When Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin was asked about the struggling penalty kill, Larkin summed it up by referring to the chaos that is throwing Detroit for a loop.
“I think teams are starting to get a sense of what works against us,” Larkin said. “We are having trouble with what we call the sifters on the top – the pucks just being floated in and creating chaos.
“The chaos kind of gets us out of our structure. When that is happening right now, we have to find a way to take a deep breath (and) sort it out quicker than we are. We are letting one thing happen and then we kind of get off our routes and then a lot of things open up for the power play.”
The chaos, though, has extended beyond the penalty kill. If there’s ever a Christmas wish that the Red Wings and their fans would agree on, it’s getting through the chaos that has led to a five-game losing streak.
Injuries Have Piled Up for the Red Wings
Larkin won’t use it as an excuse and neither will the organization. Injuries occur throughout the league and certainly at the most inopportune times. But Detroit’s bad luck, losing Tyler Bertuzzi to not one hand injury but two, has been hitting the players they were counting on for offense.
NHL injury visualization. Man games lost to injuries and health protocols versus team wins. Bubble size represents cumulative quality of players lost for games (Lost-ps metric) pic.twitter.com/IRcczGvr8Y
— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) December 16, 2022
With the injury bug biting hard, it has taken a chunk out of Detroit’s early season momentum. Choas had reigned from not only the penalty kill woes, but in man games lost, and a recent flurry of pucks in their own net.
Detroit has surrendered 19 goals in its last five games and in some stretches, looked close in performance to the team that spiraled last season around this time. It’s not a cause for concern–yet–but it’s certainly a trend no one wearing the Winged Wheel wants to see.
“It’s been very difficult with all of the injuries,” Larkin said. “It seems we will get some guys back. This month is tough. We are on the road a lot. Some tough places to play. We had a good trip, but coming off that trip we haven’t played our game yet.”
Detroit Must Find a Way to Stop the Chaos
It isn’t as if Detroit hasn’t been close during the five-game slide. The Wings dropped one goal games to both Dallas and Carolina, and held a couple leads against Ottawa. But the final product didn’t result in a win.
“I think early in the year we were getting the big save at the right time, the big kill, the big goal. Right now, it’s not happening for us,” Larkin said. “We have to find a way to get that back, whether it’s someone scoring a big goal, a big hit or a big fight that changes the game, whatever it may be.”
Those moments have been few and far between. Larkin’s absence after getting hurt in the Carolina game contributed to Detroit’s lack of offense in the third period. Against Minnesota, losing Filip Hronek with Larkin already being out practically doomed Detroit from the onset.
Before that game, 51 of Detroit’s 234 registered points were from Larkin and Hronek, accounting for 22% of the points. Scratch them from a game and it leaves quite the hole.
But the chaos has not been as telling as the Red Wings getting away from what worked for them in the past. As Detroit plays out a trio of contests before a little break for the Christmas holiday, all they really want for Christmas is a return to the form that led to success such as recent as the victory over Tampa Bay two weeks ago.
“We just have to find a way to get it back,” Larkin said. “And I think it starts with just a solid 60-minute effort against Washington. Maybe a 2-1 or 1-0 game where we get two points and we get that good feeling back.”
Getting that good feeling back would make for a Merry Christmas in Motown.