The Detroit Red Wings struggled through a 4-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night, and things won’t get any easier when the Wings play the playoff-desperate Columbus Blue Jackets this evening (7:00 PM EST on FSD Plus/FS Ohio/Sportsnet/TVA Sports/97.1 FM).
For the Red Wings, Thursday night’s game was more than enough of a reason to stop and talk.
As Henrik Zetterberg and coach Jeff Blashill would suggest, the Wings’ younger players displayed the kind of bad defensive habits that the rebuilding Wings are trying to guard against.
I’m going to forego my usual opponent-talks-then-home-team-talks style of recap to get right to the nitty gritty, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James…
An ugly performance at home prompted a rare outburst from Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. He’d just seen his Wings embarrassed 4-0 by Vegas Thursday at Little Caesars Arena when he sounded off.
“There’s too much poke-and-hope on a lot of players,” he said. “If you want to be a solid good player in this league, and if you want to win something, you have to learn to play the right way. Poke-and-hope might get you 25-30 goals, but you will never win anything.”
Zetterberg didn’t name teammates, but based on the game – and the season – the criticism fits especially Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou. It’s tough to see for a guy like Zetterberg, who has exemplified two-way hockey since he entered the NHL in 2002.
“You have to play defense first,” Zetterberg said. “We have guys in here who have enough skill to create chances and get enough chances. You can’t force and gamble all the time. You have to do it right and eventually you will get chances. It’s not often you get chances when you cheat. Sometimes you will get rewarded but not in the long run.”
Asked how long it takes a young player to learn that, Zetterberg replied, “some longer than others.”
The growth of the young players is central to the Wings regaining competitiveness. The plan at the start of the season was to put them in bigger roles in hopes they’d embrace their importance. Consistency is an issue.
“This is the pain you endure at times when you’re asking some young guys to start to take over,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “This is the reality of it.”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan took note of Blashill’s comments…
“We’ve worked our butts off a lot this year and haven’t had the results to show for it all the time,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’ve applauded these guys’ competitiveness and ability to get back up. Tonight was no good. Tonight was unacceptable.”
A term that was popular afterward among Blashill and captain Henrik Zetterberg was “hope and poke,” meaning too much cheating was going on.
“Poke and hope is called 50-50 hockey, it’s a way to lose tons of games,” Blashill said. “To me, it’s a young mistake. We have enough young guys doing it for sure. You basically poke and hope you get it and if you don’t get it, they’re (opponents) going to get a chance. That’s not a way to win. You want to create chances without giving up chances.
Zetterberg, clearly frustrated, doesn’t want to see players gambling for offensive opportunities.
“You want to be a solid player in this league, you want to win something, you have to learn to play the right way,” Zetterberg said. “Poke and hope might get you 25 or 30 goals but you’re never going to win anything. You have to play defense first. If you do that, we have guys who have enough skill to create chances and get enough chances. You can’t force on a gamble. You have to do it right and eventually you get chances.”
Zetterberg hopes these games are a learning experience for the young players.
“I hope so,” Zetterberg said. “Because it’s not fun losing, and to start winning, you have to do things right.”
Justin Abdelkader made sure to stand up and be heard as well:
“We’re a team that, for us to be successful and win on a nightly basis, we have to go out and outwork the other team,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “If we don’t, it’s going to be tough for us to win. We just came out and weren’t competing hard enough to win in this league. We have to win more puck battles. It’s a disappointing effort here at home.”
The Golden Knights’ side of the story was very different, as NHL.com’s Dave Hogg noted…
Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for his third shutout, and the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-0 at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday.
“Our guys take a lot of pride in our road record,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “Some of our best games this season have come on the road.”
Vegas (43-19-5), which is 2-3-1 in its past six games, leads the Anaheim Ducks by 11 points for first place in the Pacific Division and trails the Nashville Predators by six for first in the Western Conference.
“This is big because we’ve shown again that when we go through a rough patch of the season, it won’t keep us down,” Fleury said.
The Golden Knights played their fifth straight game without forward James Neal (lower body), whose 24 goals are tied for second on Vegas, and first without forward Reilly Smith (undisclosed), whose 22 goals are tied for fourth.
“Eakin and Tuch stepping up and getting those goals was big for us and big for this hockey team,” Gallant said of the third-line forwards. “If we’re going to win games with guys out, we’re going to need goals from our other lines.”
Detroit (26-30-11) has lost five in a row (0-4-1) and trails the Columbus Blue Jackets by 12 points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Jimmy Howard made 28 saves.
The Golden Knights continued discussing their efforts while speaking with the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Steve Carp…
With Reilly Smith unavailable because of injury, the message was clear to the Golden Knights — everyone must raise their game to make up for the loss of the team’s second-leading scorer.
Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin certainly got the memo. They scored two goals apiece, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 28 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena.
“We played really well in the D zone,” said Tuch, who scored his 12th and 13th goals, including the game’s first goal 2:24 in when he beat Jimmy Howard to the glove side. “I thought we played well as a line. We were fast and forechecked hard and forced some turnovers. Smitty’s a key player for us, and he’s hard to replace. But I thought (Tomas) Tatar did well on that line, and I thought all 20 guys were ready to play.”
The Knights (43-19-5, 91 points) tied the NHL record for most road victories by an expansion team with 19. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim won 19 games in their inaugural season in 1993-94. The Knights also improved to 2-1 on their five-game trip, which continues Saturday in Buffalo and ends Monday in Philadelphia. They set the record without Smith, who suffered an upper-body injury Tuesday against Columbus and is listed as day to day.
“I think our guys take a lot of pride in that,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said of the road record. “It’s always tough to win on the road, but some of our best wins have come on the road. For us to have 19 wins on the road at this time, it’s great.”
The victory was the 398th of Fleury’s career and the 47th shutout. He’s 23-9-3 with three shutouts this season.
“The forwards came back and blocked shots, and the D got a lot of sticks in the lane, and there wasn’t as many crisscross passes,” Fleury said. “(Smith’s) not an easy guy to replace. He does a lot of things offensively and defensively.”
Among VegasGoldenKnights.com’s Gary Lawless’s “3 Takeaways“:
Offensive push : Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin broke out of their recent offensive dry-spellswhen they both scored a pair of goals. Tuch had his first multi-goal game of his career with his two goals. Eakin had two goals and an assist for his first goal since February 21 against the Calgary Flames. Tonight is the first time the Golden Knights have had two separate players have a multi-goal night.
“It feels pretty good. I was able to get it early and I wasn’t able to get the hat trick and neither was Eakin, but I still thought we played really well as a line,” said Alex Tuch about his two-goal night. “We had a lot of chances and a lot of good open looks.”
Complete game : The team started the game off strong with a goal from Alex Tuch. The Golden Knights now have a 28-5-1 record when they score first. Vegas knew going into tonight the importance of playing a complete game after not doing so on Tuesday against Columbus. The entire team chipped in not just offensively, but also defensively. They controlled the game from the beginning and it was a solid effort throughout.
“I thought it was a real good, solid, complete effort by everybody,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “I thought we played real well.”
The AP’s Larry Lage’s recap will serve as a pivot point back toward the Red Wings’ takes on the game…
The Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights had lost four of five, their worst stretch since losing five of six early on in their inaugural season
“When we have gone through a tough patch of the season, it’s good to know we don’t let that keep us down,” Fleury said. “You’re not going to be perfect the whole year. You’re going to have ups and downs, but we don’t’ stay down long.”
And with Reilly Smith and James Neal down with injuries, the 21-year-old Tuch scored twice for the first time in an NHL game and Eakin did it for the first time this season. They had scored 18 goals total this season.
“It’s great for them and good for the hockey team,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said.
Vegas, coming off a 4-1 loss at Columbus, went ahead 2:24 into the game when Tuch scored. The Golden Knights turned the game into a rout in the second after Eakin scored short-handed midway through the period. Eakin and Tuch had goals 50 second apart.
“There is too much poke and hope on a lot of players,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said.
Jimmy Howard had 28 saves for the Red Wings, who have lost five straight games for the third time this season.
“This is the pain you endure at times when you’re asking some young guys to go,” Blashill said.
Because DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji offers a fine end point, via coach Blashill, regarding the player who was angriest at his charges:
Quotable III: “The guy that was great tonight, the guy that was unreal, was Zetterberg. And it’s over and over and over. That’s just the reality of it. That is what elite players do every night. And it’s a hard league. The difference between this league and other leagues is in other leagues you’re more talented than your opponents so you can get away with not playing at 100 percent. The best players in this league have to be 100 percent every night in terms of their competitiveness, their focus, their competition level. It’s a lesson our young guys have to learn. It’s not an easy lesson. The other lesson our young guys have to learn is that when it starts to go the wrong way, the answer isn’t to cheat, the answer is to actually be better defensively. You can’t cheat your way to offense. You have to play from the right side of the puck, create turnovers and then attack. That’s what the league is. Sometimes when you’re a young player you want to make a difference and there’s probably times where you, I don’t know if try too hard is the right word because I didn’t see anybody trying too hard. You cheat to hope that the puck is going to bounce your way. You can’t rely on bounces.” – Blashill
That’s why the Red Wings haven’t traded Zetterberg and it’s why the Red Wings try to keep a semblance of a leadership group intact (even if the Wings may have too many veterans, which I would argue they do). Bad habits grow like wildfire when unchecked, and right now, Zetterberg, Abdelkader, Kronwall and the rest of the Wings’ leadership group is in a full-on firefight against down-the-stretch “easy hockey,” which involves a flourishing of bad habits up and down the roster.
The Wings have to play better and more competitively as a group, and on some nights, the captain may be the only one doing those things, but he knows why he has to lash himself to the wheel of this listing, slowly sinking ship. Nobody else will.
Highlights: NHL.com posted a 3:25 highlight clip…
MLive’s Ansar Khan posted a clip of Henrik Zetterberg…
The Detroit News posted a 10-image gallery;
The Las Vegas Review-Journal embedded a 20-image gallery in its website’s recap;
ESPN posted a 14-image gallery;
Here’s the Game Summary…
And the Event Summary:
Final shot attempts were 53-52 Vegas.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: Here’s an FYI from the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Steve Carp:
The Golden Knights made their first appearance at Little Caesars Arena and said they loved the building and the spacious locker room. But they thought the ice was too soft, and they’re not the only players who have complained. The Red Wings themselves have been unhappy with the quality of the ice.
CBS Detroit’s Will Burtchfield penned an article about Evgeny Svechnikov:
Svechnikov, asked to describe his own potential in the NHL, said, “I think I can be really strong in the O-zone and I think I can be an offensive player. Try to score some goals and obviously be defensively responsible. But yeah,” he smiled, “I like to score goals.”
Anthony Mantha, who played in Grand Rapids with his newest teammate in Detroit, said there’s no doubt Svechnikov can be one of the Wings’ top-six forwards in the future. Blashill doesn’t think that delineation means what it used to in the NHL, given the depth nowadays in each team’s lineup, but likes the growth Svechnikov has made in his second pro season.
“When he first came into pro, my take on him was he was real interested in making great plays instead of necessarily what it takes to score a goal. … I think over time he’s learned how to use that skill in a more efficient manner in that it’s not necessarily how pretty the play is, it’s how effective the play is,” Blashill said.
He added, “Can Svech be a guy who drives his line, or a guy who’s a good complimentary guy in the top nine? I think he can be either of those, but that will be up to him.”
Svechnikov appeared in two games for the Wings toward the end of last season and was held without a point. He netted a dazzling shootout winner versus the Senators, but admitted, “It wasn’t really a goal.”
“It feels good,” he said, “but I wish I can score in the game. That would be way better.”
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa not-so-subtly suggested that the Red Wings need a coach more like Vegas’ Gerard Gallant than Jeff Blashill:
Given the state of the roster, with development likely to remain the focus for seasons to come, it is hard to see how the Wings performance improves markedly next season, at this rate.
Especially with the possibility Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, could well be retired by after next season, one wonders if a veteran NHL presence might help.
A coach more like Gallant, with his deep experience behind the bench in the NHL and at developmental levels of the game and well as out on the ice might be the ticket for a group of comparatively inexperienced Red Wings, with more likely on the way.
Or, the Red Wings may well decide that Blashill, with his extensive experience with the current personnel and having essentially specialized in developing players since 1999, when he became an assistant at Ferris State, is still a valuable guy to have.
Certainly, Blashill’s job is the toughest of any Red Wings coach in 30 years – since Gallant first skated shotgun on Yzerman’s wing, in fact.
But the perpetual lack of improvement in the performance of the team over the last two seasons raises questions.
From WHMI 93.5 FM:
Local hockey enthusiasts will get a chance this weekend to watch a game featuring several Red Wing legends while benefiting five local charities.
One of those who will lace up the skates for the 9th annual Hockey Night in Brighton is Steven Bearden from the Von Voigtlander Foundation, who will be playing for the Red Wing alumni team, which will include Darren McCarty, Joe Kocur and Mickey Redmond. The puck drops at 12:30 Saturday afternoon at the Kensington Valley Ice House with tickets just $10. But for $50, you can enjoy dinner afterward with some great auction items, including a chance to bid for an opportunity to play on next year’s Red Wing alumni team.
Bearden says this year the Von Voigtlander Foundation is still matching dollar for dollar all donations up to $10,000. Online ticket sales will cut off Friday night and then tickets will be available at the door. Proceeds will benefit North Star Reach, Livingston County Shop With a Cop, The Arc of Livingston, Reaching Higher and the Michigan Lupus Foundation.