The weight has been lifted.
The fog has cleared.
The Detroit Red Wings, who had gone winless in eight straight games (0-6-2), had been showing improvement of late … but without a breakthrough.
Finally, on Super Bowl Sunday, the Red Wings prevailed, defeating the Florida Panthers 4-1 on the road.
The teams are set to meet again on Tuesday night in Sunrise, Fla., and Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is encouraged by his club’s progress.
“I talk about process a lot, but you need results to build confidence,” Blashill said. “We competed really, really hard (on Sunday). We defended and checked well, and those are things we have to do to be successful.”
The Wings prevailed without forward Anthony Mantha, who was made a healthy scratch. He was benched due to lackluster overall performance.
“I made a decision to go with the group I went with,” Blashill said. “Any conversations I have with Anthony are private.”
The decision to bench Mantha is surprising in some ways. In November, Mantha signed a four-year contract extension for $22.8 million. Then, after a slow start, he had produced three goals in his prior four games before getting benched.
Mantha has a minus-8 rating in just 12 games thus far, and his defense has been an issue for Blashill, who discussed the player’s deficiencies last week prior to the healthy-scratch decision.
“I don’t think you can judge players just on offensive output,” Blashill said of Mantha, who has four goals and seven points. “There are times when he does what he needs to do to be successful, and there are moments when he hasn’t done enough.”
It appears likely Mantha will remain benched on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Panthers, who had their season-opening points streak snapped at eight games on Sunday, will look to get back on track on Tuesday.
Coach Joel Quenneville, who orchestrated the just-ended run that is the second-longest such streak in franchise history, wants his Panthers to stay the course.
“We’ve been consistent in most games, whether ahead or behind,” Quenneville said. “We play the same way. Stick with it, and don’t change the approach.”
There’s no reason for the Panthers to alter anything drastically. They have remained injury/illness free, which is an amazing accomplishment in the age of COVID-19.
On the ice, they have been solid. They entered Monday 13th in the NHL in goals scored per game (3.22) and 17th in goals allowed per game (2.89).
Detroit ranks 24th in goals allowed (3.38) and next-to-last in goals scored (2.00).
Individually, the Panthers have been led by backup goalie Chris Driedger, who has started the past two games. He is 3-1-1 and ranks fifth in the league in save percentage (.937) and eighth in goals-against average (1.97).
Panthers starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is far down the list with an .881 save percentage and a 3.57 GAA. However, Bobrovsky has a solid win-loss record (3-0-1) after getting bailed out by Florida’s offense.
The Panthers are led in points by perhaps their two biggest stars: Jonathan Huberdeau (12) and Alexsander Barkov (11). Team newcomer Carter Verhaeghe leads the Panthers in goals (six).
For Detroit, Thomas Greiss has gotten the bulk of the starts in goal (1-7-2, .903 SP, 3.00 GAA). He beat the Panthers on Sunday, making 36 saves for his first win of the season.
Dylan Larkin leads the Wings in points (nine), but top goal scorer Tyler Bertuzzi (five) is joined by goalie Jonathan Bernier on injured reserve.
–Field Level Media