Red Wings showing ability to push back physically against opponents

Detroit News

Detroit — It was one play, but it spoke loudly of what the Red Wings want to be as a hockey team.

Filip Hronek was behind his own net Friday when Arizona’s Jack McBain came flying and connected with Hronek near the head area.

Not liking what he saw, Michael Rasmussen quickly jumped in and fought McBain. Rasmussen earned a slashing penalty along with the fight, and arguably, Rasmussen probably didn’t win the fight. But it was a needed response showing the Wings weren’t going to be intimidated.

And coach Derek Lalonde liked everything about Rasmussen’s challenge.

“Loved it,” Lalonde said after the Red Wings’ 4-3 victory. “It was an easy kill for us because those mean a lot more. We want to stick up for teammates and that was the right opportunity.”

Hronek, who has been on an offensive tear with six goals in six games and generally been playing the best hockey of his career, appreciated Rasmussen’s gesture.

“Michael’s a great guy,” Hronek said. “He stepped up for me there. I’m thankful for him.”

The Wings don’t have a physically big team, but have shown from the start of the season they’re willing to defend one of their own if needed.

Lalonde felt it was another favorable development to see the Wings stand up to a big, physically tough roster as Arizona’s is.

“There’s going to be games like this,” Lalonde said. “We’re not built like that. But we’re going to need to push back, and sometimes that push back is not 1985, where it’s a five-on-five brawl and gets out of hand like that.

“We’re not built for that type of hockey necessarily all the time, but anybody can push back, and we did that. Stick up for teammates, push back, there’s moments it’s going to get chippy. Don’t want to get pushed around.”

Another form of pushback is going on the power play, and scoring. The Wings had two power-play goals during Friday’s 4-3 shootout victory, making Arizona pay for its over-aggressiveness.

“The power play just gives us huge momentum,” Lalonde said. “Credit to Jay Varady and Alex Tanguay (assistant coaches who oversee power play). They’ve worked hard on it. They have some non-negotiables in our habits on the power play and the guys are starting to buy into it and it’s having success. Even when it’s not scoring it’s giving us momentum because we’re getting a ton of looks on it.”

Hronek on fire

Few players around the NHL are as productive currently as Hronek.

Scoring in his fourth straight game Friday, Hronek joined Mathieu Schneider (2005-06), Nicklas Lidstrom (2000-01) and Reed Larson (1980-81) as the only Wings’ defensemen to accomplish such a streak. Hronek has seven points in his last four games.

“I’m confident (but) it’s more about our team, everything is going well for us,” Hronek said. “Each guy feels better.”

Lalonde sees Hronek being “assertive” on the ice.

“Last game, power play, head down, he pounded the puck, and it was the right play,” Lalonde said. “Same thing (Friday), power play where it’s a broken play off the rush, just head down. I just think guys go through stretches in their game, (where) just they’re really confident. But his overall game is good, and putting himself in these positions. How well he’s playing is giving him confidence.”

Having been around for the last six seasons of missing the playoffs and countless losing, Hronek is enjoying this season’s fine start in the standings.

“It was tough,” said Hronek of the losing. “Nobody wants to lose, and losing a lot. It gets into your head and you go into the game and get scored on and it’s not a great feeling. This feels better.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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