Detroit Red Wings know poor execution on special teams ‘kind of killing us right now’

Detroit Free Press

The first thing Derek Lalonde did was to note the similarity.

For the second straight time after a game at Little Caesars Arena, the Detroit Red Wings pointed to special teams as the reason behind their loss. Friday it was 3-2 to the Florida Panthers; Wednesday it was 5-1 to the New Jersey Devils.

“We get any execution on our special teams, it’s a winnable hockey game,” Lalonde said after the latest disappointment. “It’s exact, almost uncanny, how exact it was from the last game. We are O-for the power play and they are 2-for-3.

“Our five-on-five play is good. Not a whole lot to show for it.”

More:Detroit Red Wings haunted by two power play goals in 3-2 loss to Panthers at home

The Wings are 1-for-7 on power plays and have allowed four goals during five penalty kills last two games. The Panthers scored twice to take a 3-1 lead, and the Devils used their man advantages to make it 2-0.

“It’s kind of killing us right now,” defenseman Ben Chiarot said. “We play good five-on-five hockey and then take some penalties and we’re trailing every time we take a penalty. It has to get better from everyone, all the guys on the penalty kill. It’s not a matter of structure or anything like that, it’s just a matter of guys being where they are supposed to be and just committing to getting the job done.”

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As damming as it has been to give up goals when fielding four skaters against five, the bigger failure is how the Wings have been unable to build momentum when they have fielded five skaters against four. Earlier in the season, even when they didn’t score on a power play, they had energy and created chances and generated momentum off that. Now it just seems flat.

“We’re losing some battles,” Lalonde said. “Unfortunately there are some 50-50 battles in there that are ending up being 200-foot clears. And then when it is not going in, just simplify it. Their second goal on the power play, it was a wide-angle shot off a pad, rebound. You can have all the skill in the world; you didn’t need it on that. They scored a simple power play goal.”

Just like against the Devils, the Wings played well at even strength, creating chances (Sergei Bobrovsky “stole the game,” Lalonde said) and not giving up much. But when the result is two straight losses, it’s scant comfort.

“I think we played five-on-five pretty well, again,” Andrew Copp said. “We have to figure out a way to stop letting up goals on the kill. It just kills the momentum of the game. Especially in the third. We come out and have a good shift and have some chances and then they score on the power play and it’s like, you have to be kidding me. So, kind of the difference in the game, again.”

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 latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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