Calgary, Alberta — No Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi, rugged schedule, elite opponent, you had the sense Saturday the Red Wings were in for a tough evening.
But the 3-0 loss proved to be more difficult than imagined.
The Wings only had 19 shots on net — a measly five through two periods (one in the first period) — and except for a spell in the final 20 minutes, weren’t much competition for the Flames.
“No jump, no legs it looked like at all,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We had guys who probably didn’t battle hard enough at times, so we kind of defended and played in our end and they got chances and shots and we couldn’t get any jump at all.
“We had too many guys that had no jump.”
The loss extended the Wings’ winless streak to five games (0-4-1). They’ve won only twice (2-7-1) in their last 10 games.
But it wasn’t even necessarily the lack of shots on net. The Wings didn’t have the puck and didn’t force Calgary to defend at all. It was one of those games where the shots-on-net ticker was indicative of how this game was going, and looked.
“You have to play in the other team’s end to create chances and create shots and we weren’t doing that enough,” forward Sam Gagner said.
Fabbri will miss the remainder of the regular season with likely knee surgery, and Bertuzzi will miss the next two games in Canada because of his choice to not vaccinate.
The two players have combined for 41 goals this season. The Wings don’t have the scoring depth to make up for such a loss, but at the same time, it does give some players greater opportunity to make an impact.
Not many took advantage of it against the Flames.
“You can’t not show, you can’t not play your A-game on a nightly basis,” Blashill said. “And if you don’t have your A, at least have a B. You can’t bring your A-game one game and bring your F-game the next game. That doesn’t work.
“Guys have to play better. There’s no other way to put it. Our top guys got to play better, but our other guys got to play better. There’s opportunity there.”
One line that stood out in that regard was the line of Pius Suter centering Filip Zadina and Adam Erne. They only generated one shot on net and saw their ice time diminish as the game went along.
Suter, who has been inconsistent during long stretches of this season, is in a valley currently. Suter has no points over his last 10 games. Zadina has one goal over the 10 games, while not scoring in his last seven.
But truly, there were a lot of Wings forwards who weren’t enough of a factor.
“One of the best tools (for accountability) is ice time,” Blashill said. “We have to make sure we’re better on a nightly basis.
“There is a mental grind to be sure. But we have to be way more mentally tough than that.”
One area where the Red Wings have faltered recently and has contributed to the Wings’ downfall is the penalty kill. The Wings have killed only 38.1% (eight-of-21) of their penalties in these last 10 games. They’ve killed 35.7% (five-of-14) over the last six games.
Calgary scored its first two goals on the power play.
“I’m sure confidence has a little bit to do with that, but that’s no excuse,” Gagner said. “We have to find a way to rectify that. They scored two goals on two different plays: one off a faceoff and one off of kind of a neutral-zone entry. We’re getting beat in different ways on the kill, and we have to find a way to stop the bleeding there and buckle down.
“It’s a real important part of things if you’re going to be a successful team. You have to find a way to get kills, it keeps you in the game. If we get a couple of kills there (Saturday), it allows you to fight back.
“It’s certainly not good enough. We have to be better.”
There were two areas for the Wings that did stand out.
The goaltending of Thomas Greiss, who stopped 40 shots, and somehow kept the Wings in the game despite it being so lopsided in certain facets.
“He made some big saves. It hasn’t gone great, we all know that, but he’s got a way to forget that and has a good short memory,” Blashill said.
Then there was the fourth line of Michael Rasmussen centering Givani and Luke Witkowski, who was playing in his first NHL game since 2019.
The line provided the physical edge and grit Blashill was looking for against a rugged Calgary team.
“We’re a little small so I wanted some size in the lineup,” Blashill explained. “I wanted some guys that could bring some momentum with physicality, who could get to the net against a defense corps that does a pretty good job of boxing out. We didn’t generate as much offensive zone time with that group as I’d like but I did think they were good and they did their job overall. They did their job.
“It’s a big, physical line and that’s what we were hoping for.”