After so many disadvantaged seasons, power play a positive for Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

Among the more satisfying numbers for the Detroit Red Wings early in the 2022-23 season are their success rates on special teams.

They have five goals on 21 power play opportunities, all of them in the past three games after making personnel adjustments on both units. The Wings are 5-for-14 on man advantages entering Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, injecting confidence as they seek to keep a five-game point streak going.

Dominik Kubalik was among those who scored during on the power play in Sunday’s 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

“The power play is clicking, that’s huge,” Kubalik said. “We didn’t do anything spectacular, just moved the puck around and whoever gets the best position to take the shot, just shoot it. It’s working and so we’re happy for that.”

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David Perron and Dylan Larkin each have two power play goals.

The coaching staff changed how the power play units were staffed after two games. That was partly driven by losing two skilled forwards in Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body injury) and Jakub Vrana (players assistance program) but also because the units were scoreless on seven opportunities.

Kubalik and Oskar Sundqvist were added to Larkin’s unit with Perron, as was Filip Hronek on the point.

“I like the simplicity of it,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “Dylan gets them out of trouble any time. [Assistant coaches] Alex Tanguay, Jay Varady, they’ve worked really hard with the power play. Those adjustments were all them. We did a good job of putting guys in places to succeed.”

Kubalik credited how fluidly they play together.

“Whoever gets it, no hesitation,” he said. “Without thinking, just give it to someone else who is in a better position and put it on net. We know that Sunny is a big guy, he is doing a great job there. So he can recover those pucks. It’s been great but there are still things to work on.”

Perron was signed by general manager Steve Yzerman specifically to boost the Wings’ power play. The 34-year-old has added a threat the Wings lacked on the power play the past few years — they converted at 15.5% the past three seasons combined.

“Some of these elite-type players, you know them from afar,” Lalonde said. “Every year you can pencil him in for a certain amount of goals, based on his career. But his poise and ability to get us out of trouble on the power play is something I didn’t anticipate. He’s really good on that half-wall offensively, and he’s good on that half-wall at getting us out of trouble, where now we are set up again. He’s been excellent.”

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The Wings are also acing it on the penalty kill, where they are 17-for-17. Sunday’s performance included killing off 1:41 of a two-man disadvantage.

“The pressure routes have been excellent,” Lalonde said. “Now we are starting to get some detail within our pressure, some good habits. It’s been good. We talk about playing fast on the penalty kill, and when you’re confident in it, you’re playing fast. That’s what they are doing now. It’s huge for momentum. I mean, that three-v-five kill, I had goosebumps, and I’m on the bench. I can imagine what it did for our players, us eating pucks, getting through that kill. Huge momentum.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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