April 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Gregg Krupa

Ugly Wings loss is no reason to fret

Detroit -- Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay were all in the building Sunday. Perhaps the Red Wings' mistake was not dressing the second version of their fabled Production Line.

The trio of octogenarians might have had more get up and go on this early Easter afternoon than the 20- and-30-somethings on the Wings' roster.

Cheap shot though that may be, the Red Wings were probably self-inflicting similar insults as they mostly retreated into the deeper caverns of their dressing room after an ugly-as-sin 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

It was a game broadcast nationally on Howe's 85th birthday.

By the way, no truth to the rumor Mr. Howe was seen after the game throwing elbows outside the Blackhawks dressing room, hoping to get inside to avenge the loss.

He might have given it some thought, though, especially with Lindsay riding shotgun for him Sunday.

"It was embarrassing at times," said Niklas Kronwall, who was minus-4 Sunday and minus-10 for the season. "We just weren't playing hockey from the start, whatsoever, today."

Remember the 6-0 debacle in the season opening loss to the Blues? The Red Wings played similarly, two-and-a-half months later.

Scary for the fans still worried about the 21-year playoff run and the Wings current roost in seventh place in the Western Conference?

Oh, you betcha! Nightmare scary, this one.

The previous nine games against the Chicagoans were all decided by one goal, including twin 2-1 losses in a shootout and in overtime this season, against the best team in the Western Conference.

Many around the NHL have been calling that shootout loss March 3 in Detroit the best game played this season, by any teams.

The facts of the matter are this one came out of nowhere after two highly successful road trips to western Canada and the West Coast, and the Red Wings mostly have played the contending teams in the conference fairly even, or better, this season.

Searching for answers

Was it the late scratch of Henrik Zetterberg, who reportedly has a tender groin and could not go after the warmup?

Was it some distraction owing to Howe's birthday?

The dreaded first game home after a long, successful road trip?

The early start, after four consecutive games in Pacific Daylight Time on the West Coast?

Each is an excuse, and the sort of rationalizing NHL players are trained to reject.

The fact of the matter is the Red Wings stank. Their goaltenders were both brutal. Their structure on defense was no structure, at all, at times. And, when they had some chances, they failed to capitalize on them, until Cory Emmerton scored into the wide-open left side of the Blackhawks' net with 33 seconds left.

"Well, ugly is an understatement," a subdued Mike Babcock said afterwards.

What to do?

Frankly, I would take the advice of New Yorkers, when they throw up their hands and say, "Fuhgettaboudit!"

Translated for folks from Michigan and nearby Ontario, that is: "Forget about it!"

With the roster in a state of flux throughout this season and affected by a host of injuries, which continue to occur, this Red Wings team is inconsistent.

Their margin for error is so small that when they stink, it produces games like a 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks, the 6-0 loss to the Blues, or even the 3-0 loss to the Blue Jackets on March 9.

They lack the firepower to account for bad goaltending and bad defensive efforts.

But with a quarter of the season left after their game Monday against the Avalanche, the fact is the Red Wings are .500 or better against five of the other seven playoff qualifiers in the Western Conference.

They are 2-1 against the Ducks, 2-0 with a 13-5 goal margin against the Canucks, 1-1 against the Kings and outscoring them 4-3, 1-1 against the Sharks and 2-1-1 against the Blues.

The Wild has them down, 1-2. But the Red Wings have only one fewer goal in the meetings than Minnesota.

And they are now 0-1-2 against the Blackhawks, including this Easter Sunday massacre and two well-played one-goal losses.

Ups, downs expected

Expect some more bad ones, along the way, over the last 19 games and, if they qualify, even in the playoffs.

Their roster probably dictates it.

But they are capable of playing well enough to make the playoffs and inflict some damage when they get there.

And that may be all they should remember, when they wake up today.

gkrupa@detroitnews.com

The Red Wings hardly resembled a team that is on a 21-season playoff run in their lackluster 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks Sunday. / David Guralnick/Detroit News