Lalonde says Red Wings 'flirting with' successful season


With two points Friday night against the Islanders, the Red Wings will enter the All-Star break on a high. They have a chance to win their third in a row as they try to stay in the playoff race. As it is, Derek Lalonde is pretty satisfied with the team's growth a little more than halfway through his first season behind the bench.

"The outcome part, as a coach, I always want more," Lalonde said this week on The Word on Woodward show. "We’re flirting with that .500 (mark), slightly above it at times (in points percentage), so I think outcome-wise we want a little bit more. But I think you’ve seen some of our quality wins in the last two weeks, Toronto at home, on the road in Vegas. Both of those games we only gave up six or seven chances. Offense does not come natural or easy for this group, so I think that’s how games have to look for us to be successful. The good part is, we’re starting to find ourselves winning some of those games."

They won one Tuesday against the Sharks, and another Thursday on the road against the Canadiens, both in overtime. Lalonde's emphasis on playing smart defensive hockey -- that is, smart hockey -- is starting to take hold. The more it shows up in the second half, the better the Wings' odds of meeting one of their initial goals for this season: playing meaningful games down the stretch.

With 50 points through 47 games — and a record of 21-18-8 — the Red Wings are on pace for about 87 points. That would be their highest total since the last time they made the playoffs seven years ago and a 13-point improvement from last season. And for Lalonde, it would likely qualify as a success.

“We’re flirting with it right now," he said. "I don’t want to say we’ve teased, but if anyone would have (seen us here), we're on pace for that mid-80’s (points range), I think anyone would have probably taken that with the expectations at the beginning of the year. But when you see us string some of these wins together and how we’ve done it, as a coach it leaves you wanting a little bit more.

“For me to define success is to continue to improve in some of the areas we have, we just talked about that defensive side of the puck, and get more outcomes. We’ve consistently been a .500 team, we’re sitting here at (.532) right now. If we finish the season slightly over .500, would that be fine? I think going into the season, everyone would have probably taken it, because that’s progress.”

At this point last season, the Wings were on an 80-point pace. They went 12-19-4 the rest of the way and finished toward the bottom of the Atlantic Divison for the sixth year in a row. No one earnestly expects them to snap their playoff drought this season; as Lalonde will tell you, the East is just too deep. But if Detroit can push 90 points and climb the conference ladder, their head coach would be pleased.

“I think a lot of what you’re seeing now, but more of it, would be defined as success," said Lalonde.

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