Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Detroit Red Wings

Wings riding confidence

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Andreas Athanasiou and fellow rookies Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are experiencing the playoff push for the first time. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT -- At this time of year, confidence can be the difference between making the playoffs or not.

When things are going well, it makes it easier for teams, players and coaches to have confidence.

Nowhere is that more evident with the Red Wings than with their power play.

After eight straight games with at least one power-play goal, the Wings have taken a struggling part of their game and transformed it into a strength.

It started in the Wings' 5-3 victory in Florida over the Panthers March 19.

Tomas Tatar and Pavel Datsyuk both had power-play goals in that game.

"Whether you’re a player or the system or the team, I think confidence matters and obviously it’s gained confidence as pucks have continued to go in," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I’d also say we’ve done a better job of finding ways to deliver the puck to the net and getting people to the net. Those would be two big factors."

As recently as March 12, the Wings had the league's 24th-ranked power play at 17.1 percent.

Now they're up to 11th at 19.3 percent.

"We needed a few lucky bounces to the goals but I feel like lately we are getting them," Tatar said. "We are playing a little more simple, putting pucks on net, which is huge. I think we have lots of talent and big shooters here in this locker room to score goals on power plays."

Last season the Wings had the second-ranked power play so it has been a source of frustration that it hasn't gone as well until recently.

"We thought we would have been better than we had been for sure now these last games we’ve had success," Gustav Nyquist said. "It’s really been going in for us. It’s hard to keep that up for a full season, but sure it’s been much better now and it’s the right time of the year to have a power play that’s working so it’s a good sign."

When the power play is working, that can help the players relax, which can affect the rest of the game.

"I think that’s why last year went a little more smoother," Tatar said. "The power play was just clicking. Right now it’s big hockey and every team is playing good. It’s really time and special teams are deciding the games. The last few games the power play is really working and that’s what’s putting us on the horse."

The Wings have won their last two games, at home against Minnesota and on the road in Toronto, and are 6-4-0 in their last 10.

"I don't think there's any question that you earn confidence through your play and you certainly earn confidence with results," Blashill said. "When you've won, I don't know over the last 10 games, but I know we've got a winning record and I know we were able to win two big games last week. I think there's no question that you ride confidence when you win."

COMFORTABLE WITH IT CLOSE: The league as a whole is fairly close and the games are often nail-biters because blowouts are not too common, except perhaps with the Pittsburgh Penguins of late.

The Wings have been involved in 46 one-goal games this season, more than any other team.

The Wings are 27-8-11 in those games.

"I think you grow from your experiences so we've been in those experiences lots," Blashill said. "It gives us a chance to review things. We were able to review our 5-on-6 play against Toronto and hopefully we've continued to grow from all those experiences. We've been in so many of those close games and the reality of it is at this time of year you have to expect that they're going to be close like they were last week. And it's real hard to separate yourself, so hopefully the fact that we're in those all this season has really helped us be a better team in those situations right now."

TATAR FINE AFTER TAKING SHOT IN PRACTICE: It didn't look that good when it happened, but Tatar is fine.

During Tuesday's practice, Kyle Quincey's shot went off of Tatar's lower leg.

Tatar grimaced and fell to the ice but was able to stay and finish practice.

"It’s just a little bruise," Tatar said. "It happens in the practice. It was a little numb but it went away."

BIG GAME: The Wings are well aware that their Wednesday night game against Philadelphia, part of Rivalry Night on NBC Sports Network, is a big one.

At the same time, they don't want to make a bigger deal of it than it should be.

"Two things, it’s enjoying the moment, this is the time of year where it’s fun," Blashill said. "Every game matters. Game No. 1 mattered as much as this one does. It’s just that these get magnified. Let’s enjoy this, let’s enjoy this great opportunity we have in front of us but let’s also focus on the process of what it takes to be successful."

The Wings are used to needing these late games to clinch a playoff berth.

Last season, they clinched in their 81st game.

In 2014, they clinched in their 80th game.

In 2013, it wasn't until the final game of the season that they made the playoffs with a win over the Dallas Stars.

Players like captain Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk have been through it all, but some of the younger players like Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou are going through it for the first time.

"It's been like this the last couple weeks where every game is pretty much a playoff game for us," Athanasiou said. "I try not to approach it any differently than any other game. Obviously we know how big the stakes are. Everyone in the room knows it but I think we're doing a good job of being calm, cool and collected."

Tatar said they hope to feed off the energy of their home fans as they did last Friday.

"The last game against Minny the crowd was outstanding," Tatar said. "It gets you going for sure. I think when you are playing you don’t really think about it as much but obviously it’s huge. I remember my first playoff, the crowd was crazy. I really enjoyed it but you have to control yourself and not think about it much."

For Athanasiou, who is known for his speed, he has to make sure he keeps it under control despite the excitement.

"You've got to know when it's the right time to take off, whether to kind of gear down a little bit and wait for the puck, wait for the opening and then kind of use your speed," Athanasiou said. D"efinitely if you just fly around out there the whole time, you take yourself out of a lot of lanes and you actually open up a lot of ice, too, so you've got to position yourself in the right spot first before you start taking off."

View More