Red Wings not going anywhere without better defense

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Mike Green prepares for a forecheck during the Red Wings' loss on Thursday night.

Sunrise, Fla. – It’s pretty simple: The Red Wings must play better defensively if they want to be successful this season.

Against Tampa Bay in the regular-season opener Thursday night, the Red Wings didn’t show the improvement in their defensive performance they feel they can demonstrate.

Coach Jeff Blashill made a point of refocusing the importance of sound defense the past couple days.

“You can’t allow easy chances against,” Blashill said. “A lot of it honestly wasn’t systematic. We allowed breakaways and outnumbered rushes on poor decisions.

“We’ve got to make sure to clean it up.”

Penalties were a factor, allowing Tampa some key power plays it capitalized on, and that sort of undisciplined play can’t happen, either, for a team to be successful.

“We have to make sure to have better detail in our game,” Blashill said. “We lost our detail, especially in terms of discipline.”

Blashill tweaked both his forward lines and defensive pairings heading into Saturday night’s game against the Florida Panthers.

“We didn’t necessarily give up a lot of chances in our defensive zone but we spent too much time in our defensive zone,” Blashill said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re faster in our defensive zone.”

Among the defense, Blashill paired Danny DeKeyser with Mike Green and put together Brendan Smith and Alexey Marchenko.

“I’m just trying to find the right balance, the right chemistry among our defense,” Blashill said. “We haven’t given Green and DeKeyser a lot of time together. It was something we thought about when we signed Green, but he hasn’t had a whole lot of time with him (DeKeyser).

“Danny’s more than just a Steady Eddie, but you have a steadier guy with a rush-type guy in Green and you have a steadier guy in Marchey with a rush-type guy in Smith.

“That doesn’t mean that Marchey and Danny can’t be up the ice because they certainly can. It kind of balances that out a little bit.”

Tatar confident

Blashill and Tomas Tatar are both confident Tatar will expand on a fine World Cup of Hockey tournament into the regular season.

“Last year was frustrating for him,” Blashill said. “Having a good start in the World Cup helps him, helps everybody, to score and gain that kind of confidence, and to have that kind of fun and team success that they (Team Europe) had.

“He’s a guy that wants team success a ton. It was a good springboard.”

Team Europe wasn’t supposed to be a threat in the tournament, what with a collection of players from eight different countries. But the team meshed under coach Ralph Krueger and made the finals before losing to Canada.

Tatar had three goals on 16 shots in six World Cup games.

“It was awesome,” said Tatar of the experience. “The whole tournament, I had trust in the coach, the team did great, we were confident and we played together.

“It was just fun to be in the locker room. We played calm, and we talked in the locker room to do what was better (for the team).”

Ice chips

Forward Steve Ott and defenseman Ryan Sproul were healthy scratches Saturday night. Blashill would like to get the young Sproul into the lineup soon, if possible.

“I want to see what Sproul can do,” Blashill said. “We’d hate to have him sit here, if he’s better than one of the other options we have. I’m of the belief Sproul’s skill set is really good if he can play similar to how he played in the preseason. He can have a good impact. We’ll make that decision as we go along.”

… Blashill, like most everyone around the NHL, marvels that Florida’s Jaromir Jagr continues to excel, though he’ll be 45 in February.

“He’s one of the elite players of all time,” Blashill said. “He is so strong on the puck, and for his age to continue what he’s doing is awesome. It’s amazing, the career he’s had, and it’s due to how hard he works.”

Twitter @tkulfan