Lack of specialty-teams success leading to Red Wings losses

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard makes a toe-save against Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane on Thursday.

There are a multitude of reasons the Red Wings didn’t win enough games the last three seasons to make the playoffs.

But one of the keys was their lack of success on specialty teams. The Red Wings didn’t have much success on either the power play or penalty kill, and ultimately, that refected itself in the final regular season standings.

Heading into Friday’s game in Edmonton, it’s happening again.

The Red Wings are struggling badly on the power play, not doing much better on the penalty kill, with the first two games of a western Canada road trip this week prime examples.

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Tuesday in Vancouver, the Red Wings were 0-for-3 on the power play and allowed three Canucks power play goals, leading to Vancouver’s 5-1 victory.

The final score was identical Thursday in Calgary, and the results on special teams were equally dreadful.

The Wings failed to get a goal on two power play attempts in Calgary, while allowing two Flames goals in five Calgary attempts.

“When you lose the specialty teams battle, you’re going to lose a lot of games,” forward Justin Abdelkader told reporters after the Calgary loss.

“We have to make sure we’re winning those battles. Winning battles 5-on-4, 5-on-5, everywhere, stick battles, 1-on-1 battles.

“It’s early in the season, but we’ve got to make sure that’s our calling card.”

The NHL statistics Friday morning showed how far the Red Wings have to go to get back to respectability in the two areas.

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The Wings ranked 24th in the NHL on the penalty kill (69.6 percent), and 26th on the power play (10.0 percent).

The power play has been a specific area of concern the last few games. The Red Wings' have had difficulty gaining the zone and struggled with possession, leading to mounting frustration and failed scoring opportunities.

Coach Jeff Blashill switched personnel, including moving forward Andreas Athanasiou onto the top unit, in hopes of sparking some sort of offense.

But the Wings continued to struggle Thursday in Calgary, generating little zone time and precious little pressure.

Twitter: @tkulfan