DETROIT -- Since the beginning of training camp, the Red Wings were steadfast in their resolve to get off to a fast start this season.
And the results couldn't be any better for the Detroiters after their first two games of the 2019-20 campaign.
The Wings didn't collect their first win last year until the eighth game of the season, but after Sunday's 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Stars in the home opener at Little Caesars Arena, Detroit is 2-0, having defeated two of the NHL's top clubs in Dallas and the Nashville Predators.
With the victory over the Stars, the Wings have points in seven-straight home openers (6-0-1) and have won nine of their last 11 home openers overall (9-1-1), with an overall mark of 52-31-9-1.
Anthony Mantha led the Wings' offensive barrage by scoring all four goals.
Roope Hintz (two goals) and Tyler Seguin were the Stars' goal scorers as they fell to 0-3 on the season.
Up next for the Red Wings is a clash with the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena, while the Stars play at Washington on Tuesday, which will conclude a three-game road trip.
1. Anthony Mantha: After having a historic season during his final year of major junior hockey where he totaled 120 points (57-63-120) in 57 games for Val-d'Or of the QMJHL, including notching 82 goals in 82 games between the regular season and playoffs, Anthony Mantha expected to make the Red Wings his first year as a pro. It didn't work out that way for the 6-foot-5, 234-pound power forward. He broke his leg in the NHL Prospect Tournament, which delayed his pro debut with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins until mid-November of his rookie season (2014-15) and since that time, he's admitted he had an issue with being overconfident and then lacking self-confidence at various times as he forged his Red Wings career. He thought the AHL would be a glorified QMJHL (it wasn't) and he had difficulty in bringing the intensity needed every game to compete at the highest level. After a few mediocre seasons with the Red Wings, Mantha finally began to be the player he and the Red Wings envisioned when they drafted the Montreal native in the first round, 20th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Late last season, he was put on a line with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi and the trio quickly formed a bond, establishing themselves as the Wings' definitive first line entering this season.
In Sunday's victory against the Dallas Stars, Mantha played perhaps the best hockey game of his pro career. He scored all four Red Wings goals in Detroit's 4-3 win. It was his second career hat trick and the first natural hat trick for a Wings player since March 19, 2008 when Henrik Zetterberg accomplished the feat against Columbus. His four-goal outburst was the first by a Red Wings player since Johan Franzen torched the Ottawa Senators with five tallies on April 2, 2011 in Ottawa. Mantha's four goals at home was last achieved by Brendan Shanahan on March 15, 2001 versus Calgary. He also became the first Detroit player to score four goals in the home opener since 1933 when John Sorrell lit the lamp four times. In his last 10 regular season games, Mantha has 22 points (13-9-22), which makes him the highest-scoring player in the NHL over that period (March 23-present). Over that same 10-game span, along with Larkin (6-9-15) and Bertuzzi (7-11-18), his line has accounted for 55 points. He has seven points in two games this season (5-2-7). Mantha had four goals on eight shots and was plus-1 in 19:27. Each game, Mantha's goal is to get five shots. Based on his game versus the Stars when he scored from all over the ice, including a power move to the net on his second goal, it appears at age 25, Mantha has finally the confidence and maturity to become one the NHL's premier power forwards.
Quotable: "I think I just have a better mentality of putting pucks on net. I feel like the first goal it wasn't the hardest shot. You look at the fourth goal tonight, it wasn't the hardest shot, either. It's just pucks on net. That fourth one tipped off a stick and went in. That's exactly what I need to keep doing. What's the shooting percentage in this league? Nine percent? Out of 10 shots you maybe score one. I just try to get that percentage for myself higher. Like you said, eight shots, four went in. Maybe next game, I take eight shots and none go in. I just need to keep shooting as much as I can." -- Mantha
Quotable II: "He's played great. I love the guy, I think he's a great teammate. He's playing well right now. When he's hot, he can be one of the best in the world. We're seeing that right now. He's fun to play with. He's in that zone. He's skating right now. He's moving his feet. He's flying. When he's doing that, he's fun to play with. He's dynamic. It's fun. Our whole line is clicking. It's good." -- Larkin
Quotable III: "The thing about Anthony is he's a good person who cares and he wants to be a really good player. That has never been anything that I've questioned throughout my time with him. I've been with him a long time and he cares a bunch and he wants to be good. He's also a guy that when he's confident, he's exponentially better and you're seeing that right now. I think if you look at his history, by the time he'd been in major junior, he was a dominant player, by the time he spent time in the American League, he became a dominant player so I'm hoping he can do the same thing in the NHL. It's a hard deal, it's the top of the pyramid. But when he skates, he can be a dominant player and the line can be real good." -- Wings coach Jeff Blashill
2. Jonathan Bernier : Playing the second game in a back-to-back set, the Wings did not let Bernier ease into his first start of the 2019-20 season. Although the shots were even (8-8) in the first period, the Stars carried much of the play and earned a 2-0 lead. Hintz blasted a shot from the left circle at 10:57 of the first for the first goal and Tyler Seguin skated around Larkin and went to the net at 16:49 of the first for the second. But much like the team, Bernier did not fold. The defining sequence for Bernier came at the very end of the game, with the Wings trying to preserve the one-goal lead while the Stars had the goalie pulled for the extra attacker. Alexander Radulov was positioned at the right doorstep for a shot, which Bernier stopped, and then was able to prevent Radulov from poking a rebound past him. Bernier finished with 19 saves. Last season, Bernier also got his first victory of the season against the Stars but it wasn't until Oct. 28. This time, it was the second game of the season and helped the Wings begin 2-0.
Quotable: "They're gonna throw everything at the net and I thought we did a really good job. I didn't think I had a great game but you just gotta find a way battle through and make that last big save. I really felt it was under my skate. My skate wasn't really across that line until they blew that whistle. I knew I had it." -- Bernier
Quotable II: "Bernier was huge. He was motivated tonight. It just speaks to his character and his work ethic where things didn't go our way in the first and we kind of left him out to dry there a little bit and he battled. Like Howie did last night, he made big saves at the right times and gave us confidence." -- Larkin
Quotable III: "What I said to Bernie, when it mattered the most, he made a couple big saves. You have to find ways to win hockey games and I thought he did that. I don't think it was the cleanest game Bernie's ever played but we've got lots of belief in Bernie. He's been real solid every single day here from the beginning of camp. I was really happy for the fact that he dug in at the end and found a way to win. That's what our team has to be about. We gotta find a way to dig in." -- Blashill
3. Dylan Larkin/Tyler Bertuzzi: Although overshadowed a bit by their prolific, four-goal-scoring linemate, Larkin and Bertuzzi have been right there with Mantha in leading the way for the 2-0 start. The line as a whole got off to a slow start, with all three on the ice for the Stars' first two goals. But they managed to rebound for a successful finish. Larkin assisted on Mantha's third and fourth goals and Bertuzzi assisted on Mantha's third. Larkin now has one goal and three assists in the first two games while Bertuzzi has two goals and three assists. That extends both players' streaks over the last 10 regular-season games, dating back to March 23 of last season. Larkin has 15 points in that span (6-9-15) while Bertuzzi has 18 points (7-11-18).
Quotable: "Yeah, we actually did have talks about it. Probably at the world championship. We weren't on the same team and Tyler was having a little bit of a tough time but our message was when we get back to Detroit, when we're back together, we're gonna hit the ground running. Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) was in those conversations as well. Unfortunately, he's got a little bit of an injury right now. I think our team's going to be more dangerous when he comes back. It's hard to keep up what the first two games have brought for our line. Teams are going to start keying for us. We scored dirty goals. We scored on the power play, we scored a big goal at the end. If we can keep producing, and we get Double-A back in the lineup and he's gonna be flying, our team offense is going to be dangerous." -- Larkin
Quotable II: "We talked about it last night. Confidence is just there since last year. Playing with Bert and Larks, I can't praise them enough. They're playing unreal hockey right now. Us three as a line, playing great hockey. It's just bounces are coming our way and we need to take advantage of them." -- Mantha
Quotable III: "When you feel like you're such a big piece of winning and losing, sometimes you force things. As you get older, you learn to take what's given a little bit and you try to capitalize on your chances without having to force everything. I think that's part of the maturation process of that line. All three of those guys are big competitors and Larks leading the way, at times in the past, I think he's tried to force it because he's wanted to win so bad when really sometimes you have to take what's given. Some shifts nothing happens. Hank (Zetterberg) used to say it all the time, you got to be OK with that and that's a maturation process of a player. Their line's not alone. There's lots of lines in the league that have the same type pressure and I think they're totally equipped to handle it." -- Blashill