Wings’ Bertuzzi makes big impact with ‘little plays’
Detroit — Tyler Bertuzzi is continuing to make quite an impression with the Red Wings.
The young forward had two more assists in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss against Dallas but more than the offense, also showed the tenacity and hockey sense that could serve him well for many years.
Bertuzzi has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his last nine games, and is looking more confident with every shift.
“I’m just getting more used to it every game,” said Bertuzzi, who coach Jeff Blashill now has playing on a line with Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou. “Playing with Larks and Double-A, it’s pretty easy on me.”
Bertuzzi was expected to make the Red Wings out of training camp, but a wrist injury derailed those plans until December, when Luke Glendening was injured.
Bertuzzi is definitely making up for lost time.
On Athanasiou’s goal Tuesday, Bertuzzi patiently had the puck on his stick and looped a pass down the ice to Athanasiou — as Larkin has been doing lately — and Athanasiou went in on a breakaway.
“Double-A doesn’t cheat, but he’s smart when he blows the zone,” Bertuzzi said. “If I can just get it off the glass, they’re going to have a foot race.
“I tried to corral the puck and kind of wait. I saw Doubles (Athanasiou) was gone, so I just shot it down (the ice). Even if I didn’t get it to him, he was going to beat the icing out.”
Blashill is pleased with the different elements Bertuzzi has brought to the NHL.
“He was very good (Tuesday), maybe our best forward,” Blashill said. “That was our best line. Against a team that defends well, protects the ice, and makes it hard to get to the net, you need guys like him and that’s why he’s always been a good playoff performer.
“When a game is wide open, you don’t notice him as much. But when the game is a grind, you notice him more and certainly he makes tons of little plays.”
Blashill often has talked, since Bertuzzi was recalled, about Bertuzzi’s fine instincts on the ice and well-rounded game.
Though not the biggest or fastest player, Bertuzzi has a knack for being in the right place and making the right plays.
“He just has real good hockey smarts,” said Blashill, “and poise with a real hard approach. That’s a special combination and that is transferable to successful hockey.”
Not so special teams
For the Red Wings to make any sort of a positive run these final few months, the special teams have to be real good.
Right now, neither the power play or penalty kill is playing particularly well.
The Red Wings were 0-for-2 on the power play, and allowed two Dallas power-play goals, another key component of Tuesday’s loss.
The power play has been a particular problem area.
The Red Wings are 1-for-17 in the last four games with the man advantage, and the unit ranked 18th entering Wednesday’s games at 18.7 percent.
The penalty kill ranked 20th entering Wednesday, at 79.8 percent.
“If we want to be a real good team, and I said it at the beginning of the year, we have to have elite special teams,” Blashill said. “Right now, we don’t, so we better find a way to be better in those areas.”
The 15 shots on net the Red Wings had against Dallas were a season-low in a game.
…With his goal against Dallas, Trevor Daley now has one point against all 31 NHL franchises. Daley’s goal was his first point against Dallas, with whom Daley played 756 games between 2003-15.
Daley also earned a point against expansion Vegas this season.
… Andreas Athanasiou has multi-point games in four of the last six games, and has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in the last 12 games.
… Niklas Kronwall moved past Red Kelly into 12th place in franchise history for assists (311) with an assist on Athanasiou’s goal.