DETROIT — No one understands how far the Detroit Red Wings have evolved as a competitive team more than players, such as Filip Zadina and Jakub Vrana, who are trying to embrace a playing style they barely recognize.
For them to rejoin the Red Wings after months away from the game has been like trying to jump into a race where everyone is already sprinting for the finish line.
“Even a little things as his post-game comments, (Vrana) commented about how far along the team game was and he wanted to be a part of that,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said.
The Red Wings showed again Thursday night that they have a true understanding of how committed they need to be in managing their game to be a playoff contender. The Red Wings downed a strong New York Rangers team 4-1 to move into the final wild card position in the Eastern Conference.
Detroit and the Florida Panthers each have 64 points, but the Red Wings own a .561 points percentage and the Panthers are at .533. The Red Wings have three games in hand against Florida. The Red Wings and Panthers are three points behind the New York Islanders who own the first wild card spot.
“We’re over the cut line right now,” said Andrew Copp who had a goal and two assists. “I think that’s what it means to us. We’re understanding how to play the game.”
Eighteen Points in 12 Games
The Red Wings have won seven out of eight, and nine of their last 12 by being committed at both ends of the ice. Over the last 12 games, they have given up two or fewer goals seven times and have scored four or more six times. They have scored 30 goals over the past seven games.
“We’re committed to playing the type of game that we need to play,” Copp said. “We’re not gonna be first in goals for in the league. That’s just the fact of the matter. We really gotta concentrate on when we’re in the D zone, we’re quick to close, we’re in the right spots. Understanding who’s behind you, where guys are fading to, where guys are going behind the net.”
They have been working on this type of game all season, and it’s coming together at the right.
“I think we’re really starting to understand that part of the game.” Copp said. “And then we’re not really turning pucks over at the blueline. I think you’ve seen really a commitment from everyone. You might not score as many goals technically. You see those high-risk plays that can end up in two-on-ones for us, but more times than not, it ends up in two-on-ones for them. I think you’ve kind of seen a concerted effort from every line to maybe sacrifice a little bit of offense for the betterment of the team or the next shift.”
The team’s 4-1 road trip added another layer of confidence to the team.
“This push has been great timing for us, especially to get on the road for 10 days,” Copp said. “I think we got closer as a team in those 10 days. Obviously winning helps, and production from everyone, too. First line to fourth line, penalty kill, power play. If everyone feels they have a part of it, that makes it feel that much more special. I think that’s been a key piece. Obviously we gotta continue with that recipe we’ve had.”
The Red Wings have worked hard at become hard-to-play-against. Plus, Ville Husso has provided strong goaltending. He has been exceptionally strong during this recent surge.