NHL-worst Red Wings can't score but insist they're not getting outworked

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings can only hope this is as bad as it gets.

Really, how much worse could the Red Wings play than they did in Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss against Toronto.

“I don’t know how much further rock bottom is, but it’s got to be pretty close,” forward Luke Glendening said. “We have to find a way to play a simple game and keep pushing forward.”

Detroit center Luke Glendening and Toronto defenseman Cody Ceci battle for the puck in the third period Wednesday night.

In the NHL, there’s a rule of thumb that the standings don’t change too much after American Thanksgiving. Where a team is on Turkey Day is usually where it’ll end.

The Wings (7-17-3) hope to change that in the weeks ahead.

But for now, they’re at rock bottom, 31st out of 31 teams with 17 points, winless in their last seven games, and with a staggering goal differential of minus-45.

“We keep saying we have to find it in this room,” Glendening said. “I’m sure you guys are tired of hearing it and we’re tired of saying it.

“I don’t have a lot of words; it’s embarrassing. Get beat 6-0 in your own building, it’s disappointing for sure.

“It’s frustrating. I’m always proud to wear this jersey and it’s something everyone in this room is proud to wear, but we have to go out and prove we’re proud to wear it every night.”

Somehow, the Wings need to begin manufacturing offense.

They are averaging the fewest goals per game (2.19) in the NHL. They’ve been shut out the last two games – the first time back-to-back since Jan. 12-16, 2014 – and they’ll be without leading goal-scorer Anthony Mantha for the next few weeks.

Coach Jeff Blashill talked about the need to score “dirty” goals around the opposing team’s net, deflections or redirects.

“We’ll have shifts in the first period (against Toronto), I call them reinforcement clips, how we need to play to be successful,” Blashill said. “Our weak-side defense was down retrieving pucks, we were shooting pucks and getting them back.

“That’s how we’re going to have to play to be successful. You saw on two of their (Leafs) goals, when you shoot the puck, sometimes it goes in off people and sometimes it doesn’t.

“But you can’t stop doing it.”

Dylan Larkin thinks the Wings need to be smarter and more efficient with the puck.

“We’re not managing the puck, not putting it in good spots for our teammates,” Larkin said. “The work ethic is there, but we’re not working smartly. We work 20 or 30 seconds to get it and once we get it, we’re dead tired and trying to make plays and forcing it.

“We need to get out, get simple, get the puck and support each other, just simplify our offensive game.”

Larkin was dejected over Wednesday’s loss, on Thanksgiving Eve, which usually produces one of the livelier hockey crowds of the season.

The one-sided loss hurt, but Larkin took exception to any thought the Wings have been getting outworked in these lopsided defeats.

“Every night we work,” Larkin said. “We might not make the best plays with the puck, we might make mistakes, but we show up. We work for each other.

“I believe in the guys in here. We’re a better team than when we started the season. This is a difficult time but it’s a time to learn.”

Bernier’s guts

To Larkin’s point, the effort of goaltender Jonathan Bernier against the Leafs was admirable.

Jimmy Howard was injured midway in the first period, which forced the flu-ridden Bernier to come off the training table and finish the game.

Bernier stopped 37 of 40 shots and appeared to get stronger as the game went on.

“Bernie got to the rink and I was told he was sick,” Blashill said. “I just told Bernie, ‘If we need you, if you can go, that’s great.’ Obviously it was up to him whether he could go. He came in and showed tons of guts coming in. He played his butt off, played well.

“I asked him during timeouts if he was OK and he told me he could keep going. It was a valiant effort by him.”

The Wings recalled goalie Calvin Pickard Thursday from Grand Rapids. Blashill wasn’t sure of Howard’s availability beyond Friday’s game in Philadelphia.

Red Wings at Flyers

Faceoff: 4 p.m. Friday, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Flyers (13-7-5) have won two consecutive games and have been real good at home (7-1-4). … C Travis Konecny (eight goals, 16 assists) leads a balanced offensive attack, but G Carter Hart (7-5-3, 2.54 GAA, .900 SVS) has to be more consistent for this team to contend.


Twitter: @tkulfan