Turnovers hinder Red Wings early in season

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill talks to rookie center Dylan Larkin (71) in the second period Tuesday night in Detroit.

Detroit — Sloppy, careless play hasn’t been associated with the way the Red Wings play for many years.

But almost from the start of this young season — and specifically during this six-game stretch — they’ve been a team that’s turned the puck over too often.

And it’s a key reason the Red Wings are sitting with a mediocre record (4-4-1) and in need of turning this tailspin around quickly.

“The biggest thing for us is we have to figure it out in here,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Be better with the puck, better decisions, make sure that we don’t have as many turnovers.”

Tuesday’s statistics were certainly alarming and eye-opening. The Red Wings were credited with 12 giveaways, the Carolina Hurricanes only one.

That went a long way toward the Hurricanes’ 3-1 victory.

“They’ve been a concern most of the year,” coach Jeff Blashill said of the turnovers. “We’re a team that historically in Detroit, and myself as a coach as well, wants to use the ‘pop’ play. By pop I mean pop it to the middle of the ice, go tape to tape. Everybody talks about puck possession, historically it’s been judged on being able to use each other and handle the puck up the ice.

“You’re going to have some turnovers but it’s got to be manageable and we have to get better at it. We’re not good at it.”

Part of the problem can be attributed to execution, or lack thereof. But there’s also mental errors, where mistakes with the puck have been costly and leave everyone wondering what’s going on?

“It’s just mental errors,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said after Tuesday’s loss. “We either tried to do too much or tried to make the right play but we don’t execute. We’ve talked about it. We just have to get better at it.”

And how do the Red Wings do that?

“(Make the) simple play or making the correct play and execute on the play,” Zetterberg said. “We don’t execute as much as we need to do. Some mistakes will happen when you try to do the play and the other player makes a good play.

“But there’s a little bit too many easy mistakes, easy turnovers, and that’s definitely cost us.”

Said Blashill: “It’s a combination (of mental errors execution). Sometimes it’s mental, sometimes it’s confidence. Sometimes it’s the guys away from the puck not doing the right job supporting. We’ll continue to work at it.”

What was especially bothersome for the Red Wings in this latest loss was the fact they didn’t capitalize on Saturday’s impressive rally in Vancouver which resulted in an overtime victory.

There was a belief heading into the Carolina game that the Vancouver win would be a sort of springboard for better days.

Instead, the turnovers, the continued lack of offense, and general mediocrity — goaltending being the Red Wings’ only strong suit these days — continues.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” forward Luke Glendening said. “It’s not what any of us wanted, what of any of us had in mind. With that being said, we’ve got to find a way to put the puck in the net, to keep it out of ours, and to stop turning the puck over.

“We’ve really got to clean up our game.”

One thing is for sure: the Red Wings aren’t the team they want to be right now.

“We got to continue to get better,” Blashill said. “We’re not good enough right now. We got to get better, find ways to generate offense without giving much up. We still have lots of work to do.”