'It stinks': Red Wings end season with a thud, losing 7-1 to Sabres
Detroit — For those fans who had the television focused on basketball the entire evening — they made the right call.
The Red Wings closed out the season Saturday in rather ugly fashion, losing to the Buffalo Sabres, 7-1.
The Wings did finish the season with eight victories in the last 11 games, so there’s that, playing with a depleted lineup. But this loss was a reminder of some of the low points of the season.
“I don’t know if there’s an explanation for that performance,” said Anthony Mantha, who scored the lone Wings’ goal. “We weren’t ready, we didn’t play at all. For sure it stinks to finish this way. We were playing pretty good hockey lately, everyone was playing good.
“We left Jimmy to himself tonight.”
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, whom coach Jeff Blashill said tweaked a groin in the first period, stopped 21 of 26 shots before being replaced by rookie Kaden Fulcher, who made his NHL debut.
“I just think our guys ran out of gas,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I applaud the group that came up (from Grand Rapids), we’ve had a ton of injuries and our guys came up and played real good. I applaud that group, they did a heckuva job.
“They just ran out of gas.”
The Wings (32-40-10) missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season, finishing with 74 points, just one more than last season (five fewer than two years ago).
“I hope we’re never again in this situation, you don’t want to be playing meaningless hockey for however long we’ve been mathematically eliminated,” forward Dylan Larkin said.
A positive out of this loss?
Buffalo moved ahead of the Wings in the standings, so the Wings will finish 28th overall and have a 9.5-percent chance of winning Tuesday’s draft lottery for the opportunity to draft first overall.
The Wings have a 28.8-percent chance of picking in the top three.
Still, for the Wings to improve, it’s going to take, largely, the young core from this roster. Many of them did progress and took steps in their career, but for the roster on the whole, it’s going to take another long, hard summer of work.
“We better understand we have a whole bunch of people who have to get better,” Blashill said. “There’s a development plan for each player that is returning and we have to get better.
“If we take steps in the right direction, we’re a better team. But if we plateau, we have no chance, so let’s get better.”
Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner had two of Buffalo’s seven goals, giving Skinner 40 for the season.