Power-play struggles becoming key factor in Red Wings' stumbles

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s getting to be a particular sore point, a prime reason the Red Wings aren’t winning games or earning points in the standings.

Thursday’s 7-3 loss in Dallas was the latest, and costliest, example.

Say hello to the power play. It's been a source of frustration for the Red Wings, and their fans, this entire young season (and the last several, for that matter).

Dylan Larkin said the Red Wings are trying to force things too much on the power play.

The Wings converted one power-play opportunity for a goal Thursday, which would normally be a fairly successful evening.

But the Wings also failed on six other chances — and looked poor doing it. All of which frustrated coach Jeff Blashill.

"You get 12 minutes of power-play time, you've got to score, and you've got to score earlier than that," Blashill said. "We have good entries, are in great spots and then we give pucks away. When we're in the zone, we're not executing. We've got to find a way.”

The Wings found themselves ranked 22nd out of 31 teams in power play percentage at 14.8% (4-for-27) entering play Friday.

Blashill mixed and matched units in the third period in an effort to ignite any kind of spark, and Tyler Bertuzzi did score to briefly cut into the deficit.

But it was too little, much too late.

And it did nothing to erase the images of many Wings on the power play seemingly losing confidence with the puck.

“We’re fighting pucks. We’re not relaxed and not making the plays. We’re forcing it,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “It’s not working. We have to find a way to be dangerous. We have to keep it simple to start, and get a couple of shots and rebounds, bang a couple home.

“(But) the more we talk about it, the more we think about it. We can’t think about it too much.”

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The Wings are unquestionably hampered on the power play without forwards Filip Zadina, Robby Fabbri and Sam Gagner and defenseman Jon Merrill, all of who are on the COVID protocol list.

All figure prominently into the power play, specifically the second unit, and their absences are being felt.

Some will be returning to the lineup gradually within the next couple weeks. But until then, Blashill’s hands are largely tied as to whom else he can turn to in an effort to lift the unit.

“If there’s somebody else who can do a better job, we have to keep looking,” Blashill said. “We have to find a way. Those guys have to pick their games up or somebody else has to do the job. We’ll have some guys coming back, but it’s not through the weekend, so we’ll see.”

Zone time

The Wings made it too easy on a rookie Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger, who was making his first NHL regular-season start Thursday, with only 23 shots.

Too few shots, too little offensive zone time and minimal scoring chances of any kind.

That's something else the Wings will need to work on.

"We have to find a way to get in the offensive zone and grind them down," Larkin said. "The only positive offensive zone shift we had, it seemed, was when Danny (DeKeyser) scored (in the third period). We didn't spend enough time in there, didn't hang onto pucks.

"We just didn't work for each other."

Blashill felt it was partly execution, but he wasn't particularly pleased with the speed of the Wings.

"Too easy in the sense we passed up shots and we just didn't have enough zone time," Blashill said. "We spent so much time in the game under siege. It felt like they were on top of us everywhere we looked and again, some of that is execution on our part and some of that they were a step quicker than us all over the ice. We didn't get enough pressure.

"I was disappointed we were a step slow all over the ice."

Ice chips

The Wings return for two home games against Florida this weekend, then go on the road for a lengthy six-game, 11-day trip through Tampa, Florida and Nashville.

"We have to find a way to capitalize on points at home," Larkin said. "We're playing a team that hasn't played a lot of games (Florida) and we have to find a way to get points at home."

… The Wings rank 29th in goals per game (2.00) and shots per game (25.1), illustrating some early season struggles.

… The Wings' minor league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins will begin training camp Sunday at Van Andel Arena. The Griffins open on the road in Chicago on Feb. 5, with the home opener set for Feb. 20.

Panthers at Red Wings

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

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Panthers (3-0-1) have finally gotten their season started after COVID-19 delays and have done so rather impressively. Three offseason acquisitions are leading the way offensively: center Carter Verhaeghe (four goals, six points), right wing Patric Hornqvist (four goals, five points) and left wing Anthony Duclair (five assists). 

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan