Red Wings go to the net, create havoc, get 'dirty goals'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
The Detroit Red Wings' Dylan Larkin skates against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period Thursday night.

If anyone on the Red Wings would know, it would be one of the goaltenders.

So, when asked how important it is to get bodies in front of goalies, how important it is to create offense by doing so, Jonathan Bernier was clear and concise.

“Five on five, it’s usually the only way you’re going to score goals,” Bernier said.

The Wings have attempted to emphasize creating havoc around the opposing net from nearly the start of training camp.

Sometimes they’ve been successful at it, sometimes they haven’t. When they’ve done a good job of it, it’s helped them win games. When they’ve abandoned doing it, they haven’t been as successful.

No surprise, really, that there’s been a correlation between the two.

So Thursday, as the Wings defeated Carolina 4-1, and the only goal the Wings scored that wasn’t because of a distinct net-front presence was Dylan Larkin’s empty-netter, it was another good reminder that making the opposing goalie’s life difficult is usually a positive thing.

“The way we were crashing the net and staying in front and battling, that’s how we won,” Bernier said.

On the Wings’ first goal Niklas Kronwall scored on the power play, a shot that flew by former teammate, Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek, because Mrazek was completely screened by 6-foot-5 Michael Rasmussen.

Goal number two by the Wings, which broke a 1-1 tie, was Frans Nielsen cruising the slot and deflecting Nick Jensen’s shot. Nielsen carved excellent position and deftly redirected the shot, a play Mrazek could do nothing on.

Jonathan Ericsson opened the third period with an innocent looking wrist shot, which glanced off a Hurricanes defender battling for position in front of Mrazek with Luke Glendening.

With each goal allowed, Mrazek appeared to look at bit more frustrated and in disbelief. 

“We were getting in front of Petr and made it hard for him,” Nielsen said.

With players such as Rasmussen, Justin Abdelkader, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi on the roster, Blashill made it a priority in training camp to be a team that was effective around the net.

The Wings had a collection of size, skill and agitators who could thrive near the crease.

With a limited number of elite offensive stars, the Wings have needed to rely on the tough, dirty goals to produce offense.

“You can’t score on skill every night,” Blashill said. “You have to score dirty goals. On all three goals, that was an example of scoring dirty. We have to keep at it. We’ve been better at it since about the 10-game mark on.

“We have to keep at it, continue to buy into it.”

Larkin talked about the importance for the Red Wings to maintain pressure on opposing goaltenders.

“It’s been something since day one of training camp we’ve emphasized,” Larkin said. “We have to make it hard on the other team’s goalie. We don’t feel like we’ve done that with the amount of shots and bodies in front of the net in the recent games.

“We all have to focus on getting to the net and it wasn’t easy (Thursday) with their defense, but we got there and scored dirty goals.”

Panthers at Red Wings

Faceoff: 2 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM 

Outlook: The Panthers (13-14-6, 32 points) have been a stung with key injuries all season. ... LW Jonathan Huberdeau (31 assists, 40 points), RW Evgenii Dadonov (16 goals), and C Aleksander Barkov (33 points) headline a talented offensive team.

Twitter @tkulfan