Even television analyst Mickey Redmond can’t believe what he is seeing from the Detroit Red Wings. He made it clear that he finds the Red Wings’ performance level unacceptable. The mess is growing. The hole they are digging seems wider and deeper. Embarrassment is rising.
With an 11-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Red Wings now have given up 10 or more twice this season. That hasn’t happened to the franchise in 37 years.
The Red Wings have given up seven or more goals nine times this season. They now have surrendered three or more goals in the third period an NHL-worst 14 times.
They are now last in the NHL with a 3.80 goals-against average
“We can’t play like that,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “We can’t show up like that for the rest of the season here. It’s gonna get worse. We’re gonna get embarrassed every night. We got a couple of days here to figure that out. We just can’t show up like that and not be prepared and not have the will to compete and fight back. Can’t show up like that.”
Here are five takeaways:
Disconnect with coaches?
Larkin was asked directly whether that was the case.
Said Larkin: “No, we’re all in this together – coaches, training staff, players – we’re all in this together. We got a lot of young players that haven’t been in this position before and we don’t want those young players to be in that position again. The focus has been what are we going to do to get better so it doesn’t happen? Something’s gotta gotta give and something’s gotta . . . it starts with the players. That’s my message back to you.”
Blashill was asked whether he was worried the coaching staff isn’t getting through to the players.
“No, I’m not necessarily … at the end of the day, none of us were good enough tonight, us, them,” Blashill said. “To me, you battle through this stuff together, so we’re going to have to battle through this together.”
The Red Wings poor defensive coverage has been an issue all season. But it has been worse in the second half of the season. Since Jan. 21, they have given up five or more goals in 13 of their 26 games. They lead the NHL in giving up dangerous scoring chances.
“Ultimately, as a group, we haven’t been nearly good enough, obviously,” Blashill said. “So we all go to look in the mirror and we all got to figure out how in the next however many games we have left now to allow this to happen. If you check well, you’re in games and if you don’t check well and you’re off your game, you get crushed. And that’s what’s going on right now.”
Who’s fault is it?
Everybody is at fault. It’s not just the defense, although you can expect that GM Steve Yzerman will rebuild the defense this offseason. It’s not just the goaltending, although it hasn’t been as good as the Red Wings hoped it would be. When you review the Pittsburgh scoresheet, the Red Wings minuses were shared evenly.
Fans blame Blashill’s coaching. Yzerman is expected to address that after the season. He has not tipped his hand, but a change seems likely.
It seems to be a mental issue. They give up an early goal, and quickly the situation snowballs. Larkin isn’t sure why.
“I don’t know,” Larkin said. “They just go in and they go in in bunches. Breakdowns, pucks going in, it’s just everything. It’s just when it rains it pours in that category.”
The Red Wings have to find something to play for. Maybe it’s as simple as playing to be on the team next season.
“It could be different for every person,” Larkin said. “It could be your role on the team next year, it could be building towards next year. That’s my main focus is building for next year. The trade deadline was a stressful time. It’s stressful for everyone but it’s past and we have to settle in, we have to find a way to start forming an identity here down toward the end of the season and play for something. And for me it’s playing for next year to make sure we’re not in this position again.”
Long Way to Go
Yzerman warned everyone that the rebuild would take a lengthy period. He has hit a grand slam on his first three first-round picks (Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond and Simon Edvinsson) and still the Red Wings are a long way from contending.
Nothing brings that home more than the loss to the Penguins. That team is a veteran team with a proper blend of superstars and role players. Evgeni Malkin was sick Friday and Saturday and came back to register three goals and an assist against Detroit. Sidney Crosby had three points. Teddy Blueger had three points. They have the roster and compete level the Red Wings need.
Yzerman has been right about a lot in this rebuild, especially about how long it was going to take.