Forward Joe Veleno couldn’t have summed it up any better following the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
“We’ve got to find a way to win these close games,” Veleno told Bally Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson. “We knew how big this game was for us. We had it there for a split second. Obviously unfortunate. I think we did a lot of good things but just an unfortunate loss. We’re all pretty disappointed tonight.”
Head coach Derek Lalonde sees the frustration as a by product of a team giving its all.
“I think the frustration is there because the the effort is there,” Lalonde said postgame on Bally Sports Detroit. “The want and the will is there from the group. It’s just managing our game a little bit better.”
I am happy to hear that the Red Wings' players expressed their frustration and aggravation in losing this one to coach Lalonde. That's what you want to hear. Not resignation to being mediocre.
Even if you are thoroughly mediocre, which the Wings are! You want some hunger, still!
— George Malik (@georgemalik) January 18, 2023
Red Wings Frustrated but Not Panicking
At exactly 43 games last season, the Red Wings were 18-19-6. The free fall wouldn’t happen until another month later, and they would head into the offseason hoping for lottery luck once more.
Fortunes seemed different in November, a team retooled with more battle tested veterans and a goalie in Ville Husso who’d stolen several games. They played faster, brasher, and sat in a playoff spot at the important Thanksgiving marker.
Months later, they’re six points out of a playoff spot. Frustration, not panic, is how they describe it. They had Arizona on the ropes twice but couldn’t put them away for good. After two goals in the third, they handed them back along with the momentum. Detroit skated out of trouble in regulation, but watched Arizona own puck possession in overtime.
The compete was there. But it wasn’t enough when they needed it most.
“Loved our effort. Obviously probably got a little tired in the third there, which is understandable in back to backs,” Lalonde said. “We competed extremely hard. Ran into a really good goalie tonight. A little unfortunate with not being able to finish. The way we played tonight and three goals on the road should be enough.”
At Some Point, Detroit Has to Win Against Beatable Teams
Arizona entered the game on a nine-game losing streak. Mullen Arena was packed with Red Wings fans, creating a more partisan crowd than most visiting teams are used to enjoying. The odds were in their favor. The result wasn’t.
Against Columbus, the Blue Jackets skated into Little Caesars Arena winners in only two of their previous fourteen games. Just twenty minutes in, they enjoyed a 3-0 lead. Columbus would hold on for a 4-3 win.
For a team trying to move past a rebuild, two losses against two teams in the tanking category is hardly the way to achieve it. Yes, it’s a league built on parity and one that can see the poorer team pull a rabbit out of its hat every now and then.
But in a tough stretch where Detroit has played contenders and lost, the wins coming against the poorer teams become paramount.
Last season’s edition ended with 74 points, and for all intents and purposes, exceeding that is certainly a step in the right direction. After all, the East has a number of contenders and a playoff spot may mean at least 100 points again–like last season.
100 points seems a tough ask in light of the recent returns. Detroit is 7-12-4 since that Thanksgiving marker when they were 11-5-4. It’s certainly not something to sew discouragement–it’s just the reality.
Lalonde believes it’s as simple as moving forward.
“Stay at it. Anytime you go on the road you want as many points as games,” he said to Trevor Thompson post game. “We still have that opportunity. We win in Vegas we get three points in three games. Then It’s a solid road trip.”
“Obviously we have to turn the page here,” Veleno said post game. “We’ve got a day off ahead of us and we gotta go into Vegas and put on our best performance. We have to win the road trip and we still have a chance to do that.”
As Lalonde said, the want and will is there.
But will the wins finally follow?