Miscues too often put Red Wings behind eight ball
Detroit — They do not score enough to make so many mistakes.
If they made fewer, they would likely score more.
Mix in a devastating number of injuries on a rebuilding roster and the worst power play in the NHL, and standing 26th in a league of 30, as the Red Wings did entering play Tuesday, is the result.
The Wings have lost 30 games in regulation in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990 and 1991.
On Friday, the Blackhawks more offensive, freer style was a better match for the Red Wings, who beat one of the Stanley Cup contenders 4-2. The Rangers’ interest in occupying territory, in the neutral zone and especially in front of their net, is all about limiting an opponent.
And that marked play in the Wings’ 4-1 loss Sunday.
But their biggest problem was mistakes.
After playing one of their cleaner games, against Chicago, the Wings were faulty against New York.
The obvious evidence was the increase in odd-man rushes allowed, and less offense.
Jeff Blashill cautions against relying on the league statistics for giveaways, saying the Red Wings rely on their own charting.
But the NHL off-ice officials recorded 11 giveaways against the Rangers and five against the Blackhawks, and it a certainly reflected the play.
Niklas Kronwall’s careless pass led to the Rangers winning goal at 16:50 of the second period. And 37 seconds later, after Justin Abdelkader lost the puck to J.T. Miller, the Rangers had a two-goal lead.
Until then, it was shaping up like another good effort by the Wings against one of the better teams in the league.
All of a sudden ... Pfffft!
Abdelkader and the rookie defenseman Nick Jensen were both recorded for two giveaways, and seven other teammates one each, including Henrik Zetterberg.
After the game, Zetterberg seemed intent on shouldering the blame for more.
“I made some bonehead plays there in the second. I turned the puck over a few times, and they got a little momentum out of that and they scored two goals,” he said.
“So, I’ve got to be better than that.”
His were hardly the egregious errors. But perhaps the captain’s point was that they were far too many, regardless.
Green on blue line
It has been a long time since the Red Wings played, let alone regularly, with a defensive pairing so inexperienced.
The game Sunday was second-year defenseman Xavier Ouellet’s 81st in the NHL, 51 this season.
It was Robbie Russo’s fourth, all in the past week.
Ouellet played 16:55 on 22 shifts, attempted a shot and blocked one.
Russo played 15:46 on 21, with a shot on goal, four attempts, a hit and a giveaway.
Both were minus-1, failing to get their deployment entirely sorted out on the Rangers’ third goal.
Against the Bruins, in the notable disaster Wednesday, Blashill said Ouellet and Russo were likely the best pairing.
Ouellet, 23, who has three goals, nine assists and is also a minus-1 for the season, likes the tandem.
“It feels good,” he said. “We played together all year last year (in Grand Rapids).
“We have pretty good chemistry, and we kind of know where we are on the ice.
“It makes it kind of easy.”
After the game, Blashill was asked to evaluate the play of Russo, 24, in his early going.
“I think Russo’s played good,” the coach said. “He’s managed his game pretty well.
“I think he’s got poise with the puck.”
It has been an even more disappointing season than the last one, and Blashill has had a lot of explaining to do in his numerous sessions with the media.
Often enough, the reasons for the more frequent losses than wins are the same, and the process can get repetitive.
But, even after losing his leading goal scorer, Thomas Vanek, and one of his best defensemen, Brendan Smith, at the trade deadline, Blashill clings to the thought that game-by-game improvement is the only remedy for this lineup.
The 43-year old Detroit-native, in the second-year of a four-year contract, was asked about how the season is affecting him and if the losing wears on him, after the loss to the Rangers.
“No, no, no,” he said. “No, no.
“My mindset’s a hundred percent the same as my mindset was on day one: Let’s keep getting better.
“And we’re going to dig in, through the film tomorrow. We’re taking a day off; we’ll dig in as coaches, through the film. And we’ll come Tuesday (for practice).
“We’re going to get better starting Tuesday and we’ll go out and try to win a game in Colorado.”