The day after waiving veteran defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who had become the symbol of their season-long defensive struggles, the Detroit Red Wings suffered their most lopsided loss of the season.
The Arizona Coyotes, the NHL’s lowest-scoring team, shellacked the Red Wings 9-2. The Coyotes took advantage of leaky goaltending and shaky defensive play to record their largest margin of victory this season. Nick Schmaltz followed his seven-point game against Ottawa with a four-point effort against Detroit.
“I thought yesterday in practice we practiced hard,” Coach Jeff Blashill said. “We were physical on each other, battled and didn’t do that tonight. Just didn’t skate at all. We got skated all over the ice. You got no chance to have success when you’re like that.”
The Red Wings have now lost five of their last six games and given up 36 goals in those six games. That’s a 6.00 goals-against average.
This was Detroit’s worst game of the season. The Coyotes own the NHL’s worst record and rank last in scoring (2.38) and 28th in goals-against average (3.58). The compete level, which Blashill has talked about all season, wasn’t there.
This was the 22nd time in 57 games (38.5%) the Red Wings have given up five or more goals. “If we feel sorry for ourselves this is just going to keep happening,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said.
The Red Wings started to score 3.5 goals per game for a while. Now they have five goals in the last three games.
“I’m concerned about all of us,” Blashill said. “I think everybody’s got to look in the mirror and has to be better – the players, the coaches, everybody. I wouldn’t single any area of particular concern. I’d say everybody. We got to defend better, we got to be way harder. We got to be way harder to play against. Everyone’s got to do a better job.”
Nobody can blame DeKeyser for this one. He’s off the roster and on the injured list. Both Detroit goalies played, and neither was sharp. Detroit’s best players were among their worst performers. Lucas Raymond and Larkin were both -5. Gus Lindstrom was -6. Nick Leddy was -4. Robby Fabbri scored a goal and was -4.
“The puck just kept going in,” Larkin said. “There wasn’t much communication. That’s on us.”
At one point, the Red Wings were within six points of a wildcard playoff spot. Now they are 15 points behind the Washington Capitals.
“There was optimism,” Larkin said. “And we are going to have to find that again or the last month and a half or two months is going to be miserable.”
Home fans started to boo after Detroit gave up the fifth goal. “Hard to blame them at all,” Blashill said.
Blashill has said all season that the home fans have contributed to the Red Wings’ success at home. On Thursday, fans clearly didn’t like what they were seeing.
“It’s frustrating,” Larkin said. “You don’t want to hear that. But the performance tonight was worthy of the boos…I don’t agree with someone throwing their jersey on the ice. But we show up like that at home we are going to get booed.”
The lone ray of sun sunshine for the Red Wings on a gloomy night was Jakub Vrana scoring in his first game this season. He’s been out since last fall because of shoulder surgery. He didn’t appear to have any trouble with the shoulder.
Vrana posted four hits and three shots on goal.
“For the first game back in a long time, I thought he looked good,” Blashill said.
Leddy’s Stock Dropping
At the beginning of this season, the expectation was the Red Wings might regain the second-round pick they gave up for Leddy by dealing him at the trade deadline.
But Leddy hasn’t played well this season. His defensive coverage is lacking and his offensive production isn’t where it has been in the past. Plus-minus can be very misleading. But Leddy’s plus-minus is -32. No other Detroit defenseman is close to him.
Now it seems as if a third-round pick might be the objective, particularly given that most teams have little cap room. It’s possible the Red Wings won’t be able to move him.