Red Wings continue education on how to close out games
Detroit — It wasn't a complete lost weekend for the Red Wings.
So, it wasn't great, by any standard.
And, if anything, it was a frustrating one for the Wings, who felt they could have much more while playing two of the better teams in the Western Conference.
"We should have won (Friday), and we were right there (Saturday)," defenseman Marc Staal said after Saturday's 4-1 loss in Nashville. "No, I don't think they're on a different level than us. We just have to figure out a way to make it go our way.
"Right now, we just weren't able to do it."
Coach Jeff Blashill never has been a big believer in "measuring sticks," or measuring his team against others in the NHL. In Blashill's mind, the NHL is a daily measuring stick. Every game is a measuring stick.
But for the Wings in these two games, it was a frustrating to be in good position to win both, yet come away with so little. It was another, painful learning experience.
"Certainly when you play good teams you find out a lot about yourself," Blashill said. "We should have won (Friday), we're sitting there in position to win it and we should have won, and (Saturday) we could have won the game. It's not like we were hemmed in and hanging on by any stretch. It was a fairly even game; they had a few more chances than we did.
"But we certainly were right there, in position to win the hockey game."
Blashill has been imparting a familiar message in similar games recently the Wings have lost: They need to learn to win them.
"We have to find ways to win," Blashill said. "I've talked about it before, but we've done a little better job of that, but you have to make to sure to win (Friday's game) in regulation and have to close the game (Saturday)."
Special teams loss
The game within the game in the NHL is always the special teams battle, and Saturday, Nashville dominated it.
While the Wings were goal-less in five power-play attempts, the Predators were 1-for-3. Nashville's goal — and the Wings' futility — swung momentum in the game.
The Wings had a four-minute power play late in the first period that carried into the second period, and didn't produce a goal. Nashville's power play goal from Nick Cousins got the Predators on the scoreboard in the second period, and they quickly added another goal.
“When you go on the road on the back half of back-to-backs against a good team, you would like to win the specialty teams battle," Blashill said.
Especially against a good team such as Nashville, a team like Detroit must capitalize on the power play to have a chance to win.
"We let them have a power-play goal, and we didn’t get anything on ours," Staal said. "You lose the special teams game, especially on the road, it’s tough to win. It definitely played a part in it."
The Wings lost defenseman Gustav Lindstrom in the second period, and Lindstrom did not return to the game. Blashill had no update on Lindstrom, but may know more at Monday's practice. The Wings didn't practice Sunday.
“He left the game, but I honestly don’t have much more of an update than that," Blashill said. "I just know he couldn’t finish."
... Forward Adam Erne scored the lone Wings' goal, ending a 20-game drought between goals. Erne burst out of the penalty box, took an outlet pass from Tyler Bertuzzi, and scored on a breakaway.
The line of Erne, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina was arguably one of the Wings' better lines against Nashville, creating a significant amount of offensive-zone time.
"Earns (Erne) the last couple of games has played much better,” Blashill said. “He went into a little bit of a funk, which happens. (Erne) and Ras have pretty good chemistry. When they’ve been with Vladdy (Namestnikov) they’ve been real good at times. Zadina played good (Saturday). Overall it was a good line, I’m glad that Earns scored and hopefully we can get that line going at a higher level.”
... Bertuzzi was in the penalty box for nearly the first seven minutes of the third period after getting into a fight (and slashing) Nashville's Matt Benning at 19:46 of the second period.
Bertuzzi is a physical player who isn't going to back down, but the Wings miss his offense when not in the lineup.
“It happens, he’s a tough kid and it’s the way it goes," Blashill said. "You got to find ways to absorb it, though.”