Wings learning to fight through adversity during skid

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Denver — If frustration hasn’t seeped into the Red Wings’ locker room yet, it’s definitely inching closer.

You sensed it minutes Sunday after the Red Wings saw their winless streak reach 10 games — 10 games! — with a 5-1 loss to Colorado.

On and off the ice, there were signs of bewilderment, anger, and disbelief.

The Red Wings haven’t won a game since Feb. 25 in New York, where they defeated the Rangers in overtime.

Nobody is doubting the Red Wings’ will to win, or lack of effort. They’re playing hard and have been right there at the end with a chance to win.

But, in a way, that makes it even more disheartening, captain Henrik Zetterberg said.

“That I am proud of, guys are working hard,” Zetterberg said after Sunday’s loss. “They put the time in and on game days, we’re preparing ourselves for every game.

“But it almost makes it tougher that we have lost 10 in a row.

“The only thing we can do here, every time we put on the Red Wings logo, you go out and play as hard as you can.”

Simply put, there haven’t been many players in the current Red Wings roster who’ve gone through anything close resembling this losing streak.

The Red Wings, before missing out on the playoffs last season, had made the postseason 25 consecutive seasons.

Minor league affiliate Grand Rapids has won the Calder Cup twice over the last four seasons.

Still, this is becoming a younger Red Wings’ roster, and there are many young players learning what it takes to be successful at the NHL level.

At this present time, coach Jeff Blashill feels this can be a valuable learning tool for this roster.

“How hard every game is as you get to the end of the year,” Blashill said. “Understanding how to fight through adversity. Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl-winning quarterback) talked about it after they won the Super Bowl, how much adversity he’s had to fight through.

“You hope to come out stronger on the other side. That’s what life is all about.”


This streak, Blashill said, is a perfect lesson for the younger players to experience the not-so-easy life of the NHL.

“This isn’t supposed to be easy, this is the National Hockey League,” Blashill said. “Sports aren’t supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be hard. That’s why it feels so good when you win. So we have to find a way to keep fighting here.

“Our guys have done an excellent job of staying with it. Our competitiveness has been great. We have to make sure we’re fighting through that frustration at the end of the game. We can’t have that.

“We have to keep playing the right way and focusing on 60 minutes of playing the right way.”

This present winless streak — the Red Wings have lost nine games in regulation and one overtime game — is the longest winless streak since an 11-game stretch in 1983-84 (nine regulation losses, two ties).

The last Red Wings team to lose more games than this one was the 1981-82 team which lost 14 consecutive games from Feb. 24-March 25.

“Very frustrating, for sure,” said forward Justin Abdelkader, who earned a misconduct late in the third period for voicing his displeasure at an official over a crosschecking penalty. “Lose 10 in a row, that’s not fun.

“It’s a learning experience for everyone. For sure not a lot of guys have been through this, certainly I haven’t, and it’s not fun. It’s not a fun position to be in. But we can learn from it and be better and continue to go out each night and work hard and win our battles.”

Problems abound

The Red Wings aren’t scoring enough goals — and not preventing them on the other end.

Sunday’s game was the fifth time in the last six games they’ve scored two or less goals (and they scored three in the other game). The Red Wings have now fallen to 28th in the NHL, averaging 2.5 goals per game.

The power play has scored one goal over its last 17 chances.

“It’s tough when you score one or two goals in this league; a lot of times it’s a race to three,” Abdelkader said. “We could help ourselves by getting one on the power play.

“That’s why every play is crucial, and we make one mistake and it’s in our net.”

Blashill is seeing too many opportunities not cashed in offensively, and opponents converting on defensive lapses or inconsistent goaltending.

“We have to keep the puck out of our net more,” Blashill said. “It’s hurting our momentum. We’re not scoring enough, but part of that is usually you have momentum, momentum and then you eventually score

“Right now it seems like when we’re building that momentum, we’re getting scored on. We have to make sure we do a better job of keeping the puck out of our net.”

Mrazek returns

Goaltender Petr Mrazek, who returns Tuesday as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers (the Red Wings traded him Feb. 19), could be helping the Red Wings this June at the Entry Draft.

When Mrazek won his fifth game as a member of the Flyers on Sunday, it fulfilled one of the conditions for the Red Wings earning a third-round pick in June, rather than a conditional fourth-round pick the Flyers sent Detroit.

All that needs to happen now is the Flyers making the playoffs, which appears a safe bet with Philadelphia sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division, eight points free of playoff cutoff line.

The pick could become a second-round pick if Mrazek wins six playoff games, and the Flyers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Philadelphia’s pick would give the Red Wings three third-round selections in June — the Red Wings’ own, plus Pittsburgh’s (from the Scott Wilson/Riley Sheahan trade earlier this season) and Philadelphia’s.

The Red Wings also have two first-round and two second-round picks.

Flyers at Red Wings

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

TV/radio: NBC Sports Network/97.1FM

Outlook: The Flyers (37-25-11, 85 points) are inching closer to the playoffs despite going 3-6-1 over their last 10 games. … G Petr Mrazek (5-5-1, 3.14 GAA, .888 SVS) has been inconsistent since being dealt by the Red Wings to Philadelphia.