– Whatever the coaches did or said to challenge Valtteri Filppula
this season, it certainly looks like it’s worked.
Filppula is on three-game scoring streak after his three-point performance Saturday helped pace the Red Wings to a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena.
“I said to Kenny Holland that this is as good of a stretch as he’s had since he’s been here,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, referring to Filppula’s season. “The good thing for us is that we’ve challenged Fil a lot here. We think Fil can score, and we think Fil can be a dominant player, and we’ve challenged him lots with that and it was great to see him step-up.”
Filppula’s two goals and an assist was his fifth multi-point game of the season, which is two shy of what he had all last season in his role as a center. He has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in the last six home games. But since moving to a winger position, Filppula has accepted the new role and met the challenge, which was to shoot more and pass less.
“I’m trying to go to the net a little more and trying to shoot the puck a little more,” said Filppula, who has 19 points with a plus-8 rating. “I think that’s the main two things that I’ve tried to focus on. A lot of goals are scored by getting rebounds and stuff, and I’m just trying to go to the net and finding pucks.”
Filppula gave the Wings 1-0 lead with a power-play tally at 13:23 of the first period. His back-hander was just his 10th career power-play goal and the first of the season.
“He's skating very well. He can make good plays. He's fun to play with,” said center Henrik Zetterberg
, who added a goal and an assist. “He's easy to play with. It's nice he's getting rewarded with some nice goals.”
Filppula added a goal in the second period that increased the Wings’ lead to 3-0 when he tipped Jakub Kindl
’s point blast past Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. Filppula was the second Wing to tip the shot. Jiri Hudler
tipped it first, getting his stick on it in the mid-slot.
“I couldn’t even see the puck, I just know that it hit my stick,” said Filppula of his seventh goal of the season.
Part of Filppula’s resurgence this season is that he’s made a quick adjustment to the position with his natural speed.
“Yeah, it’s a little different and it always takes a little time to get used to, definitely,” he said. “Playing in your own end it’s a lot different, that’s pretty much the only thing, other than that it hasn’t changed too much with how we play. It’s not a big difference, but it takes time to get used to being a winger and I have to play a little closer to the boards and that’s something that I’ve been practicing as well.”
Playing on a forward line with Zetterberg and logging some time on the power play certainly has helped Filppula’s development too.
“It’s easy to play with Hank, he’s a great player,” Filppula said. “He’s great with the puck, he’s great without the puck, and when he has the puck you just try to get open and he’s going to give it to you. And the same when I have the puck he’s working hard to try to get available, so he makes it easy to get him the puck. I’m really enjoying playing with him.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill