DETROIT — During the Detroit Red Wings’ glorious run of four Stanley Cups in the span of 12 years, some of the best and most competitive hockey I witnessed happened during practice.
The Wings were a deep and extremely talented bunch back then, boasting a center-ice corps of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov and Kris Draper. The team was a combination of scintillating skill, flashy finesse and a pinch of highly effective brawn.
Today’s Wings don’t quite measure up on the skill and finesse level of their predecessors, but they have a work ethic and youthful energy that’s increased their confidence level.
As I watched Detroit defeat the Anaheim Ducks, 3-2, Monday night in overtime, they resembled the Red Wings of old. They generated a lot of shots, had sustained pressure in the Ducks zone and rolled four lines.
Although this current group doesn’t have the flair to duplicate the dynasty days, they’re beginning to apply the same principles to achieve similar results.
Rolling four lines and making the first pass out of their own end are hallmarks of Detroit’s championships. If a defenseman makes a clean outlet pass, it creates a pace and flow to the game that allows you to roll all four lines.
In Game 4 against the Ducks, the Wings were able to dictate play because they were rolling four lines, which had Anaheim chasing the puck.
Granted, the Wings were far from perfect. Goalie Jimmy Howard bailed them out of several gaffs, but all four lines had a rhythm that enabled them to maintain control of the puck and ultimately win the game.
It made me realize that, as long as they’re all working on the same page, different players with different skill sets can achieve anything.
A new era of Red Wings hockey? Maybe.
But there’s a distinct possibility that the more things change, the more they remain the same.