The Detroit Red Wings’ recent success wasn’t something cooked up overnight. This brand of hockey has been simmering on the back burner, blending together, improving with each passing hour.
“We’re playing pretty solid right now, ” Detroit center Andrew Copp said. “I think that’s our recipe.”
The Red Wings don’t have to write the recipe down on a three by five card. It’s something coach Derek Lalonde has talked about since training camp. They aren’t talented enough to win by talent alone. Detroit ranks 29th in shots on goal. According to naturalstattrick.com, only the Chicago Blackhawks generate fewer shots or scoring chances than the Red Wings do.
The Red Wings can’t play wide open hockey and expect to win. Their wins come in the details of the game. Denying Grade A scoring chances. Limiting defensive breakdowns. Forechecking. Blocking shots. Consistency. Combativeness.
This is now a Red Wings team that understands how it needs to play to be successful. They have won seven out of their last eight. It’s hard to play that defensive style in every game, but they are now doing it on a regular basis. That’s why they have a shot at making the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
“Even when we get leads we’re playing pretty mature,” Copp said. “We’re not forcing plays to the middle, we’re not getting too many guys up in the rush…I think we’ve got to be really strong defensively. Special teams have been rolling pretty good. ”
Last season, the Red Wings gave up more high-danger scoring chances than any other NHL team. According to NaturalStattrick.com, they rank 19th this season.
“And then this guy in net’s been pretty good, too,” Copp said. “I think that’s our recipe and then just being hard to play against, not giving them time and space. I think we’re finding our recipe, which is important this time of year.”
The guy in net is Ville Husso. He has been an upgrade for the Red Wings this season. Husso has given up two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 appearances.
“We really gotta concentrate on when we’re in the D zone, we’re quick to close, we’re in the right spots,” Copp said. “Understanding who’s behind you, where guys are fading to, where guys are going behind the net. I think we’re really starting to understand that part of the game. And then we’re not really turning pucks over at the blueline. I think you’ve seen really a commitment from everyone. ”
As the team has improved defensively, their scoring numbers have also improved, although some of that has come from getting players off the injured list. Robby Fabbri’s return to the lineup helped. Over the last 19 games, the Red Wings are averaging 3.42 goals per game. If they scored at that rate for the entire season, they would rank seventh in scoring.
“You go on a run like this and you’re finding ways to win every night,” Lalonde said. “It’s usually contributions from everyone. Suits (Pius Suter) was that guy the last couple of games with the Copp line. You could tell early on they had some jump. Those three really like playing with each other. I think they’re predictable for each other. They have an identity, they want to spend some time with it in the zone.”
Lalonde said his team isn’t playing any differently than it did earlier in the season. It’s the same recipe they were using in October. But now the finished product is more refined. The Red Wings are getting results.
“We have not looked a whole lot different in this 7-1 stretch than we did previously,” Lalonde said. “The underlying numbers are almost similar – same amount of chances against, we’re still defending well, we’re still committed to defending well. I think the difference now is we’re managing our game much better. Our special teams is much improved, and our goaltending is at another level. I don’t know if our game is a whole lot different but we’re just finding ways to flip some of these tight games.”
Finding Themselves in Alberta
The recent five-game road trip, which covered more than 6,000 air miles, also helped bring the team together.
“We bonded pretty good,” defenseman Jake Walman said. “It was a long road trip. We need each other. That’s how we’re gonna win. We need to get close and trying to build that culture, like I said and fighting for each other.”
Certainly, the fan base noticed the team has been scrappier this season. There’s been more push-back from the Red Wings in 2022-23.
This stat sums up who the Red Wings have become under Lalonde: They are 19-0-2 this season when they lead a game after two periods. They can shut down opponents.
“(With) Most good teams, that’s what it looks like,” Lalone said. “That’s all I knew in Tampa. When we went from good to great it was figuring out some of those moments.”