Detroit — Just shy of two weeks ago, the world was such a happy place for a Red Wings fan.
It hadn’t been so filled with joy an wonder for so long. Maybe since that playoff spring in 2016.
The February 23 victory over the New York Rangers, a convincing 4-1 win, was the Wings’ seventh victory in eight games. With the win, the Wings moved above the cutline, into the second and final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
The Wings were winning, playing with confidence, and frankly, with games in hand and the way other teams around them were plummeting, the remainder of the regular season appeared terrific.
Since that evening, the Wings have played six games and lost them all. Sunday, in Philadelphia, the Wings lost 3-1 to the lowly Philadelphia Flyers.
The Wings have earned one point in those six games (a 5-4 overtime loss to Seattle). They’ve traded away defenseman Filip Hronek and forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana and Oskar Sundqvist. They’ve lost Michael Rasmussen (knee) for the season.
It’s gone from never looking better, to rarely looking as grim, this season.
“We can definitely level our compete for sure,” said defenseman Moritz Seider after Sunday’s loss in a hushed Wings’ locker room. “It’s not about taking guys’ heads off. It’s just making sure you’re present out there and people are aware of you. We need that a little bit more.
“That’s not up for discussion, I would say, because teams are just outcompeting us right now and it’s a really tough feeling.”
The Wings (65 points) trail Pittsburgh by six points for the final wild-card spot, with the Penguins now actually owning a game in hand. Four teams are between the Wings and Penguins, further making the Wings’ life miserable in attempting to move up the standings.
There’s a new reality surrounding the Wings with their new lineup, and the loss of a quarter of the roster.
Coach Derek Lalonde has often talked this season about the need for the Wings to be almost error-free to be successful. Now, with the current lineup, that need has grown even more.
“With a full roster pre-injury and deadline, we talked about how exact we had to be to be successful,” Lalonde said. “Now, it’s even double-fold, and we have to manage our game.
“The good thing is we have our group now. Injuries, trades, a lot went on the last week. But we have our group. Hopefully we can build off this. (Sunday) was very frustrating. (It) was an extremely winnable game. It was sitting there for us in the second period and we gave it back.”
A lot of things aren’t going well for the Wings right now, but possibly most importantly, they aren’t producing nearly enough offense.
During this six-game winless streak, the Wings have scored two or less goals five times and are 2-for-24 on the power play.
Lalonde feels the Wings need to harder and play with a bit more jam to get out of this offensive funk.
“It’s going to be a reality of where our current lineup is at, which is fine,” Lalonde said. “Some players are going to have to get out of their comfort level and get to the inside, and that’s not just getting to the blue paint, that’s getting inside and battles and keeping plays alive. It’s just the reality of it. Hopefully in the long run we can learn to be a little harder in that area and it will benefit us.”
The Wings have a chance to snap out of this streak Wednesday hosting a dismal Chicago team (7:30 p.m./TNT/The Ticket). Goaltender Ville Husso believes the Wings can only get out of this streak by focusing on the immediate task at hand and not think about the playoff picture or anything games or weeks ahead.
“We just to need come together as a group,” Husso said. “We lost a couple of big players and it was emotional for some guys, but it’s part of it. We just need to come together and there are spots open for other guys. There’s no secret on how to come out of this. Just keep battling, just need to out-battle the other team, and go day by day.
“When you lose a couple games, it’s hard. We can’t focus on the playoffs too much, and just try to get better every day.”