Red Wings finding it a chore to score
Detroit — The one play, in a snapshot, pretty much symbolizes what the Red Wings are going through these days.
In the first period Wednesday Pavel Datsyuk had a wide-open net against the St. Louis Blues — and hit a post, the puck tumbling away from an open net.
The Red Wings can’t score right now. It doesn’t matter if it’s the offensively gifted Datsyuk, or anybody else.
Goals are difficult to come by.
“Pavel would score 999 out of 1,000 times,” forward Gustav Nyquist said of the play. “But right now, the puck isn’t going in for the team. Not just one player, it’s a lot of players that aren’t scoring right now.
“It’s not a good formula, obviously. We all have to bear down and find a way to score.”
The Red Wings have scored one goal in each of the last two games and lost them both — albeit Sunday’s game was a shootout loss to the Flyers.
Statistically, the numbers bear out the power outage.
The Red Wings have scored more than two goals only twice in the last 11 games and have scored 20 goals total in that span.
Five times in those last 11 the Red Wings have scored one single goal.
They have scored more than two goals in only 20 of the 46 games this season.
It doesn’t get much better when ranked against everyone else in the NHL.
The Red Wings have 111 goals, which ranks them 22nd.
Their 2.41 goals-for average puts them 23rd.
By any measure, the Red Wings need to get out of their offensive slumber.
“We want to score just a little bit more,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We think we’ve defended well. We’ve scored enough to win a good amount of games here in the last little bit. But we’d like to score a little bit more, just like everybody else.”
The obstacles facing the Red Wings are the same as for every other team.
Goaltending is at its heyday, with more elite goaltenders occupying nets around the league than at any point in league history.
Also, coaching staffs are devising more defensive schemes to stall offenses.
“It’s funny, I talked to (Tampa Bay coach) Jon Coooper on the way home last night and he was talking about the fact he probably teaches more defense than he ever has,” Blashill said. “The difference in talent here (in the NHL) is minimal and if you don’t play good defense, you have no chance.
“Every coach is making sure they’re coaching good defensively.”
Teams are putting an emphasis on penalty killing, too, which makes power plays that much more valuable.
The Red Wings ranked 15th on the power play with an 18.1 percent success rate, smack in the middle of the league rankings.
“When you have a man-advantage you have to put points on the board,” defenseman Brendan Smith said, and the Red Wings did Wednesday, their only goal against the Blues a Henrik Zetterberg power-play goal. “That’s something that will give us a spark. It’s helped us in the past. There’s puck luck, but you have to create that by getting more shots.”
There are other factors pushing offense down around the NHL.
Primarily because of better equipment, and increased emphasis on defending, players are blocking shots at an increased rate.
The Red Wings talk often about getting shots at the net, but simply getting them through these days is difficult when defenders are laying out and blocking numerous shots.
“That’s a hockey thing in general right now, blocking shots,” Zetterberg said. “It’s hard to get them (shots) through, so you just have to make sure when you have a clear chance, you put those away, because you aren’t going to get many in a game.”
Blashill saw a ray of hope after the loss against the Blues.
The hope is the offense will pick up post All-Star break with the collection of personnel the Red Wings have that has produced offense in the past (Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Mike Green, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm).
“We need to keep playing the way we played (Wednesday),” Blashill said. “We have to keep defending well and we have to find a way to score a little bit more.
How do you find a way? You hit the net more and you continue to have a net presence for 60 minutes and you win the second-chance battles.”
Red Wings at Sabres
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Friday, First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
Outlook: The Sabres (19-24-4, 42 points) are coming off a 2-1 loss in Colorado. ... C Ryan O’Reilly (17 goals, 40 points) is leading in scoring, with rookie C Jack Eichel (14 goals, 30 points) coming on lately.