Tuesday, September 27 2022

The Detroit Red Wings are showing signs of having learned a lesson, and while it’s too late to apply it this season, it’s an encouraging development for the future.

They head into the weekend having won consecutive games for the first time since mid-February, and having done so under impressive circumstances. The Wings succeeded against two opponents that had playoff positioning to play for, and spoiled things Tuesday for the Boston Bruins, 5-3, and Wednesday for the Winnipeg Jets, 3-1.

“I think everyone collectively was frustrated with how things were going and as a group, we decided to get our heads down and work harder and try to come up with some results,” Michael Rasmussen said. “I think the past two games have been good for us and we’ve done just that. Everyone has had great efforts, and we’ve come out with two wins.”

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The Wings (28-34-9) next play the Columbus Blue Jackets in Detroit on Saturday evening.

By the time that game begins, the Wings may be eliminated from playoff contention. The Washington Capitals hold the second wild-card spot with 86 points and they play Saturday afternoon. If they get one point, the Wings are eliminated.

That fate has been on the horizon since February, when the improvement shown during the first half decayed. The Wings went 4-13-3 from Feb. 14-April 2, a stretch that included losing 9-2 at home to the Arizona Coyotes and 11-2 on the road to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wings had lost six in a row when captain Dylan Larkin said that, “we can’t go into the summer like this,” following a 5-2 loss in Ottawa. The response was delivered at home and on the road.

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“I do think some guys have raised their urgency level, sacrifice level,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We were in a rut where we were just kind of playing games. That’s not to say guys weren’t working hard, but it wasn’t that same level of sacrifice and compete that you have to have when you’re trying to earn a playoff spot.

“Through large parts of the year, we had that. I think we lost it for a stretch, and I understand we’re not going to earn that spot, but we’ve got to play like we’re going to. We’ve done a better job of that lately with the level of sacrifice. A lot of guys, and specifically some young guys, have really raised their game.”

It looked ominous when the Wings fell behind, 2-0, in the first period against the Bruins, but Alex Nedeljkovic delivered the steady goaltending that marked his first half. In Winnipeg, Thomas Greiss provided his most solid performance since March 12.

“Both games we’ve gotten really good goaltending,” Blashill said. “Thomas allowed us to get our legs. We weren’t skating great in the first, we weren’t quick enough. He allows us to get our legs and that’s a huge thing.

“Ned kept the game in a spot where we had a chance to come back once it was 2-0. That’s a huge part of it. When you get big saves like that, it allows you to get going. In the second, we got our legs and we played real good.”

As the losses mounted, the Wings lamented a lack of joy, the lack of having fun playing a game they love. They look like they recaptured some of that, as they are learning what it takes to win this time of year. The Bruins and Jets needed the points, but the Wings earned them.

“You don’t want to ever have a bad feeling about yourself or your team going into the offseason,” Rasmussen said. “I think everyone just wanted to finish off these last games well and have a good feeling and make some steps forward in the right direction for the coming years. We are trying to build and put ourselves in the right direction.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Why Detroit Red Wings’ renewed energy matters

Source: Yahoo Sports

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