By: Will Burchfield
The same streak Dylan Larkin used to cheer for he’s now trying to sustain.
“My whole life the Red Wings have been in the playoffs, so I don’t want it to be this year that we’re not,” Larkin said on Tuesday, with the second half of the season set to open tonight.
There is work to be done for the Wings. With 33 games to go, they’re tied for last in the Eastern Conference and in serious danger of missing the postseason for the first time in 26 years. Perhaps no one feels the weight of history more than Larkin, who grew up a Red Wings fan in Waterford Township and understands the gravity of the team’s playoff streak.
“I think it means a lot to everyone. Now that you’re a player you understand a whole other level to it than a fan, but it does mean a lot. There’s a lot of factors for a player that it’s not as easy as it looks and as teams have made it look. So I do understand the significance of it even more,” said Larkin.
The same could likely be said of Justin Abdelkader and Luke Glendening, Michigan natives themselves. But the differentiating point for Larkin is he was born – in 1996 – after the streak began. He doesn’t know another way.
If that’s a burden, he’s doing his best not to think about it.
“Obviously (the streak) is meaningful to the people around the building and around the city, but we’ve put a lot of work in,” he said. “We’ve played 50 games, at the end of the season you play 82, and that’s a lot. You don’t want to see your season cut short after all that hard work, but we can’t get caught up in that.
“There’s a lot of pride in this room and we all know that we’re a team that can be in the playoffs. We just have to have a sense of urgency and get the job done.”
Larkin used the All-Star break to take a trip down to Florida and spend some time on the beach. The time away from the game stoked his excitement to return.
“You just feel better coming back and feeling excited is huge, so I think we can put a good run together and have some fun out there,” he said.
“I think guys are feeling recharged and everyone seemed happy to see each other again. We were obviously spending a lot of time together before the break but we’re all happy to be back as a team.”
Jeff Blashill is confident his team is ready for what lies ahead.
“When you go on the All-Star Break and come back, everybody knows that you’re headed down hill,” he said. “We still have a number of games left but you’re starting to head down hill and I think guys are excited to get back after it. They know we’ve gotta hit the ground running.”
And Larkin, perhaps the fastest among them, is confident they can find their stride.
“We just have to do it. We have to play the way we can play, we’ve gotta be consistent and chip away and climb the standings.”
It won’t be easy, certainly not as easy as Larkin’s heroes once made it appear. But it’s his torch to carry now, his burden to bear — a small price to pay for living out his dream.