With the NHL regular season less than a week away for the Detroit Red Wings, some frustratingly familiar traits are re-emerging in the team’s game.
For the second time in as many nights, the Red Wings didn’t show up on time for Thursday’s game at Columbus against the Blue Jackets. The outcome was a 2-0 first-period deficit and ultimately a 4-2 defeat.
Monday, the Red Wings fell behind 3-0 in the first period and lost 6-4 to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Slow starts have often been a malaise of this team under coach Jeff Blashill. Blashill saw some things on the ice from his team that he didn’t like one bit.
Jake ➡️ Jake ➡️ 🥅 pic.twitter.com/aL1YDANKRw
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 7, 2021
“I thought we flipped the puck out of the zone too many times when we had opportunities to make tape-to-tape passes,” Blashill said. “We showed too much panic in those situations. We gotta understand the balance between making a play when the play’s available and living another day and putting it hard into space when you have to.
“I thought early in the period we turned it over and then we just started bombing it out of there, not necessarily going tape-to-tape when we had those opportunities.”
Some other takeways from Thursday’s game:
Smith Shows Better Form . . . Then Spoils It
A spot on the Red Wings is there for the taking for Givani Smith. He must clear waivers to go down to the AHL. As well, he’s one of the few forwards on the Wings who brings a physical presence to the ice.
Thursday, he finally appeared to be interested in grabbing that spot . . . and then he ruined a good night’s work in a fit of pique.”
I thought Smitty played really, really good for a lot of the game,” Blashill said. “Given the role and the minutes, that’s what he’s got to figure out, how to do really well in that role and minutes. And then I thought he took a bad penalty.”
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 7, 2021
With Detroit down 3-2 in the third period, Smith took a retaliatory cross-checking penalty after the whistle, paving the way for Patrik Laine’s game-clinching power-play goal.
“As I talked to Smitty on the bench, he’s got to do a really good job of playing whistle to whistle and attract attention after the whistle by having guys mad at him. It’s just the maturation process of a player.
“He is a bit of an agitator, he is a bit of a physical presence. He’s got to have a bunch of guys mad at him, taking penalties on him. Not the other way around.”
Red Wings Could Find Places For Ryan, Raymond
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Blashill was making it abundantly clear that it isn’t an either/or scenario when it comes to the opportunities for forwards Bobby Ryan and Lucas Raymond to be making the team.
His indication was that there is a world where they find room for both Ryan – in camp on a pro tryout – and Raymond, the club’s 2020 first-round draft pick, on the 23-player roster to open the NHL regular season.
“We’re always looking for ways to make our team better,” Blashill said. “So I think there’s always a world for that. We’re not going to release somebody or not keep somebody that’s gonna make us way better.
“Whatever that means for the other guys involved, the answer’s yes, there certainly is. If both of them play great and we feel like they’re both gonna help our hockey team be a way better hockey team, then we’ll keep them.”
At the same time, Blashill was making the admission that what they must be seeing from each player in order to grab that spot is an entirely different proposition. Veteran Ryan is needing to show that at 32, he still has enough left in tank to be a difference marker. Meanwhile, the requirement of Raymond, 20, is displaying beyond all doubt that he’s NHL ready and that sprinkling some added seasoning on him at AHL Grand Rapids wouldn’t prove to be more beneficial to the finished product.
“I think there’s a different thought process with Lucas than with Bobby,” Blashill said. “But it doesn’t mean . . . with both, I would say if you play great hockey, you don’t get denied.”
Farmhands Delivering The Goods
Both of Detroit’s goals in the loss came from players who almost certainly will soon be given an assignment to GR. Forward Riley Barber and defenseman Dan Renouf were doing the scoring.
While they won’t be part of the Red Wings per se, that doesn’t mean that these pro veterans won’t be conributing to the growth of the team. They can serve as mentors to the many young prospects who will be playing in GR. As well, in a pinch, they’re capable of filling a role on an NHL roster.
“Both are guys that I think believe that they have NHL in them and want more opportunity with us to show that.,”Blashill said. “I think Barbs, he can score goals. Obviously, that’s a commodity and then you’ve got to work at getting those opportunities at the NHL level. Some of it’s ice time and some of it’s learning how to get open in that situation.
“Danny Renouf did a good job last year in the games he played up in Colorado. He’s with a few guys down there that are battling to be the first call up.”
Deep Cut Coming
While most NHL teams have been cutting and reassigning players to the minor leagues throughout training camp, the Wings have kept almost all their players together in Detroit. Wednesday, they reassigned defenseman Alex Cotton to the WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes and released forward T-Bone Codd and defenseman Mason Ward from amateur tryouts.
Still, they’ve made no moves with any of their pro players, meaning a massive cut will be coming in the next few days. Blashill’s indication was that considering the team’s NHL preseason slate was compact, he thought it best to keep the roster numbers up for as long as possible.
“The schedule is really condensed for us, and we need to keep more bodies longer, to both get looks from an exhibition game standpoint and make sure we have the bodies,”Blashill said. “We’ll see after the next couple of games where everything stands and ultimately, we’ll release guys when the time is appropriate for us.
“We’re not going to worry about what other people do. It’s whatever is appropriate for us.”