The Detroit Red Wings' Dylan Larkin talks about Jimmy Howard's shutout on Saturday and the team's three-game win streak. Gregg Krupa, Detroit News
Detroit — As they have in the past several seasons, the Red Wings are rallying late in their schedule.
Some fans urge them to “tank,” hoping to improve their limited odds in the lottery before the NHL Entry Draft, and landing Rasmus Dahlin, an outstanding offensive defenseman from Sweden who is universally acclaimed as the certain first-round pick.
To a man, at least publicly, the Wings will have none of it.
“Not as long as I am here,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said last season, when it was clear the club would miss the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
And they refused to let any talk of improving chances in the lottery put a damper on their third consecutive win Saturday, a 2-0 shutout over a team that arguably has had an even more disappointing season, the Senators.
“Guys are getting hot, which is good to see,” said Dylan Larkin, talking about the sudden secondary scoring that has helped produce more goals than Zetterberg’s line.
Larkin is absolutely scorching with five goals in seven games and 10 points in nine.
He said it is an important initiative for him in the last games of the season.
So, less talk about quitting, please.
“No, no,” said Larkin, who is looking more like the future leader of the franchise. “We’ve got a job to do every night.
“You know, we’ve got a lot of young guys in here, so every day is an audition. Guys are trying to learn whatever it may be, whether it’s more ice time next year, or what.
“So, you’re position on this team and in this league has to be earned every day.”
Jeff Blashill remained adamant: The Red Wings should win.
“I understand the importance of a draft pick,” he said. “I really do.
“I’ve said in this room hundreds of times, we need three superstars in their prime. I get that 100 percent, and I’m hoping we get one in the draft, one way or the other.
“When that clock starts, you’re not worth your salt if you’re not trying to win the game,” the coach said, pointing from the dais in the media conference room out towards the ice. “Whether you are a player or a coach.
“One of the things about our organization I’ve talked lots about is the importance of culture. We’re not far off. We’re closer than other people would ever give us credit, because of the culture.
“And I’m not losing the culture.”
Nicklas Lidstrom sat up in the media gondola Saturday and told reporters Dahlin is better than him when he was the 18-year-old fellow countrymen’s age.
Blashill had a take on that, too.
“What made Nick certainly the best of I’ve seen and certainly the best of his generation and arguably the best of all time is how efficient a hockey player he was,” the coach said. “He was able to create offense without taking a big risk. He was able to create offense and be great defensively.
“He would never have been flashy the way this Dahlin is flashy.
“I’d give cautions to everybody, compared to Nick, because he wouldn’t have looked great as a 17 or 16-year-old because he would almost look steady,” Blashill said.
“As you get older and grow as a player, that’s way more appreciated.”
Back on top
Jimmy Howard should have been gone by now.
Two seasons ago, the Red Wings designated Petr Mrazek their top goalie, and Howard tried to get used to something he had never done before: play as a backup goalie.
Then, he took his job back.
When the Red Wings hired goaltending coach Jeff Salajko, they were intending to help Mrazek, who had played under Salajko in Grand Rapids.
It turned out to be a huge boost for Howard, who worked on positioning in the crease and his conditioning.
Going into next season, it looks as though Howard will get the lion’s share of time in net for the Wings.
“Jimmy went to work a couple of summers ago, and it’s really paid off for him,” Blashill said. “It’s a good lesson for young guys in the league.
“You know, he wanted to make sure he was still in the league.
“And he knew he needed to change some different things in his game and, boy, he went to work hard.”
Recently, Howard has played well, even with a scrambled defensive corps around him.
“Even in this last stretch here, where we gave up some goals, I actually thought he played well in most of those games and he didn’t get rewarded,” Blashill said.
“So, it was good for him to get the shutout here today.”
Defenseman Joe Hicketts, 21, has played in four games for the Red Wings in his career.
The Wings are 4-0
Hicketts played 18 minutes, 52 seconds against the Senators, accumulated a plus-1 rating, fired two shots on goal, attempted five and got two hits.
He is plus-5 with three assists in four games.
Asked if the Red Wings had suddenly discovered a key to winning games late in the season, Blashill complimented the young, puck-moving defenseman, and added a caution.
“First of all, he’s got swagger,” he said. “He’s infectious as a personality. He’s a guy you want to be around.
“That’s a big piece.
“Now, we’ve been able to be 4-0. I would also temper it with, you know, he gave up two breakaways on the first power play the other night in Buffalo. If that happens to some other guys around here, I might not be playing them again and you guys might be beating him up.
“Sometimes, when you are young and in a spot, you get a little bit of a mulligan.
“As I said earlier, if Joe corrects those big, big mistakes, Joe will be a real good player in this league. If Joe doesn’t correct those big, big mistakes he’ll be hard to play in the league, because you won’t create enough big time chances to make those big, big, big mistakes.
“If he can figure that out, I’ll love having him part of our team, because he’s got swagger, he’s a great competitor, he blocks shots.
“But you can’t give up big chances on a consistent basis and find long-term success.
“That’s something he’ll have to sort out, and hopefully he can learn to manage that.”