Jakub Vrana isn’t focusing on his goal scoring, the startling success he’s had since being acquired by the Red Wings, or what the future potentially could hold.
After Vrana scored two goals in Tuesday’s 4-3 victory in Tampa, Vrana was concentrating on the present. An unexpected, but impressive Wings’ victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, and what he can do to keep the Wings moving along.
“I’m staying in my lane and focusing on what I can do best to help the team to win,” Vrana said. “I’m confident and like I said, you just have to focus on the right things to do and then just whatever happens out there, it’s part of hockey. That’s it.”
The two goals gave Vrana 12 for this season, but it also gave Vrana 20 goals in his first 32 games as a Wing, tied for the franchise record with Danny Grant.
Since being acquired at the trade deadline last season (along with draft picks) from Washington for Anthony Mantha, Vrana has given glimpses of being one of the premier goal scorers in the NHL.
If not for missing the first 56 games this season after requiring shoulder surgery – Vrana was injured the opening 10 minutes of his first training camp practice in September – who knows what kind of season Vrana could be having?
A potential 40-goal season?
“To be honest with you, I don’t try to put any extra pressure on myself,” Vrana said. “I’m just trying to get the best out of it I can do. I’ll go into the season doing my best every day and we’ll see how it goes.
“I’m trying to create offense here as much as possible to give the team a chance to win.”
Vrana joined the Wings after leaving Washington with some frosty comments from Capitals management and coach Peter Laviolette about Vrana’s willingness to play a concerted two-way game.
Vrana’s work in that regard with the Wings hasn’t been perfect, but coach Jeff Blashill said after Tuesday’s game that Vrana may have played one of his best all around games with the Wings.
“He played as a complete a hockey game as he played all season for us,” Blashill said. “He was excellent in every facet of the game. He checked, worked hard, won battles and was good on the wall, and that’s personified by the breakaway goal (in the third period that broke the tie). He does a good job defensively (stripping the puck from defenseman Mikhail Sergachev), and he goes down and scores.”
Blashill leaves no doubt about Vrana’s offensive ability, once again alluding to the fact Vrana could be one of the best pure goal scorers in the game.
“He’s as good a scorer as I’ve been around,” Blashill said. “It’s hard to score in this league and we’re in a spot right now with guys missing, it’s not going to be easy to score. The way he scores, it pus in a game where we don’t need a thousand chances. We just need a few chances and to check well, when you have guys who can score like that.”
Something to play for
The Wings were undermanned with Dylan Larkin (core surgery) and Alex Nedeljkovic (illness) both unavailable against Tampa. The Wings also were coming off two consecutive one-sided losses last weekend.
But the Wings played with as much passion and sacrifice in defeating Tampa as they have in recent weeks. Blashill wants to see similar determination in these final five games over the final eight days.
“It’s just important,” said Blashill, of winning. “It’s way better to win, you walk in and feel way better about yourself. But there’s a lot on the line for lots of people. Ultimately we want to continue to grow and you only grow by taking steps forward.
“The checking, the completeness of our game, we’ve got to continue to grow in that area and I certainly thought we did that (against Tampa).”
Defenseman William Wallinder has been named the junior player of the year in Sweden, as chosen by Swedish hockey journalists.
Wallinder, a Wings’ 2020 second-round draft pick (32nd overall), led all junior defensemen with 19 points in 47 games for Rogle. The 6-foot-4, 191-pound has been effective in the playoffs, playing a team-high 23 minutes in Rogle’s Game 7 victory in the first-round of the playoffs.
Interestingly, defenseman Moritz Seider won the same award last season while playing in the Swedish Hockey League, and also playing for Rogle.
Red Wings at Panthers
► Faceoff: 7 p.m., Thursday, FLA Live Arena, Sunrise, Florida.
► TV/radio: ESPN+/Hulu/97.1
► Outlook: The Panthers (55-15-6) are working on an 11-game win streak, including Sunday defeating the Wings 6-1…LW Jonathan Huberdeau leads the NHL with 111 points, and C Aleksander Barkov (37 goals) had all three goals Tuesday in a 3-2 overtime win over the New York Islanders…G Sergei Bobrovsky (37-6-3, .912 SVS) will be key in the playoffs.