Helene St. James | Detroit Free Press
As much as the Detroit Red Wings have improved parts of their game, one component remains a mess.
They’ve earned points in two straight games for the first time this season, but had to settle for a meager one when they lost in overtime, 3-2, Monday to the Chicago Blackhawks at Little Caesars Arena. The Original Six rivals meet again Wednesday.
The performance included a goal from newcomer Christian Djoos, 21 saves from Thomas Greiss, and shutting down the Blackhawks power play three times.
“We battled, we played with the puck, our PK did a great job. Greisser was great again,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “We battled and got a point. We have to find a way to get the next point there.”
The most glaring way to do so would be to get the power play figured out. The Wings had two of them Monday, and generated one shot on net.
“We have to find way to get it going,” Larkin said. “I think we’ve done an OK job getting it set up. We just have to find a way to get it around the net. We’re too much to the outside.
“We have to find a way to win the special teams battle. Ultimately that’s going to help us win these close games.”
The Wings are 4-for-53 on the season on man advantages. They haven’t converted since Jan. 28 — a loss, no less — when Tyler Bertuzzi scored his third power play goal. Bertuzzi left the next game with an upper-body injury, and the Wings have gone 0-for-26 over those nine games. Bertuzzi is out at least through Wednesday.
More: Detroit Red Wings mailbag: How Steve Yzerman, Jeff Blashill gauge players progress
Their lack of success on power plays has been a constant even as they’ve tightened up defensively over the past 10 days.
“Certainly that’s been a continued sore spot,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have nights where it looks not bad and then we go backwards again. We’ve used lots of different guys in different situations, given a lot of different people opportunities, and not enough people have grabbed it.
“You struggle between going back to the drawing board and changing things all the time, and then you have no chemistry at all, and then that definition of insanity of continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”
More: Danny DeKeyser cleared waivers. Here’s what Detroit Red Wings hope to see next
Even without Bertuzzi, the Wings have enough skilled players that the power play should not be on life support. Larkin, Anthony Mantha (who has the other power play goal), Bobby Ryan, Filip Zadina, Filip Hronek, Vladislav Namestnikov — they’re all offensive minded players. Ryan has been good about getting to the net, but as Tomas Holmstrom used to say, being at the net only makes a difference if the puck gets through.
“Ultimately guys have to go out and execute better,” Blashill said. “We lacked a sense of urgency and we lacked a sense of confidence in terms of making plays. There’s no reason not to have confidence. Confidence comes from within. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’ve had success or not, it has to do with whether you believe you have the capabilities to do that and if you are prepared.”
The aggravating part about Monday’s power plays was that only two nights earlier, at Nashville, it had looked dangerous. The entries were crisp, the units got set up, they moved the puck and created chaos around the net. Against the Blackhawks, it looked borderline lethargic when Larkin drew a penalty on Patrick Kane early in what was then a 2-1 third period.
“That’s a frustrating part,” Blashill said. “I thought it did look good and so you want to stay with it, you don’t want to change it. You want to give guys chances to build off that. Then we come back and we don’t build off it. We had two real good entries early in the game and we passed the puck away. Late in the game we have a chance to make it happen and we pass the puck to them. We have to grind. We have to dig in.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.