Red Wings' dominant scoring line bodes well for next season

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – One thing seems definite to have come for the Red Wings during this six-game win streak:

They potentially have a dominant scoring line heading into next season.

Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha (39) and center Dylan Larkin celebrate Mantha's empty-net goal during the third period Tuesday night.

Dylan Larkin centering Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha looks like a line that could rival any of the best in the NHL.

They were outstanding, as they’ve been largely through this win win streak, in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh.

Bertuzzi scored two goals and had an assist, Mantha had two goals, and Larkin assisted on three goals, as they accounted for eight points.

Bertuzzi, in fact, moved into rarified air. His three-point night gave him four consecutive games of notching at least three points, something no other Red Wings player has ever done.

But the line’s domination as a whole is what makes coach Jeff Blashill excited about next season.

“It’s huge to have that,” said Blashill of the dominant first line. “If you look around the league, Boston is a great example (with David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand). This team (Pittsburgh) is a little different, they were missing (Evgeni) Malkin. Malkin, when he’s playing great hockey, is one of the top five players in the world.  But Boston is a great example of a team that can capitalize on their No. 1 line and then slot everybody else in.

“Now they’ve got an outstanding No. 2 center (David Krejci), so it takes more than just a line, but it slots everybody in. It allows you to play head-to-head against people, and when you have a match line which is your talented line, then you have opportunities to score way more.”

Blashill likes the fact the Larkin line can score with anyone but is also responsible defensively.

“If you have a match line that’s kind of a grinder line, you’re not going to score a ton on that shift,” Blashill said. “But when you have a line like Larkin’s line that can go out and play with the other team’s best, not only shut them down but outscore them, it gives you a great advantage.”

The reason for the line’s success, said Larkin, is that the players’ skills complement each other so well.

“We all bring different dynamics to the game,” Larkin said. “We’re all skating, we’re all moving the puck. It also helps a lot that Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) and Taco (Taro Hirose) have some chemistry and they’re a dangerous line, too, and we’re not getting all the attention.

“Double-A is getting some attention and doing a great job at center. So it’s a full 23-man roster.”

Veteran presence

Niklas Kronwall was the lone veteran regular in the lineup on defense Tuesday night.

And, arguably, Kronwall was the most impressive, with an assist, two blocked shots, and one hit and takeaway, in 17:39 of ice time.

At 38, Kronwall is having an eye-opening season in what was expected to his final season.

Kronwall hasn’t committed one way or the other to season. But it’s becoming apparent another season is not out of question.

“Nik Kronwall has been outstanding,” Blashill said. “That’s one things that I haven’t talked about that should be clear. He’s been excellent.”

Kronwall’s ability to play with poise while under pressure is a huge plus, especially now, with so many young teammates on defense.

“The number of players he makes under pressure, he allows us to get out of our zone,” Blashill said. “Even on the empty-net goal (Mantha scored), he doesn’t panic, he doesn’t throw it up the wall, he makes the play to exit. He’s been excellent.”

Consistent Bertuzzi

Blashill said Bertuzzi has taken a major step forward in his career this season because of his night-to-night consistency.

“He’s really grown in front of our eyes,” Blashill said. “He’s continuing to get better and better. The consistency is to me, the difference.

“The hardest thing in this league to be an elite player is consistency. You can’t have off-nights and out-play people because the league is too good. He’s done an excellent job of consistently playing well.”

Bertuzzi has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his last five games.

Red Wings at Penguins

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM

Outlook: With the Wings’ victory Tuesday, the Penguins (43-26-11) failed to clinch a playoff berth. … The teams have split two games this season. … Pittsburgh might have C Evgeni Malkin (upper body) and D Krist Letang (lower body) both back in the lineup.

Twitter: @tkulfan