Red Wings learning how to win tight, defensive games

Detroit News

Detroit — The template is there on how the Red Wings want to play, how they feel they need to play to be successful.

Just look at Friday’s victory in Pittsburgh, and Monday’s win against Anaheim. Both overtime victories (Pittsburgh in a shootout), both low-scoring games with the Wings playing stout defense.

When the Wings have played that way this season, generally the end result has been positive.

Now, it’s a matter of the Wings doing it much more often than not.

“What we want to do here is build a team that can win in the playoffs,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “So to do that, you have to learn how to play tight games. This is what Los Angeles (Wednesday’s opponent) has done and (Kings coach) Todd (McLellan) has done a good job with their group. They grind, and find ways to grind out low-scoring wins.

“Once we learn that that’s the best way for us to have long-term success, we’ll be a better team. We’re going through the learning process, and it just takes time and it takes time to get the players.”

While playing Pittsburgh, Anaheim, and Toronto in between, the Wings have played, standings-wise, three of the better teams in the NHL. And against Toronto, when you exclude the ugly last 10 minutes of the game (the Wings allowed five goals in a 7-4 loss), the Wings outplayed their opponent for long stretches in those games.

The Wings responded after a bad loss to Chicago with the victory in Pittsburgh, then bounced back from the Toronto end-game debacle with the win over Anaheim. Those were good signs, but they’d still like to have a greater measure of consistency.

“In a long season you’re going to have stretches or periods or shifts where things don’t go your way, but it’s all how you respond,” Larkin said. “Our response (Monday against Anaheim) after the Toronto game was good and we played a great defensive game, we made some key adjustments that helped us be more efficient in our own zone.

“We’re going to have to continue to do that.”

Above all, Blashill wants the Wings to retain and learn from these results and keep improving and moving forward.

“If you learn you get better and then it’s worth it,” Blashill said. “If not, it’s just pain and why would you just endure the pain without learning? Our guys understand that and we’ve done a pretty good job with it.”

Fastest skater

Larkin set the NHL record for single-lap speed when Larkin won the NHL Fastest Skater Competition in 2016 with a time of 13.172 seconds.

Larkin is competing in the event Friday, while also being the Wings’ representative in Saturday’s All-Star Game in Las Vegas. Larkin is looking forward to the speed event again.

“I am,” Larkin said. “Just thinking about it right now, you get a little nervous and don’t want to blow a tire (fall) or something, but you can’t think like that. There’s a lot of really fast players and I’ll just hopefully put a smooth run together and whatever happens, happens.”

This is Larkin’s second appearance at All-Star weekend.

“It’s a great honor and great thing to be a part of, just celebrating our game and being around those guys,” Larkin said.

Manon Rheaume, an analyst on the Bally Sports Detroit broadcast team, will be one of the goalies in the Breakaway Challenge.

Rheaume made history in 1992 when she played one period for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a preseason game against St. Louis. Rheaume won a silver medal for Canada in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

Rheaume is currently girls program coordinator and coach of the 12-and-under girls team for the Little Caesars hockey program.

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Quiet in cheap seats

Blashill will be in Chicago for his son’s youth hockey tournament, and don’t expect any coaching from the stands.

“I’ve coached enough to not coach somebody else’s team,” Blashill said. “I know everybody else likes to do that, so hopefully I’m good about that.”

Blashill is relishing the opportunity to be a “hockey dad” for an entire weekend, something he doesn’t get many chances to do during a typical NHL regular season.

“It’s better than going anywhere (warm), just actually having a weekend with one of my children playing their sport,” Blashill said. “I hardly get to do that with hockey.

“It’s different for sure (being a fan). I have perspective in life; I just want them to learn life lessons through youth sports and grow as a human. I know what youth sports did for me that way, and if he ends up having greater success, great. But that’s not our end goal at all.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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