Blashill blames leaky 'D' for latest Wings' loss

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Montreal, Quebec — The goaltenders aren’t stopping pucks, but they’re not getting a lot of help from teammates in front of them.

Montreal Canadiens' David Desharnais (51) is pushed into Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard as Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader (8) and Kyle Quincey (27) defend during the first period.

It makes for a difficult combination, one that likely doesn’t win many games, and it hasn’t for the Red Wings.

Tuesday’s 4-3 loss in Montreal was the latest disheartening loss, one that kept the Red Wings out of playoff positioning with only five regular-season games left.

Goalie Petr Mrazek started but was pulled after allowing two first period goals — coach Jeff Blashill said the move was to change momentum — and replaced by Jimmy Howard, who was sharp until allowing two third-period goals.

But Blashill felt it was his team’s loose defensive structure that contributed to the loss more than goaltending.

Red Wings squander lead in third, fall to Canadiens

“We weren’t tight enough, we have to be tighter than that defensively,” said Blashill of the third-period letdown. “We had some opportunities to make it a two-goal lead (for the Red Wings), but we didn’t. We have to be tighter than that defensively.”

Howard had to make a pair of other big saves as the third period progressed to keep the game within a goal for the Red Wings.

The Red Wings have allowed at least four goals in three of their last five games — 17 goals total in those three losses — and now rank 18th allowing 2.69 goals per game.

It hasn’t helped that either Mrazek or Howard has completely grabbed hold of the starting job.

Mrazek, in particular, has fallen considerably from a stretch in January and February where he ranked among the league leaders.

Mrazek was 21-10-5 with a 1.94 GAA and .933 save percentage with four shutouts in his first 38 games.

But over the last 15 games, Mrazek is 6-6-1 with a ghastly 3.53 GAA and .884 save percentage and he’s been pulled three of his last four starts.

“I wanted to make the change for momentum,” said Blashill of replacing Mrazek Tuesday. “At that point we needed some momentum difference. He made two big saves, but I wanted to change momentum.”

As for Howard, Blashill said. “he did a good job. He made some big saves. Again, I didn’t think we were as tight as we needed to be and he made some big saves when we he needed to.”

The Red Wings didn’t practice Wednesday and Blashill didn’t speculate after the Montreal loss as to who would start Friday’s game against Minnesota.

But with so few games left, and all of them so vital, one goalie needs to step up for the Red Wings to have a chance at the playoffs.

“We’re going to need whoever plays Friday to play great,” Blashill said.

Red-hot power play
For much of the season the Red Wings’ power play has been a major disappointment.

Not anymore. The Red Wings have scored a power plaly goal in six consecutive games — all three goals Tuesday were power plays — and are 9-for-20 during that six-game stretch.

“We’re getting pucks to the net,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’re getting there and getting some puck luck, and the puck is going in.”
Twitter: @tkulfan