Overtime struggles leave Red Wings befuddled

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings close out a long home stand which hasn’t turned out the way they had hoped it would Friday against Toronto.

Red Wings fans are hoping this game doesn’t go into overtime.

You wonder what the Red Wings are thinking.

Wednesday’s loss, in overtime, against Boston continued a recent string of misery — the Red Wings are 1-5-5 in their last 11 games — but also extended a terrible season-long problem in overtime.

The Red Wings now have lost six consecutive overtime games.

“When we go to overtime we believe we can win that game, get that second point,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “But it keeps getting harder when we don’t get it.”

When teams get the Red Wings into the 3-on-3 pond hockey way of deciding overtime, the Red Wings simply have had no luck this season.

And, ultimately in the standings, those are difficult lost points.

“We certainly have looked into it a great amount,” coach Jeff Blashill said of how to reverse the Red Wings’ luck. “If you just go 3-3 (splitting the six games), it’s a different story.

“We’ve looked into usage, looked systematically, we’ve looked into all those things. For the most part, systems are, I don’t want to say thrown out the window in 3-on-3, but they don’t become nearly as important. The last guys that are on the ice, in this case (Wednesday) we had a guy fall in the corner and then we didn’t quite make a play.”


Usually, in the overtime session, the winning goal comes about from a busted play with an odd-man rush going the other way, or a fluke bounce that results in a goal or rush.

Sometimes, it’s a great individual play.

“The biggest thing in those 3-on-3 situations is you have to make offensive and defensive plays, and we haven’t made enough of those,” Blashill said.

When the 3-on-3 version of overtime was introduced in 2015, there was more of a pick-up hockey feel to it with few ways of defending.

But, over time, coaching staffs have figured out ways to defend — and attack.

“You can hold on to the puck, you can get them tired, make them stay longer on the ice,” forward Tomas Tatar said. “You can’t shoot every chance — maybe wait for a better (chance).

“More and more teams are trying to figure it out because when this rule (change to overtime) came into the league it was more free-for-all. Now you see some teams are doing it (with a) purpose and doing some things that look structured.”

Ironically, the Red Wings seem well constructed for overtime, what with the speed and play-making abilities of Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou, goal scorers such as Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Henrik Zetterberg.

But nothing has worked effectively.

“If you would ask me and I wouldn’t be on this team, I would say we have some of the fastest guys,” Tatar said. “It’s tough to explain why we’re not doing well. But it’s just the way it is right now.”

No moral victories

Players and fans don’t necessarily like to hear it, for different reasons, but the Red Wings have played well in these recent three losses, in particular.

But, the end result is only two points gained out of six, and that’s doing nothing to help them in the standings.

“We’re doing a lot of good things,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “(But) we have to find ways to win, and especially divisional games, and not give them any points. We have to find ways to get some wins and get on a win streak here.”

Much was made of this long home stand — which concludes Friday against Toronto — where many Red Wings players said was going to define and determine their season.

Obviously, it hasn’t worked out well, thus far.

“We know it’s going to be tough to get these points back,” Tatar said. “But we’re here, and we can’t give up, and we have to find a way to get these points back.”

Maple Leafs at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit.

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Maple Leafs played Thursday in Minnesota. … Toronto has distanced itself from the rest of the division and sits right behind Tampa atop the Atlantic. … C Auston Matthews (upper body) is day-to-day.