Detroit Red Wings see themselves as spoilers as NHL playoffs approach

Detroit Free Press

Frustration cut through Dylan Larkin’s comments as he spoke of what the Detroit Red Wings have to do.

He anticipates a stronger showing in Thursday’s rematch with the Nashville Predators, anticipates that a scoring drought that has grown to more than 130 minutes will end. This two-game losing streak was preceded by a 3-1-1 stretch, and that’s why Larkin is convinced his team can do better.

“Every team goes through this,” he said. “We have to find a way to come out of it for our lives, for trying to get back to .500 and trying to finish this out and see what happens down the stretch. We need to figure this out.

“I’m not panicking, but we all know in there that we have to be better.”

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The Wings lost 2-0 Tuesday, beaten twice on goals scored around the net. They didn’t generate many chances around the net themselves, because they couldn’t get there.

“We did a poor job of being quick out of our zone,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We slowed ourselves down and didn’t get pucks behind them. They are 1-3-1 in the neutral zone and we played too slow and so we had to maneuver through that and we turned too many pucks over.”

On the second goal, the Wings stood still at their own blue line, enabling the Predators to race through them. There was little of that going the other way – not even a 6-on-4 skater advantage in the final minute made a difference. The Wings tallied 31 shots – and Juuse Saros got good looks at all of them.

“We didn’t even get very many dangerous looks on him and make him have to make reactionary saves,” Larkin said. “Everything was in the chest.

“We are lucky we play these guys again Thursday to figure it out, to get back out there out there and play the way we want to play. It starts with work ethic and compete level, making it hard for their guys. We have to get back to doing what we’ve done all season.”

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It has been another tough season for the Wings, who at 10-19-4 are in last place in the Central Division. They played through five guys being in pandemic protocol for two weeks; forward Tyler Bertuzzi, the best dirty-goal scorer on the team, has been out since Jan. 30 and still not close, and goaltender Jonathan Bernier is spending a second stint in sick bay. But as the Wings gained a modicum of health, their play improved, and the losing streaks grew shorter. These past two games haven’t been ugly – the 3-0 loss to the Stars was a one-goal game until midway through the third period – but they’ve disappointed because outcomes had started to improve.

“I felt it was coming, we were starting to learn to win in close games,” Larkin said. “For us, it’s just important to win. That makes life a lot better. It makes the locker room fun, it makes coming to the rink fun, it makes hockey fun. We want to win. We know what we have to do to give ourselves a chance every night and we need to get back to that soon and see what can happen – catch some teams or spoil some seasons, whatever it may be.

“We have to play together more, we have to stick together more and make it a hard for them. Make it a hard night for them. All of them.”

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

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