Jeff Blashill: Still plenty of season left for Red Wings to change course
Detroit — The road that is the NHL regular season isn’t long this year, but the Red Wings have already hit their first caution point.
They haven’t won in six games, they’re last in the Central Division and they now embark on a difficult six-game, 11-day road schedule through Tampa, Florida and Nashville — all of whom had .500 or winning records entering play Monday.
If the Red Wings have any realistic hopes of turning around this season, the U-turn is going to have to happen soon in this 56-game season for the Wings (2-6-2).
If the Wings struggle on this trip, it’s going to be difficult to recover.
After Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Florida, coach Jeff Blashill talked about how the Wings are ready for the challenges ahead.
“After the game I’m sure there’s frustration that can mount in these situations, but we have a lot of season ahead of us,” Blashill said. “I know it goes fast and there’s not many games, but we have a lot of season ahead of us.
“We’ve made strides in the right direction in a lot of (areas) over the last couple of games. The ‘temperature’ in the room going into the game showed by the way we started. It was, ‘Let’s go and play and win.’ We have a lot to learn from (Sunday) and then put it behind us. There’s not one thing we can change. It’s something I’ve preached the last couple of years but it’s real important.
“We’ll have some meetings (Tuesday) and go attack and get better and try to win (Wednesday in Tampa), obviously the defending Stanley Cup champions, and that’s a great challenge. (But) we sat around for 11 months. We want these challenges. We’re not taking any game for granted.
“The record isn’t good enough, but we’ve got a chance to change it on Wednesday. So let’s go out and try to change it.”
Some analysts have wondered what motivation teams that fall out of a playoff chase would have this pandemic-shortened season, especially given all the rigorous COVID rules and tests.
But Blashill isn’t concerned about his team losing motivation.
“Again, we just sat around for 11 months and we didn’t get a chance to play,” Blashill said. “It doesn’t matter what our record is. It matters because we have a chance to win a hockey game and that’s the way I look at it.”
The Wings are winning one thing — the majority of their faceoffs.
The Wings rank seventh (51.9%) in faceoff win percentage and individually Luke Glendening is winning 66% of his faceoffs.
Blashill remembers coaching in Grand Rapids (the Wings’ minor league affiliate) and how former Wings coach Mike Babcock passed Glendening over for a promotion to the NHL once because Glendening wasn’t good enough at faceoffs.
Glendening, said Blashill, took the snub as a challenge.
“He’s found different tricks, watched other centers and different moves they’ve made,” Blashill said. “He’s tried to incorporate those and he’s a good athlete so he find ways to incorporate different moves into his repertoire. He’s got a lot of different ways to win faceoffs.”
The Wings reassigned forwards Michael Rasmussen and Chase Pearson and defensemen Dennis Cholowski and Gustav Lindstrom and goaltender Kevin Boyle to Grand Rapids. The AHL season begins Friday, with the Griffins opening their season in Chicago.
… The way Florida scored its four power-play goals last weekend against the Red Wings left an impression with forward Dylan Larkin.
"They were hungry around the net. The goals they scored were all around the net and they just got to the puck there," Larkin said. "We have to come back and help Greisser (goaltender Thomas Greiss) or Bernie (goaltender Jonathan Bernier), whoever is playing in net and clear out the front of the net, so they can make the easy save and there's no second opportunity."
… The Wings could get forwards Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne back at practice Tuesday from the COVID-19 protocol list. Forwards Sam Gagner and Filip Zadina as well as defenseman Jon Merrill should return to the ice by the end of the week.
Forward Tyler Bertuzzi and Bernier are both considered day-to-day by Blashill.