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How Detroit Red Wings newcomers are improving team’s play — and poise

January 17th, 2021

The Detroit Red Wings take a 1-1 record up against their next opponent thanks in no small part to their newcomers.

They host the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Monday matinee buoyed by a strong outing Saturday, when Bobby Ryan led the charge to top the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-2. The Wings looked much better than in their season-opening loss to the Canes, strengthened by Ryan delivering the first goal of the season.

“To see him score fired us up, it got us going,” Dylan Larkin said after contributing two goals. “We needed somebody to get the first one for the guys. It was a huge goal for our hockey team.”

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Larkin scored a huge goal himself, banking the puck into Carolina’s net 18 seconds after the Canes had tied the game in the opening minute of the third period. That response stood in contrast to last season, when the Wings struggled to recover from momentum swings.

“A year ago when we got scored on, it felt like we got scored on 10 times,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “When they tied the game up a year ago, it felt like we were going to lose. Instead, we did a good job of just keeping playing. We come right out and score and that’s a huge response, and we responded again with the game-winning goal.

“Part of that is fresh faces, part of that is maturity, and part of that is just a long time between seasons.”

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Ryan, along with fellow new additions in Vladislav Namestnikov, Troy Stecher, Jon Merrill and Marc Staal provide stability and depth. In Thursday’s opener, new goaltender Thomas Greiss did everything he could to give his teammates a chance to rally.

Detroit Red Wings right wing Bobby Ryan (54) celebrates after his goal Jan. 16, 2021, against the Carolina Hurricanes at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

“I’ve been so impressed,” Larkin said. “I can’t talk enough about their attitudes, their mindset. They’ve all been in big games and they understand that some things are going to go against us, and it’s all right. We’re going to play hard. Troy Stecher playing with the body, Marc Staal blocking shots, Namestnikov blocked a huge shot and had two breakaways. I’ve been very impressed with Mathias Brome and his poise.

“I’ve just been impressed with all the guys. They love being Red Wings and they’re just hockey players. They want to make plays. They never get discouraged.”

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Ryan missed about a week nursing an injury, but he’s already built chemistry with linemates Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina. Zadina had a terrific night, setting up Ryan’s one-timer and finding Fabbri for the game-winner.

Detroit Red Wings center Robby Fabbri (14) and Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) collide in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Detroit.
Detroit Red Wings center Robby Fabbri (14) and Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) collide in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Detroit.

“I just want to play with the puck,” Zadina said. “That’s what it takes to win the battles, be hard on the puck and give it to someone. Every single game I am getting more confident.”

Zadina raved about playing with Ryan, a former 30-goal scorer.

“It’s a blast for me to play with him,” Zadina said. “I’m trying to do my best to get him the puck. That was a huge first goal for us.”

It was noticeable throughout camp how much Zadina has grown, how his game has developed since the Wings drafted him sixth overall in 2018.

“He’s a guy, since he was drafted to our organization, he was known for his skill,” Larkin said. “But this year I’ve seen him work. I’ve seen him work away from the puck, I’ve seen him work in our own zone. He’s stripping pucks, he’s moving his feet. That line with him, Fabs and Bobby was great for us.”

It was only one victory, but the newcomers bolstered a team that didn’t celebrate much last season.

“I just felt a calmness from a lot of the new guys that we are just going to keep going, we are not going to get frustrated,” Larkin said. “We saw it a lot last year where we would start the third period and they would get one early like they did and that was it. We were in our own heads. I didn’t see that from any of those guys. We just kept going. We scored huge goals and timely goals and outplayed a great team.”

Contact Helene St. James at 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: Detroit Red Wings newcomers brought this key trait in team’s first win

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