Following an impressive 2-0-1 start to the season, the Detroit Red Wings fell completely flat in Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the previously-winless Calgary Flames.
Captain Dylan Larkin was citing their performance as unemotional.
“Calgary, they were way more desperate than we were,” Larkin said.
Coach Jeff Blashill opted to be describing it as lacking in energy.
Here’s another adjective that’s certainly applicable – unacceptable. And it better end right here, right now.
This an all-too-familiar scenario with the Red Wings under Blashill. They begin decently, offering hope that there’s a corner about to be turned. However, it all turns out to be nothing more than an illusion.
The storylines evolving during Thursday’s debacle against the Flames were also easily recognizable. The inability to capitalize on chances. A failure to click on the power play. Detroit is 0-for-7 with the man advantage the past two games. There was complete and utter dominance by an opponent in the Red Wings zone.
“We didn’t have the same level of energy that we’ve had, especially in the third period,” was Blashill’s assessment of their performance.
It has to stop and it must stop immediately. This is a huge weekend for the Red Wings. They are playing back-to-back games against winless NHL clubs. It’s a real chance to make hay – or for the season to begin to go haywire.
Red Wings Can’t Afford Another Flame Out
Last season, the Red Wings came to Game 5 of the campaign in an almost identical scenario. They were 2-2. They’ve also won two and lost two thus far, albeit one loss coming in overtime, leaving them with a 2-1-1 slate.
A 3-2 loss at Chicago ended up launching an eight-game losing skid. Their season was, for all intents and purposes, over.
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) October 22, 2021
In 2019-20, the Wings were 3-1 when they lost eight in a row. Their 4-1 launch to the 2017-18 campaign was undone by a six-game slide. A six-game losing run followed a 5-2 beginning to the season in 2016-17.
They need to put a halt to uninspiring performances like Thursday’s game before it festers and turns another Red Wings season into a trainwreck.
“It’s not just this start but we have to look at the first 10-15-20 games,” Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi said. “We just need to play good hockey and try to have a winning record and just build from there.”
Where Was The Response?
During the first period, Flames agitator Matthew Tkachuk was at it again. He just seems to know how to get under the skin of the Red Wings.
Tkachuk responded to some mutual bumping by delivering a slash to the back of the legs of Red Wings rookie forward Lucas Raymond. Raymond went to the ice in a heap before hobbling to the bench. Tkachuk paid no penalty for his illegal act – from the game officials in terms of a penalty, or from any Red Wings players in the form of retribution.
To a man, Wings players are talking about how this team is sticking up for each other. They boast of the chemistry and the bonding within their dressing room.
“We have a tight-knit group in our locker room, all good buddies and we look after each other on and off the ice,” Bertuzzi said. “That’s just what happens when you’re so close in the locker room, building chemistry and doing it the right way.”
This certainly was in evidence through the first three games but wasn’t showing on Thursday. There needed to be some sort of response to Tkachuk, letting him and everyone else know that messing with the Red Wings’ kids isn’t alright.
Opportunity Knocking For Red Wings
One poor performance isn’t cause for crisis. The Red Wings are being presented with an ideal scenario this weekend to right the ship and get going again in the proper direction.
They go back-to-back with the NHL’s two remaining winless clubs – at Montreal on Saturday and in Chicago on Sunday.
The Blackhawks are 0-4-1, have been outscored 17-3 at 5-on-5, and get booed off the ice for the second straight game. pic.twitter.com/ACEbxbIQFp
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 22, 2021
The Canadiens are a dismal 0-5. They’ve scored only four goals while allowing 19. Chicago is 0-4-1. The Blackhawks were booed off the ice following Thursday’s 4-1 home-ice loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Chicago has been outscored 17-3 five-on-five.
“They’re going to be fighting and scratching and clawing for everything they get,” Larkin said of the Habs and Hawks. “We have to go in there with the same attitude and be more desperate or match their desperation.”
These are the games the good teams lock down. They put a figurative boot on the throat of their struggling oppoent, snuff the life out of them and skate happily away with the two points.
The Red Wings will make a significant statement on exactly who they are as a hockey team by their performance this weekend.