Red Wings' ice-cold power play a source of frustration: 'It hasn't been good'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — You know the Red Wings’ power play will be dissected, analyzed and criticized at some point, or points, during the regular season.

Maybe this early is a little surprising.

Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill says the team's power play "hasn't been good."

But when you start off 2-for-21 (9.5 percent), which the Wings have, it becomes a hot-button issue.

The Wings are ranked 26th in the NHL entering Monday's games.

“It hasn’t been good,” coach Jeff Blashill said after Monday’s practice at Belfor Training Center. “It was earlier (in the season), it was good and we weren’t scoring. We had a lot of opportunities, the puck speed was excellent, we were shooting it.

“Right now, the power play isn’t good enough. It doesn’t look good.”

Blashill felt there were several key reasons for the ineffectiveness — not winning enough faceoffs, the Wings’ have become too stationary and slow with the puck, and simply not having enough power plays.

As far as the faceoffs, Blashill doesn’t put all the blame on the center attempting to win the draw in the circle.

“It’s on all of them, we have five and they (the opposing team) have four," Blashill said. "You have to find a way to win those battles.”

Once they have the puck, Blashill wants to see better movement, shooting or passing it, as the Wings have become too stagnant currently with the puck.

“We’ve slowed it down too much, and a result, we’ve trapped ourselves a few times and that’s how unforced turnovers happen and you’re chasing it again,” Blashill said.

Then, there’s the fact the Wings just haven’t had a lot of power-play attempts, and getting into any sort of positive rhythm.

“It really is hard to get a confident rhythm going if you don’t score,” Blashill said. “You need to draw more penalties, as well.”

Valtteri Filppula felt the Wings have been getting decent looks on the power play.

“There were some good shots, and we’ve been creating some chances,” Filppula said. “But the most important thing (goals) is missing.”

Almost hand in hand with the power-play troubles, the Wings’ rank 27th offensively, scoring 2.38 goals per game, entering Monday's play.

That, too, isn’t a statistic that’ll win many games for a hockey team.

“We have to create more chances,” said Blashill, noting getting in on the forecheck and being better in the offensive zone will help the Wings’ be better offensively. “Those are two areas where you are going to score by creating turnovers and attacking and scoring in those dirty areas (around the crease).”

Alternating goalies

Goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier have alternated starts through eight games, will do so the next two games, and might continue to do so a little after that.

Both have played well with the plan, getting consistent work.

Bernier, in particular, struggled early last season with infrequent work.

“We’ll take it day by day, week by week,” Blashill said. “If both are going to play, both are going to be in rhythm.”

Howard is likely to get the start Tuesday against Vancouver, with Bernier getting the net Wednesday in Ottawa.

Getting closer

Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (lower body) practiced Monday and is optimistic he could return soon.

Ericsson has yet to play this season, after getting hurt during the preseason.

"I do feel close now,” Ericsson said. “I was able to skate every day during the (recently completed) road trip here with the guys, and afterward put my time in (the weight room), so I’m getting close.”

Ericsson hasn’t played since hurting his back in March in a game against Montreal.

“I’m excited, it’s been a while since I played in a game,” Ericsson said.

More injury updates

Neither defenseman Dennis Cholowski or forward Adam Erne practiced Monday, and Blashill wasn’t sure if either would be ready to face Vancouver.

Cholowski missed Friday’s game after getting hurt in the previous game against Calgary.

Blashill said there’s a chance Cholowski could play Tuesday, but the fact Cholowski hasn’t practiced for several days could be a reason to sit him another day or two.

Blashill said more would be known regarding Erne’s availability after Tuesday’s morning skate.

“It could be a minor thing, but I don’t know for sure,” Blashill said.

Canucks at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

Outlook: Vancouver (5-3-0) and the Wings (3-5-0) renew acquaintances after playing last week in Vancovuer — a 5-1 Canucks victory …C J.T. Miller (eight points), C Elias Pettersson (six assists) and RW Brock Boeser (seven points) have led a balanced Canucks’ offensive attack.

Twitter: @tkulfan