'Fragile' Red Wings losing confidence as setbacks pile up

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings left wing Adam Erne and Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov go for the puck Saturday night.

Sunrise, Fla. — It was quiet in the Red Wings locker room after Saturday’s 4-0 loss in Florida.

Whenever a team loses, it’s never a fun place, but this was beyond that. Given the circumstances, all the losses lately, it’s no wonder the room was eerily silent.

Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Panthers was a thumping, the Wings barely threatening at any point of the evening. Florida took a lead about two minutes into the game and never looked back.

The defeat provided a glimpse as to how fragile, and low in confidence, the Wings are currently.

The more the Wings fell behind, the less it looked they could recover and rally.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ve been fragile,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We better dig in, we control our confidence. We’ve done a pretty good job after we went through stretch in Calgary and Edmonton, and we’ve done a pretty good job of our next game mentality, our next shift mentality.

“There was tons of frustration at the end, probably everybody including myself. You’re frustrated but that ultimately is a wasted emotion. We have to be better for sure.”

Certainly better than they’ve been since an impressive opening week, that feels like months and months ago, now.

The Wings have won one (1-9-1) of their last 11 games — and during that span have been outscored 46-19.

That gruesome 11-game stretch has come after the Wings began the season 3-1-0 and offered glimpses of optimism of what this season could be.

Now, nobody likely expected a playoff season. Most analysts and fans understood the roster the Wings have. But then again, nobody might have expected something like this season has been thus far.

“For sure you’re a little bit worried,” forward Valtteri Filppula said. “You’re not winning and the last couple of games haven’t been close. You have to find the urgency and try to get back to winning and build confidence that way.”

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There are so many things going wrong with the Wings, but two stood out against the Panthers that also have been issues during the losing streak.

First, the special teams aren’t doing anything to help achieve victories. They’re contributing to the litany of losses.

In Sunday’s NHL statistics, the Wings' power play ranked 25th (14.0 percent) while the penalty kill was 28th (70.2 percent). Neither number is going to help secure victories.

“What hurt us (Saturday) is our special teams,” goaltender Jonathan Bernier said. “We’ve got to find a way to score some big goals and we’ve got to find a way to stop their team as well.

“It comes down to special teams.”

What bothered Blashill after the Panthers game, primarily, was the power play’s ineffectiveness. The Wings failed to score in three attempts, and rarely had any sustained pressure with the man advantage.

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tyler Bertuzzi tries to steal the puck from Florida Panthers center Mike Hoffman on Saturday night.

Too often this season, the Wings have had chances to get back into games with a power-play goal, or gain momentum, at least, from an effective power play, and the unit hasn’t been able to deliver.

“Our power play has to be way better,” Blashill said. “Ultimately we have a whole bunch of young guys in real important spots. They have to get the job done, and they didn’t get the job done and they haven’t got the job done.

“Our power play’s not good enough. We have to dig in way more. We have to fight way harder for pucks, and we can’t give away wasted possessions by unneeded turnovers.”

Also, for the Wings to have a chance in any game, they can’t afford to have key individuals with off nights.

Saturday, between the top two lines — Dylan Larkin centering Tyler Bertuzzi and Darren Helm, and Filppula between Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha — the six players combined for 10 shots on net (Bertuzzi’s three leading the way).

“Some of our skill players didn’t compete hard enough,” Blashill said. “Not every guy, but enough of them. We didn’t have enough, not even close, to our ‘A’ game by a number of best players.

“Maybe different reasons, execution or compete, whatever it may be. We’re relying on a lot of young guys and a lot of young guys weren’t good enough.”

Predators at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Monday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD Plus/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Red Wings (4-10-1) defeated Nashville (8-4-2) in the regular-season opener, but the teams have gone in completely different directions since. ... Defensemen Roman Josi (14 points) and Ryan Ellis (12 assists, 14 points), center Matt Duchene (nine assists) and goalie Pekka Rinne (7-0-2, .920 SVS) have keyed the fine start.


Twitter: @tkulfan