Jeff Blashill warns Detroit Red Wings: Pushback against Maple Leafs was ‘fool’s gold’

Detroit Free Press

Marc Staal couldn’t recall being a part of such a crazy game before, and Jeff Blashill certainly never wants to be a part of one again.

It was up to them to explain how the Detroit Red Wings lost, 10-7, to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday at Little Caesars Arena. It was a wild night, and fans who stuck around saw a five-goal deficit whittled to one, then grow back to three.

“I’m sure it’s exciting for the fans and the building was loud,” Blashill said. “All I’m thinking about is, it’s not good enough. It’s great that we were able to finally start shooting the puck, and the pucks went in late, but at the end of the day, it’s fool’s gold.

“That’s not good enough. I think our guys know that. Cripes, I hope our guys know that. What happened out there wasn’t good enough.”

[UN-BE-LEAF-ABLE: Wings nearly rally from 5-goal deficit, but fall to Toronto Maple Leafs, 10-7]

It was 7-2 when the third period began, at which point the Wings had gone back to goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, who lasted three goals and 11:06 into the first period before being replaced by Thomas Greiss. Filip Hronek, Carter Rowney and Joe Veleno scored in rapid succession on Jack Campbell, who was replaced by ex-Red Wing Petr Mrazek, who quickly gave up a goal to Michael Rasmussen, and just like that, it was 7-6.

“We weren’t going to roll over,” Staal said. “We decided to start playing for each other and start trying to win some battles. We were getting beat all night long. Obviously it was too late, but we wanted to make some kind of push.

“We were out of the game and we start scoring like crazy. I was happy our fans stuck around, to be honest. They gave us a big boost with the amount of energy they were bringing. It was a fantastic crowd to stick with us, not give up on us.”

But they wouldn’t have needed such a push if they hadn’t been so slow through 40 minutes.

“Our start was so bad and we weren’t very good in the second, either,” Staal said. ” We didn’t deserve to be in that game. There wasn’t a lot there to like.”

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Or as Blashill put it: “We lost every puck race, every puck battle, every competition battle. We lost every single one of them.”

Blashill couldn’t explain how the Wings could face an Original Six opponent at home, on a weekend, with a guaranteed raucous crowd, and look so disinterested.

“Yeah, it is hard to understand,” he said. “It’s a great building, great atmosphere. But it starts with not giving up easy chances.”

The Leafs (34-14-4) are jockeying for playoff positioning while the Wings (23-24-6) are losing ground in the a wild-card race. The Leafs have a high-octane offense, powered by Auston Matthews (a goal, three assists on Saturday), Mitch Marner (four goals, two assists) and Michael Bunting (a goal, four assists). Neither Nedeljkovic nor Greiss had good nights in net — nor did Campbell and Mrazek — but what the Wings really couldn’t answer was why they took so long to ignite their own offense.

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“Our first and second period were pretty embarrassing,” Staal said. “We just had no pulse. We deserved to be where we were. We didn’t deserve to win, that’s for sure.”

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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