January was a month to remember for the Detroit Red Wings. And should there be a playoff position at the end of the rainbow – er, regular season – the Red Wings will also remember it was January when they were discovering how they needed to play in order to make that happen.
“It’s a committed group to playing the right way,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said.
Going an impressive 9-2-2 during the first month of 2024, they figured out who they are and what works best for them in search of successful outcomes.
In short, they were finding their identity as a hockey team.
“We’re doing it right and grinding teams down,” captain Dylan Larkin explained. “I feel this month we’ve really learned what our game is and how to win hockey games.”
Red Wings Keeping It Out
Too often, people equate scoring goals with success. In basic terms, this makes sense. The team with more goals wins the game, after all.
To anyone who’s played the game, they know the truth. Winning consistently isn’t about putting it in the other team’s net. It’s all about preventing it from going in your own net.
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) February 1, 2024
“The big emphasis for us is keeping goals out of our net,” Larkin said. “I think we’ve done a good job with that. Obviously you’re gonna have the odd night but we always have a goal of two or less (goals against) for the game. We’ve been right there a lot of times.”
They’ve managed to achieve that goal in five of the past eight games. The Red Wings allowed more than three goals just twice over 13 January games.
“Goaltending and penalty killing has helped that,” Larkin admitted. “I think our team defense is improved and our puck management. There’s not as much high risk, high reward.”
Another absolute in search of successful hockey is stout goaltending. Nothing shatters a team’s psyche quicker that substandard puckstopping. If they know they can’t rely on the last line of defense, the entire team structure tends to fall apart.
Since he took over as Detroit’s No. 1 goalie, veteran journeyman Alex Lyon has been as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. Lyon is 13-6-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts in 21 appearances. He has allowed three goals or fewer in 12 of his last 13 starts.
Alex Lyon explaining hockey to a classroom full of kids is the best thing you’ll see all day
— BarDown (@BarDown) January 25, 2024
“He’s been huge,” Detroit forward Lucas Raymond said. “He’s been playing a lot of games but just the way he approaches the game, he’s kept us in a lot of games.
“Obviously it’s nice to have that in the back.”
All Comes Down To Red Wings Players
A coach can put his team through drills, show them hours of video and deliver endless sessions of x’s and o’s. If the team isn’t willing to invest in what he’s selling, it will simply go in one ear and out the other.
Clearly, the Wings are taking Lalonde’s emphasis on commitment to defensive hockey to heart.
“It’s a quality recipe for success,” Lalonde said. “The guys have bought into it. It’s the only way you’re going to have success in this league.
“I think we can talk about improved practice, translating what we’ve done in practice to our games, we can talk about the play of Alex Lyon, but when you have a run like this against the type of opponent we’ve had, it comes from the room.
“This has been a good stretch for us.”