The Detroit Red Wings have been here before. Too many times, in fact.
They head into a series against the Carolina Hurricanes smarting from a rout that had one veteran wondering when the Wings will learn. They know they need to work hard to have a chance — and yet another night ended so disastrously.
“How many times are we going to have to do this,” Luke Glendening said after Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. “We are all frustrated with it. How many times are we going to have to do this before enough is enough.
“We can look where we are in the standings. It’s embarrassing. We have to continue to battle.”
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The Wings (13-23-6) have 14 games left. What’s frustrating about this latest punch in the stomach is that they seemed to be on a good track, performance-wise, if not in wins: Last weekend, they opened their series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning with a one-goal loss, then followed up with a 5-1 victory. Tuesday’s loss to the Predators came in a shootout. Thursday’s game went fine for the first half, but then the Predators made it 3-1 on a blown coverage, and from there, everything deteriorated.
“It’s another night when we get down we don’t respond well,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “The three goals in the second are breakdowns, but it’s 3-1. We still have a chance.”
Instead, Blashill said, “We got really stupid in the third.”
It was especially unfair to Jonathan Bernier, whose goaltending has been led to eight victories and who steadfastly has given his team a chance. In his first game back after a three-week layoff, his teammates couldn’t have been unkinder.
“We hung him out to dry,” Glendening said. “That’s on all of us. Especially for a guy who has played so well for us all season, and his first game back and we don’t give him any help.”
Nor did the Wings help general manager Steve Yzerman, who is trying to use Monday’s trade deadline to flip players for draft picks — Glendening and linemates Darren Helm and Adam Erne were the only players to finish in the positive in plus/minus, at plus-1.
It’s one thing when the Wings lose close games. Their lineup has been depleted — Tyler Bertuzzi hasn’t played since Jan. 30, and Bobby Ryan and Robby Fabbri also have missed the past few. That’s three top-six forwards. But there are respectable losses, and then there are sloppy losses.
“We talk about it a lot, that we have to outcompete teams to give ourselves a chance, and we didn’t do that,” Glendening said. “I think the most frustrating thing is that that is something we can control. There’s going to be breakdowns that happen, you can live with that if the work and compete is high. Unfortunately, when it’s not high and you make mistakes, you end up (with) scores like that.”
So here the Wings are again, a month left in the season, and enough apparently hasn’t been enough.
“This is a huge step backward, so we have to regroup on Saturday and take major steps forward,” Blashill said. “This was a poor job — as we got down, we played terrible. But we have a choice to make Saturday to take steps forward.”
The road, though, is getting short.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.