'No time to pout:' Red Wings look to put 'embarrassing' losses behind them

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek (17) and Panthers left wing Mike Hoffman battle for the puck during the second period Sunday in Sunrise, Fla.

Sunrise, Fla. — There are four weeks left to this miserable Red Wings’ season.

The end can’t come soon enough, to be sure, for players, coaches, front office, and fans alike. The two losses in Florida over the weekend, especially Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the Panthers, put an exclamation point, as it were, to this most recent slide.

The Wings’ have lost 10 of their last 11 games, and too many of them are becoming one-sided, if not on the scoreboard, then on the ice.

There was a definite feeling in the Wings’ room after Sunday’s game that things have to change for this final stretch.

“This is embarrassing, it’s not fun,” veteran forward Thomas Vanek said. “Most of us have been around. It stinks, but you put it behind you. You bring a lot more energy Tuesday (in Montreal) and go for a win.

“We’re already out of it (the playoffs), so there’s no time to pout and sit around and feel bad.”

Frans Nielsen, another veteran forward who seen the highs and lows in hockey, was almost speechless after Sunday’s loss.

“Right now, we’re going backward,” Nielsen said. “We’re a step behind everywhere. It’s just not OK. It’s been a lot of times now this year.”

What there is time for, especially for the young players on this Wings’ roster who are expected to be foundation pieces going forward, is to step up and establish a stronger presence going forward.

Too many Wings, be it young or old, rookies or veterans, simply weren't noticeable or didn't push back when things were going haywire.

The top line of Andreas Athanasiou centering Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi was generally ineffective in Saturday’s loss in Tampa, and marginally better the next night against the Panthers.

The defense was largely ineffective. The goaltenders were hung out to dry.

With Dylan Larkin (neck strain) day-to-day — Larkin has missed the last three games, and his status is unknown for the Montreal game — the Wings have been sorely lacking offensively.

These last three weeks are a great opportunity for the Wings’ young core to show they can be a significant part of the master plan.

“I shouldn’t have to keep them focused,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They should keep themselves focused. They’re trying to show that they are going to be big, important parts of this team and moving forward they are going to help us be a better team and not be in this spot.

“It shouldn’t take me to keep them focused. They better do a damn good job of keeping themselves focused, and making sure they’re getting better.”

With only 13 games left, there is plenty of time to make an impression — one way or another.

Consistency has been a major issue, with not enough players putting together productive, dominant games together at the same time.

The Wings, with the way the roster stands these days, need everyone being at their peak.

“There’s a lot of guys here that still have a lot to play for, not just for this year but the rest of their careers,” Vanek said. “They better realize it quickly because there’s a lot of good players coming up.”

A key reason the Wings are where they are, and losing as miserably as they have been, is because of their lack of depth.

They are missing the offense punch forwards Larkin and Gustav Nyquist (traded to San Jose) and defenseman Mike Green (virus, out for season) offered, and the steadiness defenseman Nick Jensen (traded to Washington) provided.

The lineup is weakened, and the Wings can’t come close to filling those types of holes.

“Right now, because of the trade deadline and injuries, we’re undermanned,” Blashill said. “Probably two guys that aren’t playing are in our top 4 (defense) either through injury (Green) or trade (Jensen), certainly our top-line center (Larkin) and probably our top-line winger (Nyquist).

“So, you have to play your ‘A’ game. You can’t afford anything less than 100 percent in terms of execution and playing at your top level. We need guys to step up and play at the level they are capable.

“It’s not one guy. It’s not young guys or old guys. The other night we had a group of guys playing their ‘B’ or ‘C’ game and (Sunday) we had a different group of guys playing their ‘B’ or ‘C’ game. It wasn’t a lack of want or try. But certainly it was a lack of execution.”

The Wings (24-35-10, 58 points) have dropped to 30th in the 31-team NHL, six points ahead of last-place Ottawa. Los Angeles also has 58 points, but have one more victory than the Wings, putting them 29th overall. New Jersey has 59 points.

Obviously a worse record improves the odds at the draft lottery of getting a higher pick, but with the way things are going, a victory — or victories — would be beneficial for mood, appearance and confidence.

Montreal has embarrassed the Wings twice this season (7-3 on Oct. 15, 8-1 on Feb. 26). So this would be a good game to begin to feel good.

“We have to instill our own confidence,” Blashill said. “Nobody is going to get us out of this except us. We have to find a way to play better in Montreal.”

Red Wings at Canadiens

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, at Centre Bell, Montreal

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Canadiens (36-26-7) look to complete a four-game season sweep of the Red Wings…This is a vital game for Montreal, which has lost two straight games and have fallen out of the wild-card picture…G Carey Price (28-20-5, 2.62 GAA, .914 SVS) is crucial for Montreal’s playoff hopes.


Twitter: @tkulfan