Blashill calls out Mantha, others after ugly Wings loss
Detroit — In the spirit of Thanksgiving, from the Red Wings’ perspective, this game was a real turkey.
This wasn’t very good at all, losing 6-2 Wednesday to what’s been a poor Edmonton Oilers team — which lost badly in St. Louis 24 hours earlier.
As superb as the Red Wings looked in shutting out the Oilers in Edmonton earlier this month — and as bad as Edmonton looked — it was the complete opposite this time.
The Red Wings (10-9-3) lost their second consecutive game and ended this homestand 2-1-2, before visiting the New York Rangers on Friday.
And Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill didn’t hold back about the performance of some of his players, specifically Anthony Mantha.
Blashill called out Mantha after the big forward had a quiet three shots on net and was minus-1 for the evening.
“With those types of minutes comes big-time responsibility,” Blashill said. “Anthony Mantha has to be way better, way better. It’s not OK to just be a passenger when you’re given the opportunity to be an impact player.
“He’s not alone. But certainly he’s a guy who I said at the beginning of the year that for us to be great, he has to be great, and he’s gone through large stretches of being great.
“(But) he hasn’t been great the last two games. It’s just a matter of making sure you compete every shift.
“Any young player has to learn how hard it is every night, especially when you go from being a complementary guy, a 14-minute guys and you want to move into the 19-20 minute range, it’s a learning process for certain. The great ones learn it.”
Mantha wasn’t alone. Andreas Athanasiou had an unimpactful evening, going minus-4 in 16:29 with one shot on net and no hits or takeaways. Tomas Tatar had a power-play goal but was minus-4, while Dylan Larkin (minus-3) and Gustav Nyquist (two shots) were relatively quiet.
“It hasn’t been good enough for certain,” Blashill said of the last two losses. “We had some guys who were, the last couple of games, who are important pieces, who were passengers and they can’t be passengers. They play too many minutes, and with minutes come responsibility.
“You have to make sure you get the job done.”
The turning point Wednesday was the second period.
It was a 20-minute stretch in which the Red Wings were outshot 14-3 and watched a 2-2 game after one period become 5-2 in favor of Edmonton.
“It’s a little bit of stupidity and wanting to do too much,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said of the period. “When we’re playing with speed, we’re putting pucks behind them and getting through the neutral zone.
“When we don’t, we’re not a fast team.”
After Edmonton’s Mark Letestu put back a rebound making it 4-2 at 14:22, goaltender Jimmy Howard (11 saves on 14 shots) was pulled in favor of Petr Mrazek.
Though Howard wasn’t great, he was hardly the cause of the problem, as the team defense was weak and the Red Wings didn’t have any push offensively.
“Jimmy has been great for us,” Blashill said. “We had three shots in the second period. It certainly wasn’t Jimmy’s fault. We had no momentum and I hoped it would switch momentum.”
Said Howard: “It happens. It’s going to happen during the course of the season. You just move forward and brush it aside.”
What’s been apparent the last two games has been the Red Wings getting away from their structured game.
“When we play with structure and as a 5-man unit, we’re a very fast team,” Howard said. “We’ve gone away from that the last few games.”
Tatar (power play) and Niklas Kronwall scored for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings also lost forward Scott Wilson in the second period to a lower-body injury after he blocked a shot.
Blashill said he had no update on Wilson’s condition.