Detroit — When the Red Wings’ forechecking wanes, it is both a symptom of poor performance and a cause.
A lacking or lagging forecheck stymies their resolve to play as a tough opponent.
It is often a sign of staying in their zone too long, amid season-to-season problems with zone coverage, puck recovery and launching the transition to offense. And bottling up opponents to keep them away from your goal increases the chance for their errors to create scoring opportunities, a significant boost for a team challenged to score.
On Thursday, in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets, after the earliest going, the Wings mustered almost no forecheck.
“When you don’t break the puck out of your zone and you’ve played d-zone coverage, you can’t have a forecheck because you’re too tired,” coach Jeff Blashill said Friday, after the Red Wings worked out off the ice, and packed for California.
By the time they get the puck, players need to change lines, he said.
“You have one guy up the ice and two guys kind of lag behind because they’ve changed, or they are tired. They’re not able to create any forecheck pressure.”
Blashill called it “half icing” an opponent, when the forecheck creates so much difficulty, teams play mostly on their half of the ice.
On Thursday, the Blue Jackets half-iced the Red Wings. The Wings, especially as a lineup in transition, need that battle to go mostly the other way.
“I think our lack of forecheck last night had much more to do with our inability to get the puck out of our zone than it had anything to do with the forecheck,” Blashill said.
“And, when you can’t forecheck, you can’t create as much. When you end up getting zoned to death, you end up not being able to do too much.”
John Niyo and Ted Kulfan preview the 2018-19 Red Wings season. The Detroit News
Christoffer Ehn admitted, the day after, that playing in his first NHL game caused some uneasiness for a while.
Then, as the newness dissipated, and he became more accustomed to how quickly he had to play, he relaxed.
“I think it went OK,” said the 22-year-old, from Skara, Sweden, who surprised even his coach by cracking the lineup this season.
“I was a little bit stressed, at first,” Ehn said. “But I kind of settled in halfway through the game, and I played little bit better in the third.”
On ice for 8:09 during 12 shifts, including on the penalty kill with Justin Abdelkader when the Wings yielded the first goal, Ehn had four hits, a takeaway and finished with two face-off wins and five losses.
He said that the individual players are about as strong and fast as they are in the Swedish Hockey League, the top pro league.
But, the game is played quicker in the NHL.
“It moves way faster,” Ehn said. “And you have to be more careful because you can turn the puck over, here, in the wrong areas, and it will come back at you so fast. That’s the biggest difference.
“In Sweden, sometimes you get away with a bad dump-in, or not being strong at the lines.
“I think that’s the main difference,” said the 6-foot-3, 181-pound center. “You’ve got to know who you’re up against, out there, and everything about it.”
Niklas Kronwall did not dress for the home opener.
When a camera showed his face on the big board at center ice during the introduction of the 2018-19 Red Wings, standing there in his suit and tie, Kronwall looked as edgy as a wolf about to chomp off his paw to escape a trap.
“Kronwall would like to play both games,” Blashill said of the California trip, that features back-to-back games against the Kings and Ducks, Sunday and Monday.
“I expect him to be in one of the games.”
"Jonathan Ericsson will travel and not play, and Mike Green will not travel,” Blashill said.