Detroit — Players making frequent mistakes, and teammates frequently compounding the error by overadjusting.
Beyond Dylan Larkin, almost no one pressing the issue much at all, anywhere on the ice.
A team that must be at its best to win instead, by the players’ own admission, embarrassed the organization against their greatest historic rival.
After six games without a win, five of them at home, the Red Wings flew to Montreal and lost to the Montreal Canadiens 10-1 on Saturday.
It looked worse. A game analysis is easy to prepare, and difficult to swallow.
A step or two slow, clumsy, inept, the Wings were woeful.
Of course, bad bounces and misfortune helped doom them. But they authored their own demise.
Paul Byron of the Canadiens began the devastation 5:22 in, after an awkward bounce left three Red Wings flat-footed behind the forward at his own blue line. Gone like the wind, he deftly beat Petr Mrazek on a breakaway.
Moments later, after absorbing a check from the Canadiens’ Daniel Carr, Anthony Mantha gave the puck away.
Xavier Ouellet moved out of his defensive position to help Mantha.
When Mike Green moved out of his defensive position to help Ouellet, Nicolas Deslauriers, a Canadiens’ forward, moved to where Green would have been.
Having received the puck from Mantha, Carr gave it to Byron Froese, who found Deslauriers, and all of sudden cross-ice movement left Mrazek out to dry.
On one goal against, Niklas Kronwall had trouble turning to cover and advancing on one goal. It looked like the infirmity of his knees left him lagging.
On another, Nick Jensen tripped himself, the front of his skate blade toe-picking into the ice.
Mike Green could not seem to help himself defensively all night. He and Trevor Daley, brought on to help steady the wonky ship on the back end, were -4 for the game; Mantha, too.
On the entire roster, only Jensen, Jonathan Ericsson and Danny DeKeyser were as good as -1.
Forwards were continuously at least a step slow to support the defensemen in the Red Wings zone. They never mounted a forecheck.
Obvious throughout The Debacle on Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal, which I viewed on TV: The weaknesses of the roster.
Despite the protestations on the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast from Jeff Blashill, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader that there is enough talent in the room to win regularly, the notion seems dubious.
It has seemed that way for a few seasons.
Character brought them their last playoff spot. It made the last 20 games they played last season somewhat more respectable.
An admirable trait it is, especially among players like Zetterberg, Kronwall, Abdelkader, Larkin and Jimmy Howard. But is not enough for the Red Wings to save themselves.
They simply are not very good.
And when they rise above and suddenly seem like they might be, they demonstrate their inability to sustain it.
“We need to go on a run.”
For certain, for at least two seasons, now.
“We are better than this.”
If so, the evidence is weak.
Since the start of the season they have gone 4-1, 0-5-1, 6-2-1 and 0-4-3. They are consistently inconsistent.
In some ways, the ability of Zetterberg, Kronwall and Abdelkader to remain articulate during the painful postgame interviews on the broadcast provided the best performance of the evening by the men in white and red.
Their profound embarrassment threatened to yield to stupefaction at any moment, and they could not have been blamed had they lapsed.
Seeking an explanation for such remarkable ineptitude, they managed.
Zetterberg and Abdelkader categorically asserted they had just played the worst hockey in which they had ever participated.
Kronwall barely controlled his fury. He clipped his words and seemed to utter as few as possible, lest he stray and say regrettable things, however accurate they may be.
“You know, you think back to the Vancouver game,” he said. “I thought that was embarrassing. This, another level.”
But amid all the talk of “looking at ourselves in the mirror” one wonders what they will find.
It might be three seasons, when Andreas Athanasiou and Mantha are 26 and Larkin is 24, before there is enough talent and star power back on the roster to produce lineups that can win with consistency.
It might take longer. Sometimes these things do.