Why Detroit Red Wings ‘have to smell blood’ — especially on special teams

Detroit Free Press

ST. PAUL, Minn — The Detroit Red Wings left Xcel Energy Center at a disadvantage.

They didn’t get any points to bank toward their playoff hopes and could lay much of the blame for the 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild on special teams. The Wings wasted four power play opportunities before converting, and by then it was too late.

“You’re not going to win on the road without a really good penalty kill or without a power play that can smell blood and is timely and is dangerous,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Our power play has been going pretty good but we were super lackadaisical on that first power play and that can’t happen.

“We have to smell blood at that point and make sure that we try to get another one on the board. And then our kill has to be better than that, and I think it has been.”

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The Wings (22-22-6) are trying to make a push to get into the playoff picture. Their latest effort had them up 2-0 on goals from Dylan Larkin and Gustav Lindstrom, four minutes into the game. They got a power play seven seconds after Larkin’s goal, and another midway through the first period, when it was 2-2.

After a donnybrook in the second period, the Wings came away with their third power play. They had 1:52 left on their fourth power play when the third period began, meaning they had two fresh units.

Still nothing.

It was 5-2 when Lucas Raymond scored on a man advantage midway through the third period. Sam Gagner connected on Robby Fabbri’s shot from the circle after the Wings had pulled Alex Nedeljkovic for an extra attacker.

“We had our chances on the power play and we have to do our job there,” Larkin said. “We battled. We got our first six-on-five goal in a while and it was our best six-on-five play that we’ve had. We had the puck and generated chances and attacked the net. We hung in there but it was too little too late.”

The Wings had a six-on-four advantage with four minutes to play when Kevin Fiala was called for roughing, and Nedeljkovic was on the bench. They generated good chances, and the momentum from that led to Gagner’s goal.

Blashill first pulled Nedeljkovic with 5:45 to play.

“They are a good defensive team and I didn’t think we had generated a lot,” Blashill said. “We have a faceoff in the offensive end so we can kind of dictate the terms a little bit. You don’t know when you’re going to get that opportunity. You’re going to put your top-end line out there. If you don’t pull him, then you might be down to three minutes, and I didn’t think that was enough time for us.

“I felt real strong it was the right decision. Certainly we created lots off it and drawing a power play and then score off it. We were in a little tough situation though then because those guys had been on the ice for so long.”

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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