Detroit Red Wings believe they have formula to win on the road. Here’s how

Detroit Free Press

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Going on the road keeps tripping up the Detroit Red Wings, even when they’ve just played some of their best hockey of the season.

To their frustration, they head into Thursday’s rematch against the Florida Panthers on a losing note, battered by a bad start in the first game of the miniseries. For a second consecutive road game the Wings were out of it by midway through the first period; they didn’t get embarrassed Tuesday at BB&T Center, but the 4-1 loss rankled after such a good weekend at home.

“We can’t let this slide,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “It’s a huge game on Thursday here against a team that’s banged up. If we play the right way, if we play hard, we are going to be successful against that team, and we all believe it.”

They believed similarly a week ago after losing the first game of a miniseries at Nashville, and then were routed 7-1. They gave up three quick goals that night, as they did Tuesday, and again coach Jeff Blashill bemoaned that “we had a bunch of guys that played their B or C games,” fingering the defense corps as being especially egregious.

“It’s as bad as we’ve played defensively in a while,” he said. “It’s not good enough.”

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The similarities to the Nashville disaster stop there; if there’s something for the Wings to take into their next game, it’s that they did a good job creating chances against the Panthers, and that Thomas Greiss restored some self-confidence in stopping 24 of 25 shots after relieving Calvin Pickard midway through the first period.

But those first 12:25 were ugly. The Panthers scored 17 seconds into the game, and then 58 seconds apart. That was too much to overcome, and left the Wings 3-13-1 on the road.

“I just felt our energy level, especially early in the game, wasn’t there, with playing a lot of hockey and travel,” Larkin said. “It took us time to get into the game and we were down 3-0 by the time we got into it.

“You have to worry about the next shift. Look at puck management as one of the keys on the next shift. Get the puck behind their D and make it hard on them, make it hard on the goalie. When it was those three goals, we didn’t do that. When it was 3-1, we had chances — we hit posts, we were there. We played pretty well. It just took us too long to get into the game.”

The Wings are 12-21-4, mired at the bottom of their division. They played through having five players in COVID-19 protocol a week into the season, played through injuries that currently include Jonathan Bernier being sidelined for a second time. Larkin has spoken of a what a challenge this season has been, to not let games slip by even as they come every other day.

“You can’t make excuses,” he said. “Everyone has to go through it. We have to have better starts, we have to find a way to come with energy than we have. We need to figure that out and start to win on the road and continue to win at home.

“You have to be ready every night and it’s hard. It’s one of the hardest seasons I’ve gone through it terms of mental and physical health.”

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The Wings have a day to recuperate from their latest loss on the road. It’s worked for them before to find redemption in Florida — when they were there Feb. 7, they earned their first road victory of the season and ended an eight-game winless skid.

“We have to find a way to come with energy,” Larkin said. “We need to figure that out and start to win on the road and continue to win at home down the stretch.”

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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