The Detroit Red Wings have built their longest winning streak of the season, finally keeping their momentum going.
It took until the last month of the season, but as captain Dylan Larkin put it earlier in the month, there’s pleasure in being a spoiler. The Wings head into Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks on a three-game roll. Three times this season, the Wings won consecutive games, only to come up short in attempt No. 3. Now, with three weeks to go, the Wings are spending more time celebrating.
“We still want to build as a group,” defenseman Troy Stecher said after Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the Blackhawks. “Everybody has something to play for, whether it’s ice time, a future contract, there’s always something to play for, and it’s always more fun to win. To string three in a row together, we’re having some fun now.”
Stecher contributed two goals but the biggest celebration of the night belonged to newcomer Jakub Vrana, who beelined straight from the penalty box to the net to score the winning goal. The Wings acquired him at the trade deadline hoping he’d offset some of the production lost jettisoning Anthony Mantha; that Vrana did so so quickly let’s him breathe, let’s him settle in.
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“It’s huge for him to gain confidence his first game,” Stecher said. “The whole group is happy for him.”
Vrana and fellow newcomer Richard Panik acquitted themselves well in the area that mattered most.
“Both of them competed hard,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “If you compete and you work, we can teach and help you grow as a player. Both competed hard, both worked hard. That’s non-negotiable.”
Over the past week, the Wings have taken four points from the Carolina Hurricanes, — who are battling for first overall in the Central Division — and have stunted the Blackhawks’ bid for a playoff spot. That has come on the strength of contributions from younger players such as Michael Rasmussen, who has a goal and two assists his last three games.
This season hasn’t gone like the Wings hoped, with losing numerous players to injuries and COVID-19 quarantines. But even as the Wings are on pace to miss the playoffs again, the way they play now matters.
“What I like is we’re a better hockey team today than we were at the beginning of the year and a big impact on that is a number of our young players,” Blashill said. “The growth we’ve seen in the group, I like that. We are playing the type of hockey we have to play to be successful. Guys are improving and that is a positive thing for this organization.
“Winning is way better than losing. It’s way more fun. So let’s come in every night and have these types of moments after wins. We have 11 games left. We better not waste one opportunity that we have ahead of us.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.