Wings stumble into holiday break tumbling in standings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Toronto's John Tavares, left, celebrates after scoring the tying goal in the final seconds of third period on Sunday. The Leafs would go on to hand the Red Wings their sixth loss in seven games with a 5-4 overtime win.

Toronto — The Red Wings began their holiday break Monday thankful for a great many things — but not necessarily the NHL standings.

For the most part, those have the lump of coal effect.

The current stretch which has seen the Wings win only once in seven games (1-4-2) has dropped the Wings to 12th in the Eastern Conference.

Detroit (15-17-6, 36 points) is eight points from climbing into a wild-card spot past Montreal. But the Wings are only five points from tying New Jersey at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Instead of playoffs, fans again are pointing to the late February trade deadline and adding assets.

After an 8-4-1 month of November, which saw the Wings take advantage of a home-heavy schedule, injuries and inconsistency have hurt the Wings in December (4-6-3).

Frustration has increased, as the Wings seem to play to their competition.

More: Wings' Franzen fights depression: 'It quickly gets dark. Very dark.'

“We feel in here that when we’re on our game, we can play with anybody, and we’ve shown that over the course of the year,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “But you have to do it every night, not just when you play some teams. The level of urgency and compete have to be there every night.”

Kronwall feels the Wings have gotten a bit complacent after the impressive run in November.

“We got going, and it felt like everybody was on the same page,” Kronwall said. “We had some urgency, and we had that going for quite a while. But all of that is sometimes … you have to stay with it. It’s easy to get comfortable when you’re feeling you’re playing well.

“I felt we lost a little bit for a stretch of four or five games where we didn’t play our best and got away with one against Los Angeles where we shouldn’t have had (behind the goaltending of Jimmy Howard). Our goaltending has kept us in games. We have to play at our best every night, otherwise we don’t stand a chance.”

If the Wings play fast, attack offensively, spend little time in the defensive zone, and continue to get elite goaltending, they can be a dangerous team.

In Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss against Toronto, the Wings showed again they aren’t that far from the best in the NHL.

But the Wings need to play to that blueprint on a nightly basis.

“Sometimes it’s a good reminder of the type of game it takes to be successful,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “This was a great reminder. We are going on the road after Christmas and play a couple of real good teams (Pittsburgh and Dallas). We are going to have to play this same style.”

Ehn progressing

Christoffer Ehn was one of the Wings’ better forwards last week, and scored a highlight-reel goal Sunday.

Ehn’s speed, versatility and defensive instincts have made him a key component of the fourth line.

“Ehn was excellent over the last couple of games,” Blashill said. “He skates, he’s really, really smart. He’s shown way more confidence with the puck this time around (than earlier in the season). That goal is a good example, but he had other plays where he showed lots of confidence with the puck.”

Ehn was being dragged to the ice when he backhanded a shot past Toronto goalie Garret Sparks.

“It’s a dream come true,” Ehn said of his first NHL goal. “I just want to keep taking steps from here.”

Teammates were glad to see Ehn get into the scorebook.

“Ehner’s one of those guys, he comes out and he works every night,” forward Frans Nielsen said. “It’s really good to see him get one.

“Obviously when you see someone get his first goal, it’s great. You think back to your first and nothing beats that. I’m really happy for him.”

Power play sinking

The Wings have fallen to 20th in the NHL on the power play, at 18.2 percent.

They were 0-for-7 on the weekend, going scoreless in four attempts against Florida and three against Toronto.

“The thing about the power play is you have to focus on whether or not you’re getting opportunities, because even the best power plays in the world fail 70 percent of the time,” Blashill said. “Certainly if you score, you put yourself in a way better position to win the hockey game, and we understand that.”

Twitter: @tkulfan