“Our kill, actually, has leaked out of the top 10, but it’s actually been real good.”
Blashill didn’t want to see his penalty-killing unit on the ice so much against the Jets. But, in the end, it was the Red Wings’ who had the edge in special teams.
“We took too many penalties. One things we said before the game was, discipline was a key to our game,” Blashill said. “You don’t want to give that power play too many opportunities.”
General manager Ken Holland made it clear earlier this week, while the Red Wings were mired in their losing streak, that the next 15 to 20 games will be key to their season — in regard to the trade market, who could be staying or going, and the Red Wings’ playoff chances.
Everyone on the coaching staff and playing roster, Blashill said, understands the importance of these stretch of games.
“We’ve understood the urgency from the first minute this season has started,” said Blashill, who dismissed the notion of any larger level of importance to these games. “ I don’t think it ratchets it up because we have understood the urgency. Since day one it has been a playoff game every game.
“Our guys understand the urgency of these games. We’ve talked it about a lot, about the urgency of this homestand. We get it.”
The Red Wings took the day off Thursday, an opportunity to stay off the ice amid three days off between games in the schedule.
… Forward Darren Helm, on Howard, who rebounded from difficult performances in two losses to Montreal last week: “Howie has been great for us all season long. He’s one of the reasons we’re in a lot of games and won a lot of games, because of how well he’s been playing. We need that from our goalie and we’re going to need that moving forward.”