Two big wins on the weekend against two of the NHL's top teams have the Detroit Red Wings in a much better frame of mind as they head into Tuesday's crucial home date with the New York Islanders.
On Sunday, the Red Wings whipped defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh 5-2, handing the Penguins just their fourth regulation loss at home this season. That came on the heels of Saturday's 3-2, home-ice shootout win over the Washington Capitals, the top team in the NHL standings.
"It certainly feels good," Detroit forward Thomas Vanek said. "Like I've said before, the big picture is not pretty, so I think the message is just play game by game."
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The big picture that Vanek speaks of still sees the Red Wings seven points out of the final wild card playoff position in the Eastern Conference, but there was an upbeat buzz in the Detroit dressing room following the weekend success story.
"I think there's a sense of confidence that's risen in the last little bit," said Detroit defenseman Mike Green, who missed the weekend wins due to illness but is good to go Tuesday. "We're really playing a patient game and it's cause for some chaos and confusion in the other team's zone and we've gotten a lot of chances.
"If we continue that, we'll be good."
Many of the components required for long-term success have been present in Detroit's recent games. The Red Wings are getting the lead, they are putting the puck in the net, their special teams are delivering the goods and between the pipes, Petr Mrazek is playing his best in about a year's time.
"You talk about confidence, it seems like his confidence is up," Green said. "When he's rolling, he's an incredible goaltender. We need him to continue."
The Red Wings will require that the entire package continue to come together to keep their long-shot playoff hopes alive.
"I think confidence matters," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "There's no question about it. You can do things right for a long period of time and if you don't get wins, it's hard to gain that same level of confidence.
"This weekend we found our way to two points. We need to do that on an extremely consistent basis, find a way to those points. Every day's a new challenge. We've got a big game against the Islanders."
There are six teams situated between Toronto and Detroit, including the Isles, who are just one point behind the Maple Leafs.
The Islanders, who have lost both meetings to the Red Wings this season, begin a nine-game road trip Tuesday after dropping New Jersey 6-4 at home Sunday. New York is a dismal 7-13-4 away from home this season, tied with Carolina and Dallas for the fewest road wins in the NHL.
"There's not a good feeling, not a good vibe on the road right now," Islanders coach Doug Weight told Newsday. "We're built to be a good road team. We've been here (at home) a lot and we've been great here, so it's been a bit of a crutch.
"Hopefully we get out on the road and get together as a team."