St. Paul, Minn. — The standings say, and rather loudly after each and every loss, that this Red Wings team is a lousy hockey team.
Losing 4-2 Friday in Winnipeg was the latest example. The Wings played well enough, did just enough things collectively…to lose.
The Wings are inching toward the 31st, and last, spot in the NHL standings.
The locker room was quiet Friday after the game, which is to be expected from a team that’s 2-10-3 in the last 15 games.
Players, and coach Jeff Blashill, though, were steadfast in their belief the standings don’t tell the entirely correct story.
“We’ve talked about it before as a group,” Blashill said. “When we weren’t doing it right early (in the season), we were cheating (defensively) and then we were a bad hockey team. We are not a bad hockey team right now even though our record says we are. We are a good hockey team that is in every game and has chances to win.”
So, how have the Wings gotten to this particular point? And, most fans would like to know, how do they reverse it and get out of this muck?
“You make plays at critical moments,” Blashill said. “We have to make sure to keep doings right.”
Judging by social media, fans aren’t buying the message very much.
Players, though, insist this roster is doing everything it can to turn this slump around.
Many of the losses in the past week, or two, were decided by a handful of plays the opposing team made — and the Wings did not.
“Blash is always telling us in the long term, if we keep playing the right way, we will start to win games,” rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski said. “We just have to keep going and not get down on ourselves and try to put some wins together.”
Cholowski and forward Luke Glendening both credited the veteran leadership in the lineup for keeping the Wings’ mindset in a postive frame.
“They help us a lot, especially a guy like me, they’re always positive and tell us to keep going,” Cholowski said. “It’s the positive attitude of the older guys that helps guys like me a lot.”
Said Glendening: “It’s not easy losing as much as we have, but you can’t lose the team and culture that this locker room has had for so long here, and doing things the right way. There’s a great leadership group that we have here and they’ve been on top and where we are right now, and it keeps the guys going and motivated and kudos to them for that. “
Cholowski may have it the proverbial rookie wall in December, especially from a defensive standpoint.
His ice time was clipped, and offensively, where Cholowski excelled early in the season, the production slowed, too.
But Cholowski showed spark Friday, scoring his 7th goal – his 9th point on the power play this season — and Blashill felt it was another sign of the 20-year-old defenseman learning life in the NHL.
“I actually think in the last two weeks, three weeks, he’s played better,” Blashill said. “He went through a stretch where he was giving up a lot of goals that were largely mistakes he had made.
“He’s played better. He’s got better at his gapping, he’s been a little stronger on his stick. He just has to understand the urgency of every play.”
Cholowski was on the ice for Winnipeg’s second goal, with under a second left in the first period, where the puck could have been cleared of danger.
“There was opportunities where we could have had that puck out and we didn’t,” Blashill said. “The urgency on every play in the NHL is crticial and it’s hard to be a 20-year-old defeneman in this league.
“There aren’t many of them that have a lot of success. He’s learning on the fly.”
For those wondering about Filip Zadina down in Grand Rapids, the Red Wings’ top prospect had two goals and an assist Friday, Zadina’s best game since returning from a disappointing (no goals) world junior tournament.
… Defenseman Niklas Kronwall turned 38 Saturday.
… Playing in Minnesota is special for defneseman Nick Jensen, who grew up in Rogers, about 40 minutes from St. Paul; and for forward Thomas Vanek, who played collegiately at Minnesota and has played for the Wild during his pro career.