Detroit Red Wings can’t score right now, stuck between finding chemistry, tweaking lineups

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Red Wings are trying to balance perspective, insanity and perseverance.

They are, as coach Jeff Blashill put it, “in search of more scoring pop,” as they prepare for Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators, having been shutout twice in the last four games, most recently by the Predators Tuesday.

The Wings (5-13-3) rank last in the NHL with a 1.86 goals-per-game average and a 6.4% power play conversion rate. Most of the Wings’ skilled players are going through droughts: Dylan Larkin hasn’t scored since Jan. 31; Anthony Mantha has one goal his last nine games; Bobby Ryan has one goal in 17 games; Filip Zadina has one goal in 14 games.

The coaching staff is trying to figure it out.

“There’s different things at different times,” Blashill said. “We went through a stretch where we were a pretty good o-zone team and then we weren’t getting much off the rush. Lately we haven’t been as good an o-zone team and have gotten a little more off the rush.

“There are some things we look at systematically and say, are there areas we have to emphasize in the few practices we have, without losing our accountability defensively, to help our guys produce more offense. And then it’s a matter of being hard around the net, making sure you have net presence. Now what happens at times, is you don’t want to have three guys standing around the net, though, because then it just becomes a big cluster and nobody gets a piece of the puck. We just have to work with each individual player and aspects of areas where they can execute a little bit better. And then I think it comes with confidence — we need some pucks to go in.”

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The Wings haven’t had a puck go in on a man advantage since Tyler Bertuzzi scored Jan. 28 in a 7-3 loss at Dallas, going 0-for-37 through 13 games and half a period. Bertuzzi has been sidelined since Jan. 30 with an upper-body injury, and is out at least through the weekend series with Chicago – probably longer, given he has yet to practice.

“It’s hard to give timeline until he’s back skating with us,” Blashill said.

Bertuzzi has three of the team’s four power play goals, but given the players still available, it’s gobsmacking how bad it’s been. Blashill has referenced the saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result in taking about the power play, but he has to weigh that against limited options. 

“It is a balance, and when it is not going good, you end up making some changes to try to get it going better,” Blashill aid. “In a lot of cases, in my experience, it can hurt it, because then you are all over the map and you are not building any chemistry. We’ve worked to avoid doing that as much as we can.”

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There have been tweaks, of course — an adjustment had to be made when Vladislav Namestnikov recently missed two games. Robby Fabbri didn’t practice Wednesday, and if he’s unavailable against the Predators, the hole is likely to be filled by Sam Gagner.

“We’ve tried to stay stable and basically put it a little bit back on the players’ shoulders to say, these are the groups, these are the players that are playing,” Blashill said. “You have to execute at a higher level.”

Larkin lamented after the 2-0 shutout Tuesday that the Wings can’t let games slip by just because they’re coming so quickly. The counterbalance to that is to remember what last year was like after the NHL paused the 2019-20 season March 12.

“We sat for 10 months,” Blashill said. “Everyone of us would have done anything to play a hockey game. Now we are playing every other day and it can seem like a lot. I’ll use the word grind. It’s not a grind compared to what a lot of people go through in life, but it comes at you fast. It seems like it’s every other day and it gets to be a little groundhog-ish.

“We have to make sure that doesn’t happen. To me it’s all about perspective, and looking at it and saying, this is a special opportunity we have ahead of us.”

Contact Helene St. James at 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 AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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