The Detroit Red Wings have shown progress during their first week of the NHL season. A home victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday would give another boost to their already growing confidence.
The Red Wings collected wins in three of their first four games, and their latest victory ended some lengthy droughts. Their 4-2 triumph in Montreal was their first regulation victory there in 12 seasons. They had also lost nine straight to the Canadiens.
Detroit took a 3-2 lead late in the second period and held firm in the third. In the early going at least, the Wings are playing like the perennial postseason contenders they used to be before falling on hard times. They failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons.
"We're sick of losing," coach Jeff Blashill told the Detroit Free Press. "So if you're sick of losing, you make choices on a daily basis to do things that are going to separate yourself. We can separate ourselves with our work ethic, we can separate ourselves with our sacrifice. We'll let other people talk about our skill."
They're no denying forward Anthony Mantha has plenty of offensive skills. He scored the go-ahead goal in the second period on Thursday and now has six tallies this season and a team-high eight points, followed by linemates Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin with six points apiece. Bertuzzi also scored in Montreal.
"We're playing great hockey right now," Mantha told the Detroit Free Press. "We're fast, we're playing a lot in our O-zone. We need to keep playing that way."
In their lone loss to Anaheim on Tuesday, the Red Wings committed 12 giveaways. They played a much tighter game on the road.
"These are the types of games for us to be successful, we're going to have to win," Blashill said. "We defended fairly well most of the game and when they got chances, Bernie (goaltender Jonathan Bernier) was excellent."
Detroit had a 2-1-1 record against the Maple Leafs last season.
Toronto began the season with victories over Ottawa and Columbus. The Leafs then went winless during a three-game homestand. They dropped a shootout to Montreal before regulation losses to St. Louis and Tampa Bay.
Their defense fell apart on Thursday as the Lightning racked up seven goals.
"You never want to lose three in a row," captain John Tavares told the Toronto Star. "The first two (losses) could have gone our way. (Thursday), we were just not good enough. We have to come back to work and realize the way we played wasn't good enough. We have to be a lot better."
Toronto scored all of its goals in the opening period, yet still trailed 4-3. Its offense then shut down.
"We just didn't execute at a high level, and they did," Tavares said. "We didn't do the right things that will lead to good things, and lead to results. That kind of effort is not going to win us many hockey games."
Auston Matthews has been the team's main offensive threat this season, scoring six goals. Defenseman Morgan Rielly has a team-high five assists. But the Leafs have allowed 15 regulation goals during their slide.
"We have to be much better than we were (Thursday)," Rielly told the Star. "We believe that we're capable of doing that, and we have confidence that we're going to learn from our mistakes and move forward and improve. We've got to be way better."
--Field Level Media