Their weekend series at home now has taken on added pressure, as the Detroit Red Wings must prove they’re better than their last outing.
It’s one thing when they play well and lose; this season, another one in the rebuilding process, is more about showing growth than results. But a good stretch that segued into hard-played losses was marred by an ugly night in Nashville, when defensive lapses cost the Wings.
“Absolutely we are better than what we showed,” captain Dylan Larkin said after Thursday’s 7-1 loss at the Nashville Predators. “We have to believe that.
“No one is feeling good about themselves. We have to find a way to come out of it together.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets are on deck for a pair of weekend matinees, and the effort has to be better than what it was in Nashville. Detroit didn’t look cohesive, didn’t check, didn’t make the game hard on its opponent.
“It’s obviously totally unacceptable,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “You can’t have nights where you give away easy goals like we did. I thought we had too many no-shows, too many guys that didn’t bring their A or B or C game. When you have that many no-shows, it’s hard.
“I don’t know if it’s puck management, or maybe a better term is puck execution — like, we’d have the puck on our stick and we’re on a 3-on-2 rush and we get nothing out of it. And then panic sets in; then you start throwing the puck away all the time and then you never have it. Any way you shake it, it’s totally unacceptable.”
Thomas Greiss had a rough night; his teammates didn’t help him, but he let in three goals on seven shots in 7:39. Calvin Pickard struggled, too, allowing four goals on 23 shots. In the three games since Jonathan Bernier left with a lower-body injury, the Wings have gone 0-3 and been outscored 12-1.
There’s not much Blashill can do in the way of lineup changes. Tyler Bertuzzi, the team’s grittiest player, hasn’t practiced since leaving Jan. 30 with a back injury. Bernier is day-to-day, and his recovery can’t come soon enough.
It was such an ugly night, only two skaters — defensemen Filip Hronek and Danny DeKeyser — escaped without a minus rating. It was 4-0 before the midpoint of the first period, and the only respite to Bobby Ryan’s goal was that it ended the drought at 150 minutes.
“We didn’t execute,” Larkin said. “Right away we were behind the eight ball. It wasn’t fair to Greisser. We didn’t manage the puck. We didn’t manage it coming out of our zone and going into their zone. A team that traps like they do, you can’t just give them the puck. It plays right into their hand.”
Larkin lamented the Wings “haven’t put teams on their heels like we did when we were playing well.” Blashill lamented that “we get concerned when we don’t score and I get it, but this is the result when you don’t check.”
It’s only been a week since the Wings were feeling better about themselves, having taken three of four points against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and also beating the Carolina Hurricanes, another elite team. The March 20 game against Dallas was a one-goal affair until the third period.
Now the Wings are home again, but those positives vibes have faded.
“It doesn’t feel good,” Larkin said. “It’s not where we want to be. We were proud of our game. We were a team that showed up every night and worked and competed and we got away from that the last two games, three games. We have to get back to that. We have to stick to our identity of working and competing and doing it the right way.
“That’s what we have to get ready for here. We have to play for each other.”
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.