Grosse Pointe Woods — Has Dylan Larkin hit a wall?
You likely need a little longer body of work, but in the last 10 games he has only one point (a goal) and hasn’t gotten a point in the last five games.
He has a minus-7 rating in the last 10 games, a statistic where Larkin once led the NHL in earlier this season — and still leads the Red Wings with a plus-19.
This time last year, Larkin was finishing his freshman season in the Big Ten at Michigan, playing games on weekends and practicing during the week.
The NHL, with its 82-game schedule, grinding road schedule and seemingly a game every other night, is a huge difference.
But Larkin insists the grind isn’t an issue.
“I do feel every time, I’m always excited about coming to the rink,” Larkin said. “It’s hockey and I love playing it. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing. I like being on the road, the travel has been awesome.
“I don’t feel a grind at all.”
Some players might be squeezing the stick during a slump like this, even veteran players who’ve gone through a similar slump.
But Larkin, still a leading candidate for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year), insists the lack of points is getting to him.
“I don’t think it’s squeezing the stick, I hold the stick to play hockey and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Larkin said. “I’m not much worrying about it.
“I could be shooting more. I’ve been passing up a lot. I need to shoot a little more and try to focus on that and see how that goes.
“I’m not stressed about goals. Myself, I’ve overachieved for what my expectations were. It’s just a little of a bonus (scoring goals), so I’m going to try and shoot the puck more and try to create more offense and have more patience.”
Coach Jeff Blashill has paired Larkin with fellow speedster Andreas Athanasiou on a line centered by Brad Richards.
Blashill feels the speed Larkin brings to a game can have an impact, even if Larkin doesn’t appear on the scoresheet.
“What Dylan can bring, even on nights he doesn’t score, is his speed, backing teams off,” said Blashill, who feels Larkin’s current slump can be expected during a long season. “I just think it’s the ebb and flow of the season. Everybody goes through ups and downs. Pavel (Datsyuk) and Z (Henrik Zetterberg) were hot when we put them together and then there was a stretch they didn’t score.
“It’s just the reality of it. You can’t be hot the entire season. I actually think Dylan has looked real good the last couple of games.”
Defenseman Brendan Smith has been a healthy scratch the last three games.
But judging from Thursday’s practice at Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett it appears Smith could be drawing back into the lineup Sunday in Chicago.
“You’re always disappointed when you don’t get called in and you can’t play,” Smith said. “That’s just like anybody, if you don’t get the job, you’re frustrated.
“So what do you do to get that back? You work hard and try to do your best to get that job back.”
Blashill insists it wasn’t Smith’s performance that nudged him out of the lineup, but simply being the odd man out of a deep defensive corps.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of what he needs to do better,” Blashill said. “I didn’t think it was a matter of what he did wrong. I’ve got seven NHL defenseman and I can only play six. We’re splitting hairs as to who goes in, and who goes out (of the lineup).”