Growing confidence, maturity spurring Red Wings’ strong start

Detroit News

Detroit — Things are beginning to look a little different around the Red Wings.

There’s a growing confidence and maturity around this team that others are beginning to notice, and the results in the standings also speak for themselves.

The Wings fell behind by two goals Wednesday in Washington, but never wilted and rallied for a 3-2 overtime victory on Dylan Larkin’s overtime goal, with rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider assisting.

It was the Wings’ fourth victory in seven games this season (4-2-1), but more importantly was the way they won.

This easily could have been a loss the last several years — in fact, it was Wings’ first victory against Washington since Feb. 11, 2018 — and it felt early as if it would be.

But this just might be a growing, developing team taking shape.

“We’ve been in situations where we’ve found our way to wins and that breeds confidence, so that’s part of it,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have some guys that have matured over the years in terms of living through some of that. As hard as some of those moments are to live, you hope you grow and a number of our guys have grown even through some of the difficulties we faced.

“And we have some new faces that have a calm demeanor to them and just kind of keep playing.”

The Capitals noticed a different type of Wings team.

“They are a good team,” Capitals forward Lars Eller said. “They’re probably better than people give them credit for.”

The acquisition of players such as defensemen Marc Staal and Nick Leddy and forwards Sam Gagner and Vladislav Namestnikov, all veterans who’ve played and contributed on playoff teams, has bolstered the roster in many ways.

“Over the last couple years we’ve added some guys that are calm,” Blashill said. “Certainly (Danny) DeKeyser has always been a calm player, but (Staal) is calm, Leddy is calm. They don’t get overexcited. Gagner is calm. They’re really good veterans to have on your bench who just relax and play.

“I also think there’s been growth with a number of our guys that have been around here like Larks, Bert (Tyler Bertuzzi), Fabbs (Robby Fabbri). Those guys keep their emotional control better than maybe we did two years ago.”

More: OctoPulse podcast: Lucas Raymond’s Calder Trophy odds, John Bacon interview

Forward Adam Erne talked after the victory about the confidence the Wings have in their teammates and the experience the young players have gained.

“We’re confident in each other,” Erne said. “We’ve had some young guys coming in, we still do, but every game and every season that goes by is huge for experience and confidence. You can see it with some of these young guys that they’re gaining a feel for the league, and I know, personally, every year that goes by I feel little bit better, a little more confidence. You know what’s going on, what to expect. That’s probably the case is you’re just seeing guys confident with the puck, making plays, getting used to the league and the systems.

“We were confident (goaltender Thomas Greiss) was going to shut the door for us. We have the skill to score two, three goals a night, for sure, and if we do that, we’ll win a lot of games.”

The skill level is deeper and noticeable in the Wings’ lineup. There are more players who can score and create offense, a greater amount whom opponents need to focus on.

Compared to two seasons ago, this lineup is miles ahead of where it was.

“I do think we infused some more talent,” Blashill said. “We have a better hockey team, so you have a chance to come back and with that you also have more belief that you can come back in those types of situations. I didn’t feel any frustration or panic on the bench at all. We just kind of kept playing and certainly to do it, to come back and have a chance to win in overtime, you need good goaltending against that team. They have a lot of talent. They make plays out of nowhere.”

Nobody is talking playoffs or contending quite yet, but there is a growing sense of optimism. And the points the Wings have already earned in the standings, they’ll be valuable having banked them, as games are more difficult to win later in the season when injuries mount and veteran teams get rolling.

“That’s the difference for us is winning these tight games. These points are really going to add up at the end of the year,” Erne said. “We have a lot of young players that are getting used to the league, getting used to our systems and just confident out there. They’re playing really well and the goaltending is amazing.

“It just comes down to winning the tight games, that’s what it comes down to at the end of the year. There’s usually a bunch of teams that are fighting for the last couple spots, and one point could be the difference. A big thing for us is just winning those tight games and that’s going to tell us a lot about how were going to be as a team.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

Panthers at Red Wings 

► Faceoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

► TV/radio: ESPN-plus and Hulu/97.1

► Outlook: The Panthers (7-0-0) are undefeated and have a league-best plus-18 goal differential. But the Panthers can’t be sure about the status of coach Joel Quenneville, whose future is hazy given his role in the Blackhawks’ assault scandal. … G Sergei Bobrovsky (5-0-0, 1.79 GAA, .946 SVS) is off to a red-hot start.

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