Hot start key for Red Wings' confidence after previous opening stretches
Detroit — First and foremost, it's way early. The NHL season is only three games old for the Red Wings, but the reaction on social media, of fans who have been disheartened by the losing the last several years, is a reaction of positivity and a strong sense of hope.
But it is only three games, and the Wings have actually had some positive starts these last several years.
As recently as the 2019-20 season, the Wings began 3-1-0 — only to finish with a 17-49-5 record and a woeful .275 points percentage when the pandemic ended that season.
They started 4-1-0 in 2017-18 and 6-2-0 in 2016-17 — and missed the playoffs both those seasons.
Still, there's room for optimism and hope, especially this early in the season. And in forward Tyler Bertuzzi's estimation, there's belief this particular time the Wings can continue the good mojo and hockey.
“We got a lot of young guys with a lot of energy, and that makes the older guys have a lot more energy, too,” said Bertuzzi, who still puts himself in the younger group, incidentally. “It’s good to see them enjoying themselves and playing good hockey and playing in the NHL. It just makes everyone want to work and play harder, and work more together.”
Coach Jeff Blashill is enjoying the positive first week but realize it's a small, small sample size.
"Winning is way more fun than losing, that's a fact, and we're in that business and you feel better about yourself," Blashill said. "But the other thing, for sure, is this is an everyday league. We've played three games and we'll have a game (Thursday) against a good team (Calgary) we'll have to find a way to win."
For a variety of reasons, it's important for a growing team such as the Wings to get off to a good start in the standings. As they've seen in recent seasons, it's awfully difficult to climb up the standings if you sink quickly to the bottom.
"Unless you're a team that can zip off 10 or 12 wins in a row, it's hard to dig yourself out of holes," Blashill said. "I would also speak from a confidence standpoint, it's important to build confidence for a team that hasn't had enough success. Even though it's a totally different team, there are enough players here who've been here (for several seasons) and confidence matters.
"Last year we were 2-2 to start the season and we got hit by COVID, we spiraled for eight games and we could never dig our way out of it. Last year we weren't a team that could zip off 12 (wins) in a row. It's important from a points standpoint and keeping yourself in the mix with teams."
Bertuzzi on fire
Bertuzzi has five goals through three games and has seemingly recovered superbly from back surgery in early 2021, but it's important to note he will not be in Saturday's lineup in Montreal because of decision to not vaccinate against the coronavirus.
Bertuzzi will miss all nine games in Canada because of the restrictions entering that country.
It's unclear, at this point, how or when Bertuzzi will arrive in Chicago for Sunday's game, but he'll be watching the Montreal game.
“I’ll be cheering on the guys from home and then I’ll be back with them on Sunday,” Bertuzzi said.
Blashill is pleased to see Bertuzzi playing with the same grit before the back surgery.
“He looks like he’s got great energy,” Blashill said. “He’s been on pucks, and he’s always been kind of a junkyard dog in terms of how he plays. But he looks like he’s skating well, which is great."
Four line team
Blashill has thus far attempted to play all four lines as equally, and often, as possible, getting everyone comfortable and contributing.
Blashill there are a lot of positives to rolling four lines.
"It's important that we win as a hockey team and to win as a hockey team you have to have guys play, and everybody has different ways to make a positive impact," Blashill said.
"I feel confident with any of those lines on the ice against other teams' good lines and that's a really good position to be in when you trust your lines. If you're worried about putting them out there because they're not up to par defensively, it's hard to get them out there a lot because you're constantly pulling them off the ice."
Flames at Red Wings
► Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1
► Outlook: The Flames are 0-1-1 as they open a five-game road trip. They lost 3-2 in overtime Monday against Anaheim. … C Elias Lindholm has two goals in two games, but G Jacob Markstrom has struggled (3.43 GAA, .881 SVS).