Detroit – The way things have gone for the Detroit Red Wings lately, it’s not surprising that confidence might become an issue.
They entered Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg winless in seven games, and coming off a dreadful 10-1 loss in Montreal.
Watch the Red Wings over that span, and you see signs of a team that is losing its confidence.
“One thing to me that’s a real sign is when the puck is a hot potato, you’re not playing with any confidence,” coach Jeff Blashill said Tuesday morning, “because when you’re not playing with confidence you don’t want to turn the puck over – so you just throw it away because you don’t want to turn it over.”
Blashill was quick to point out that’s not the ideal solution.
“The solution is to get your butt out and take that extra second and if you have to eat it (the puck), eat it, but never throw it away. Never have it be a hot potato. Put it (the puck) in a safe place, make a hard play when you have to, but don’t just throw it away.”
The Red Wings have had difficulty countering adversity, in particular during the last three losses – against Los Angeles, and the last two games, both losses to Montreal.
When the Kings or Canadiens scored, they scored again quickly, and just like that, had assumed control of the game with the Red Wings never able to reverse the momentum.
“There’s going to be times when they’re (an opponent) going to dictate play,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “That’s just the way a hockey game goes. We have to go out there and, when things aren’t going our way, bend but don’t break.”
Entering Tuesday, captain Henrik Zetterberg hadn’t scored in 20 games.
The slump is striking for its length, but it’s also surprising because Zetterberg began this season superbly, scoring four goals in seven games and looking capable of duplicating last season’s individual success.
But little has gone right offensively since those first seven games.
“The only way to get him to a better spot production-wise is to stay with it and not cheat and sacrifice the rest of his game,” Blashill said. “He’s still been a good player. We need him to produce, and he wants to produce, but he’s been very good defensively and he gets a lot of minutes because of that.
“The worst thing you can do in those situations is hope for offense, and hope, and hope, and then you’re not a good player any more.
“He’s been a winning hockey player for a long time. He knows what to do.”
Zetterberg admitted this scoring drought has been a struggle.
“But last year I went through something similar, not as long, but when you go through tough times like that, you just have to keep doing the right things,” Zetterberg said. “You work harder.
“I know it may sound boring, but that’s what you have to do.”
The Red Wings didn’t recall anyone from minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids to fill the roster spot vacated by the trade of forward Scott Wilson, but could by the end of the week.
General manager Ken Holland wants to give some NHL experience to several Griffins players.
… Blashill doesn’t agree with the notion that his message isn’t getting to the players on a consistent basis.
“I don’t buy it,” Blashill said. “They’ve bought in as much (as any team) since I’ve been here.
“From a message standpoint they understand how we need to play to win.”
… There’s a big local connection to the Winnipeg Jets. Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce Township), defenseman Jacob Trouba (Rochester/Michigan), and forwards Andrew Copp (Ann Arbor/Michigan) and Kyle Connor (Shelby Township/Michigan) all were born in Metro Detroit, and all but Hellebuyck played college hockey here.