Entering final homestand of season, Red Wings still searching for offense

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s been a problem all season, but especially now as the Red Wings head into the final days of this regular season. The Wings have had trouble scoring goals from opening night.

But it’s been exacerbated as they get to the finish line. Thursday’s 3-1 loss in Carolina was the latest quiet, offensive evening.

In the last seven games — of which, the Wings have won only once — the Wings have scored more than two goals just once, in that 7-3 victory over Dallas. They have two goals total in the last three games, all losses.

Detroit left wing Jakub Vrana gets high-fives from his teammates after scoring in the first period during a game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Dallas Stars, at Little Caesars Arena, in Detroit, April 22, 2021. Vrana would go on to score four goals in the 7-3 victory by Detroit.

“We have to get more pucks to the net, get traffic in front,” forward Luke Glendening said. “We’ve talked about it a lot, but we have to find a way to get dirty goals.

“(Jakub) Vrana had a really nice one, but the rest of us have to chip in offensively and give ourselves a chance.”

Incidentally, yes, Vrana did score a really nice one — and in case you’ve forgotten, Vrana scored four goals in that Dallas victory.

He scored his sixth goal in seven games with the Wings with a takeaway, side-stepping defenders, then backhanding a shot over goalie James Reimer.

It also ended a Wings’ goal-less streak of 146 minutes, 46 seconds.

"He can score, there's no doubt he can score," coach Jeff Blashill said. "What we'll keep working on with him is just making sure he becomes that complete player that can score on a winning hockey team. 

"There's zero doubt he can score. He has real ability to score."

But it’s the other Wings that need to somehow find a way to score goals these final four games of the season, if they are to secure another victory before the season ends.

Against Carolina, the Wings wound up defending much more than playing offense. That, for sure, isn’t going to help a team get on the scoreboard.

More: Filip Hronek provides Red Wings with minutes, hard-nosed game

"I know for sure the answer to scoring more is not playing more D-zone coverage," Blashill said. "We have to do a better job of puck play."

With forwards Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Bobby Ryan and Frans Nielsen unavailable for these final four games with injuries, and Adam Erne (COVID-19 protocol) and Robby Fabbri (upper body) out day-to-day, the Wings continue to be shorthanded of proven offensive talent.

But there are ways, Blashill said, to get offense.

“How do you manufacture offense?” Blashill said. “You spend more time in the other team’s end. You grind them down, and  they chip it in your zone and try to make a change because they’re tired, you jam it down their throat.

"That’s how you create offense most of the time in this league, by grinding the other team down, kind of like they (the Hurricanes) did over the course of the game.”

Good test

The younger Wings who have never experienced playoff hockey get another stiff test this weekend with two consecutive games against defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay.

Both the Hurricanes and Lightning are putting the final touches on their overall game heading into the playoffs, and are a good example of what that type of hockey looks like.

For the young Wings establishing themselves in the NHL, it'll be a valuable lesson.

"Its great for our younger guys to see the level of play," Blashill said. "The other night (Tuesday's game in Columbus, who the Wings close out the season next weekend with two games), early in the game, it was real loose and it didn't seem like a real hockey game. Carolina is trying to play a high level and they need these points and Tampa is the same way. For our young guys to understand how much it ramps up as the season goes along, and for the guys who have been here, (and a lesson) how competitive it is."

With the way professional sports are now, too, there's a chance some of players may not return to the NHL next season or maybe head to different teams.

That also makes these final four games ones to cherish.

"Every day in this league is a blessing, and I don't mean that as a cliche, it honestly is," Glendening said. "Those are two games (against Tampa) for us, whether you're an older guy whose career is winding down, or young guy just getting into the league, you have to take every day as a blessing and every game.

"And you have a chance to prove yourself. And that's what we have to do this weekend."

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Lightning at Red Wings

►Faceoff: 3 Saturday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

►TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit/950

►Outlook: The Red Wings (17-26-9) conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule with a back-to-back against defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa (34-14-2). ... The Wings are 2-3-1 against Tampa this season.


Twitter: @tkulfan