Inside Detroit Red Wings’ secret of recent success vs. top teams: ‘Being predictable’

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings are having fun, their hard work finally paying off with good results.

They are poised to build what would be their first three-game winning streak of the season when they host the Dallas Stars on Saturday, buoyed by a sizzling line. Robby Fabbri, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha combined for five points in Thursday’s 3-2 victory over the Stars, part of a recent productive stretch.

“We’re really close off the ice and we’re trying to convert that onto the ice,” Fabbri said. “That starts with work ethic and being predictable to each other, and that comes with playing games together and getting used to each other.

“We are clicking and having fun right now and that’s the biggest thing.”

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Fabbri, 25, looked like he’d be a fit in the rebuild soon after general manager Steve Yzerman traded for him in November 2019. Fabbri scored twice in his first game as a Wing.

“He competes hard, he can score,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Those are two things that he does well. I think he’s always been a guy that, from the very first day we got him, he showed us he can score on one shot. Some guys need tons of shots to score, some have the ability to do it in one, and he does it in different ways. And then he brings a good edge and really competes hard.

Fabbri is good around the net, and good at getting open. Tuesday against the Hurricanes, he finished an end-to-end setup by Larkin. Larkin set up Fabbri’s third goal Thursday off the rush, and Mantha used his big stride to set up the first goal.

Fabbri’s natural hat trick gave him a team-leading nine goals. Since his debut Nov. 8, 2019, he leads the Wings with 23 goals and ranks second behind Larkin with 46 points.

To his credit, Fabbri plays with a grit that belies his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame. That was an important early conversation Blashill had with Fabbri, who’d missed significant time while with the Blues.

“He had gone through such struggles with injuries prior to him coming to us,” Blashill said, “and one of the conversations we had was that for him to be an effective player, he has got to make sure that he is very, very competitive, that he is winning those battles. He doesn’t have the biggest body, he’s not super fast, so he’s got to make up for those things with his competitiveness, and he’s done that on a pretty consistent basis.

“I have a ton of respect for the way he plays, ton of respect for how hard he goes to those areas. He knows that’s what allows him to be successful, and he does it.”

Fabbri recalled being “very excited,” about the trade.

“It’s been great ever since I’ve been here and it just keeps getting better and better. As the team is jelling here, it’s been a lot of fun. We are trying to get this rebuild started and we’re taking some big steps here. The biggest thing is consistency and we’ve been showing it and we have to keep it going.”

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This has been another tough season for the Wings, who even with a recent 3-1-1 stretch remain at the bottom of the Central Division. Through pandemic protocols and injuries, the Wings generally played hard but didn’t have the manpower to win. Having beaten elite teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes in the week before this series with the Stars is a nice reprieve.

“It’s refreshing to get some results after the work we’ve been putting in,” Fabbri said. “Since I’ve been here for a year and a half, it’s been the same mindset — everyday we’ve come to the rink and worked on our identity and the way we have to play each and every night. That’s what good teams do — they bring the same game every night. We’re doing a great job of that right now. We’re happy but not satisfied.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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