Predators prolong Red Wings' slump; Jeff Blashill not worried about job security

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — What’s with the buzzards flying around Little Caesars Arena?

And make no mistake, they’re beginning to circle around the Red Wings.

The postgame talk Monday was more about the future of coach Jeff Blashill than the actual game, which was more of the same, a 6-1 loss against Nashville.

Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) replaces Jimmy Howard in the second period.

That’s 11 of 12 losses for the Wings, who have been out-scored 52-20 during that stretch — fell into last place in the overall standings — and simply aren’t coming close most nights.

BOX SCORE: Predators 6, Red Wings 1

The speculation about Blashill’s job security is getting more intense, but he wasn’t worried after Monday’s loss as to whether his message is getting through.

“Our guys have worked on a consistent basis and it’s gotten through,” Blashill said. “To be dead honest with you, I haven’t thought two seconds about it. All we’re thinking about as a coaching staff is getting our guys ready and those guys have to go out and make decisions (on the ice) and make the right plays.”

Blashill confirmed he talks regularly with general manager Steve Yzerman.

“We talk, we talked a long time yesterday and today,” Blashill said. “Talk about our team, talk about all the guys. After games you’re reviewing how the guys played, just normal conversations.”

Two of the leaders on the team, Justin Abdelkader and Dylan Larkin, strongly supported Blashill and his staff.

“It’s not on the coaches, it’s our group, the players in the room,” Abdelkader said. “We have to get the job done. We’ve watched plenty of video of us not doing things the way we’ve done things when we’ve been successful. That’s not on the coaches. That’s on the players in here.”

Larkin praised Blashill’s work ethic and dedication.

“Blash comes to work every day, he preaches process and he’s dedicated guy,” Larkin said. “He’s done so much for us. We’re not pointing fingers here, that’s what could make this worse.

“We’re going to have to come together, and pointing fingers like that is not going to get us anywhere that we want to be. Blash and our whole staff work so hard to put us in position to get there.”

Monday’s game certainly wasn’t one that would help anyone’s job security if you were on the losing end like the Wings.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard allowed four goals on five shots in a span of 5 minutes, 36 seconds early in the second period to erase a 1-0 lead — on Andreas Athanasiou’s first goal this season, ending a season-opening 13-game goal-scoring drought.

But it was more than the goaltending, asHoward was victimized by a pair of deflections within that barrage.

“We had too many guys not playing anywhere near their best hockey up front,” Blashill said. “It wasn’t even close.

“I didn’t say top (guys). We had a whole bunch of guys who didn’t play near their best. I didn’t say top (players). This isn’t one or two or three guys. We had a whole bunch of guys who couldn’t execute tape-to-tape passes.”

Blashill wouldn’t pin the blame entirely on Howard, who stopped 11 of 15 shots before being replaced by Jonathan Bernier (9 of 11 saves).

“There was a lot of weird shots,” Blashill said. “Do we need more stops tonight? Yes. But one was kind of a knuckler, another one goes off a stick, two are actually deflected. … I’m not making excuses but the reality was weird and it all kind of piled together at a brutal time for us.”

Larkin attempted to get the Wings going, getting into a fight with Nashville’s Ryan Ellis late in the second period after Ellis caught Larkin near the head area with an elbow in the corner.

But the spark was short-lived, and Nashville scored a power-play goal on the resulting Larkin roughing penalty.

“I have to know the game there,” Larkin said. “Not put my team down (a man). (It was a) reaction play at the end of a shift and you get tired and emotional and react to that.”

When something goes wrong for the Wings these days, it seems to snowball.

“It’s frustrating,” Larkin said. “One thing on the ice goes wrong and we melt. We can’t do that. We need to turn this around and gain some kind of confidence.”

Blashill wants to see fewer goals allowed and more mental toughness.

“We have to find a way to keep pucks out of our net,” Blashill said. “That’s where the snowballing starts, and that’s on the whole team and coaching staff. That’s not on the goalies, forwards or penalty killers. It’s on everybody. That’s where the snowballing starts.

“Is it a matter of not being mentally tough enough? We have to find a way to be mentally tougher. When you get kicked and kicked, you have to keep getting back up and find a way to do it.”

Twitter: @tkulfan