Sinking Red Wings looking for something to build on in closing weeks

Detroit News

Detroit — There was no head coaching change, no matter what social media demanded.

The roster didn’t undergo massive changes — not that it could, given the trade deadline has passed — as social media wanted to happen.

Sunday’s 11-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, as embarrassing and humbling as it was, brought out much consternation among Wings fans who’ve become increasingly frustrated with this 15-game slide (3-10-2) during which the defense and goaltending have collapsed.

The season appears to be spiraling out of control, with 16 games left to somehow get it back on course.

It was one item captain Dylan Larkin stressed after Sunday’s debacle — that, yes, there’s much for everyone to play for these final games.

“That’s my main focus, is building for next year,” he said. “The trade deadline was a stressful time. It’s stressful for everyone, but it passed and we have to settle in. We have to find a way to start forming an identity here the end of the season and play for something. And for me, it’s playing for next year, to make sure we’re not in this position again.

“We’ve got a lot of things to think about here, coming up before the next game (Wednesday, hosting the New York Rangers). It starts with each guy looking themselves in the mirror and finding what they want to play for down the stretch here. And there’s a lot to play for out there.”

Coach Jeff Blashill also was a believer of “looking in the mirror” after Sunday’s blowout and realizing these all-too-familiar lopsided losses aren’t acceptable.

“As a group we haven’t been nearly good enough,” Blashill said. “We all have to look in the mirror and figure out how over the next how many games we have left to not allow this to happen. If you check well you’re in games, and if you don’t check well and you’re off your game, you get crushed. That’s what is going on right now.

“We’re in a spot right now where we don’t have much room for error.”

More: Wings prospects Simon Edvinsson, Elmer Soderblom continue to make big strides

The endless odd-man rushes and clear looks at goaltenders Alex Nedeljkovic and Calvin Pickard were eyebrow-raising and surprising, considering how it appeared the Wings had become a sturdier defensive team over the last season and a half.

“We have play our best hockey to put ourselves in position to win games. If we’re a little off, this type of thing can happen,” Blashill said. “I also think we’ve got to look in the mirror and make sure that we’re playing the right way.

“We didn’t play the right way. We cheated for offense, we hoped for offense, and when you do that you leave yourself vulnerable for attack the other way and that’s what happened.”

The litany of mind-blowing statistics about the Wings’ defense and goaltending are rather shocking:

► Sunday’s loss was the third time in the last 14 games the Wings have allowed nine or more goals, including 10 to Toronto on Feb. 26.

► The Wings have allowed seven goals or more nine times this season, which leads the NHL in that category.

► As of Monday, the Wings were ranked last in the NHL in goals-against average (3.80) and 30th of 32 teams in save percentage (.886).

► They’ve allowed five or more goals in 13 of the last 26 games.

► The 11 goals allowed Sunday to Pittsburgh were the most in a single game since Feb. 23, 1988 (allowing 11 to Philadelphia).

Still, when asked whether there was a disconnect between the coaching staff and players, Larkin was adamant the entire locker room was “together.”

“We’re all in this together. Coaches, training staff and players, we’re all in this together,” Larkin said. “We have a lot of young guys that haven’t been in this position before and we don’t want those young players to be in that position again. The focus has been on what we’re going to do to get better, so it doesn’t happen.

“Something has to give, and it starts with the players and that’s my message.”

Blashill also remarked how it’s going to take everyone in the room to work on reverse this negative trend.

“To me, you battle through this stuff together, so we’re going to have to battle through this together,” Blashill said.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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