Detroit — The Red Wings’ intent and desire all season has been to limit goals allowed.
The Wings fell apart defensively the second half of last season, spoiling what had been a decent first half, and likely played a large part in not retaining head coach Jeff Blashill.
New coach Derek Lalonde has consistently stated how important it has been to concentrate on defense and cut the goals allowed.
It had been going fairly well. Then Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to New Jersey and Thursday’s 5-1 loss in Boston has temporarily stalled the progress.
“It’s a concern,” Lalonde said of the inflated goals allowed. “They’re completely different. Maybe seven or eight minutes of the start against New Jersey we were pretty good and maybe a four- or five-minute span when we got to within 4-2. But the rest of the game it was a bad five-on-five team effort.
“(Thursday) was a lot different. Our five-on-five was pretty good, exceptional at times. So, we give up six and five and 11 goals (allowed) and that’s way too many. You don’t give yourself a chance to win.
“Our goal is to defend better, to keep that goals against down and give us a chance. At 2-1 (Thursday) we were right there, then three quick ones (allowed) and we don’t give ourselves much of a chance.”
Thursday’s loss was disappointing in that the Wings were pleased with the opening two periods and played the type of hockey they need to play to be successful.
“There were signs of doing the right things throughout (the game),” Lalonde said. “You can see a formula of what is successful and you do that the first few minutes against New Jersey and for the most part in the first two periods in Boston. It’s just a matter of doing that consistently, managing your game better.
“We’ve shown signs of being able to compete with the best in the league. It’s just having it for an entire game.”
In the Wings’ breakdown of Thursday’s game, they didn’t allow a five-on-five scoring chance to Boston. That type of sticky defense is what the Wings want to be known for on a consistent basis.
“In the New Jersey game we got away from our identity. We turned over way too many pucks and we played east-west a lot and didn’t get pucks deep,” defenseman Olli Maatta said. “It just turned into a sloppy game. We showed the league is too good and you can’t win that way, and it was a good lesson on how we have to play.
“(Thursday) their power play was obviously a big key (three goals). Our penalty kill has to be better. We can do a better job on that.”
Defenseman Jordan Oesterle still has yet to get into the lineup this season, and there’s no timeline on when Oesterle will get on the ice.
If the Wings decide to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen Saturday, there might be an avenue to play Oesterle in that scenario.
But Lalonde wasn’t sure what the lineup would look like yet.
“The reality of it, it would have been a huge ask of him to not play for almost three weeks and he could be facing (David) Pastrnak or (Brad) Marchand and the boys (against the Bruins),” Lalonde said. “But I also think it’s a credit to the bottom of our defensive core. (Robert) Hagg and (Gustav) Lindstrom have given us fairly solid hockey, hence why we are sitting here 3-2-2 and talking about having played a good five-on-five game (in Boston).
“So, probably, it’s a little more credit to the bottom of our D-core and how solid they’re playing. It’s just the reality.”
Dylan Larkin didn’t practice Friday but Lalonde called it a “maintenance day” and was optimistic Larkin will be in the lineup against the Wild.
“We expect him (to play),” Lalonde said. “He’s still dealing with an upper-body (injury) from when he got twisted in Chicago (last week). It’s been day to day (since), and it made sense for a maintenance day (for Friday’s practice).”
Sundqvist is also day to day, but Lalonde doesn’t expect Sundqvist in the lineup against Minnesota, meaning he’ll miss a second consecutive game.
Wild at Red Wings
▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1
▶ Outlook: The Wild (3-3-1) play the fourth game of a five-game road trip. Minnesota is 3-0-1 in its last four games. … The Wild rank fifth with 3.71 goals per game but 29th with 4.29 goals allowed. … RW Mats Zuccarello (five goals, six assists) and LW Kirill Kaprizov (five goals, five assists) are off to a good starts.