Red Wings hoping to solve Montreal's dominance
Detroit — The Montreal Canadiens have only won four games this season in 15 games total. But two of those wins have come against the Red Wings.
Both games have been head-scratchers for the Wings, who have lost in different ways to a Montreal team that has been shockingly worse than anyone expected.
The Wings have their last chance to earn two points against the Canadiens on Saturday — the teams only meet three times this season. The Wings will have to play a more complete game than the previous two times.
"They were probably a little bit different games," coach Jeff Blashill said. "The first game (Oct. 23, a 6-1 loss), we started fine. We got into penalty trouble, and then we weren't able to create enough after that.
"The last game (Nov. 2, a 3-0 loss), we played poorly. It was the worst game, I think, we've played all season in terms of how we actually played, in terms of our energy. We were a step behind the whole night. It was an egg for us, just one of those nights."
One noticeable difference in Saturday's game will be the presence of forwards Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi for the Wings.
Bertuzzi hasn't been available for the Wings in either game in Montreal because of his vaccination status. The fact Bertuzzi has decided to dec a shot, makes him unable to go into Canada.
The Wings also didn't have Larkin in the last game, as he returned home to deal with a family emergency.
Larkin and Bertuzzi are two of the Wings' best offensive players. But teams will miss players at certain points of the schedule for injuries, or any other number of reasons, Blashill said. It's important to overcome the absences.
“In the NHL you’re always going to be in situations where you’re missing guys, and you have to find a way to be successful," Blashill said. "We’ve seen Montreal play great hockey and in the last game they were outstanding against us. They won every loose puck, every battle, they made us look poor defensively.”
When talking about the Red Wings' reluctance to shoot the puck earlier this week, one of the reasons brought up was players not wanting to get their shots blocked.
But Blashill doesn't think a blocked shot is an absolute bad play.
“If you don’t think you have a lane and you shoot it and it gets blocked, you feel like it's the wrong play,” Blashill said. “That’s what happens sometimes. But the reality is a lot of times the block ends up with chaos (around the net). It’s OK to make them block the shot. Getting past that and having more of an attack mentality, we'll work through it.”
Defenseman Troy Stecher missed his fifth consecutive game Saturday with an undisclosed injury.
It doesn't sound as if Stecher will be returning to the lineup immediately. Stecher was a healthy scratch the first four games of the season, but carved out a spot in the lineup.
“Stech has a number of options and one of which is that he’s going kind of go through the next couple of weeks and see how the injury reacts,” Blashill said. “He’s hoping that it becomes a pain tolerance thing."
Blashill said Stecher can't aggravate the injury further.
"If it doesn’t react right, he’s either going to have to take significant time off, or have surgery," Blashill said. "The third choice is give it a couple of days here and see if he can play through the pain and if the pain will subside at all.
“We’ll just keep taking it day by day.”