The Detroit Red Wings dropped a puzzling, perhaps infuriating 7-3 loss to the Dallas Stars in the second game of the teams’ road-and-still-on-the-road series Thursday night.
After making some progress over the course of their 3-1 loss to Dallas on Tuesday, the Wings seemed to reverse course for far too much of a tentative, low-event first period.
Things got interesting as the Wings’ seven power plays piled up over the course of the second and third periods, but whenever the Red Wings made things close, Dallas pulled away with ease, if not surgical precision, and when the bad breaks and bad bounces came, they came Detroit’s way (with the exception of Tyler Bertuzzi’s lone power play goal).
By the end of the game, Dallas had pulled away with 3 straight goals (two of them shaky ones) on Thomas Greiss, who came in to relieve an injured Jonathan Bernier, and the depleted Red Wings roster looked like it wasn’t just “not on the same page”–the players were reading different books (if they were reading anything).
Now the Red Wings go home to play 2 games in 2 nights against the 3-0-and-1 Florida Panthers, they receive 2 days off, and then the Wings embark upon a 10-games-in-18-nights stretch, playing the Panthers a total of 6 times by February 20th.
With none of the Wings’ quintet of COVID reserve players (Filip Zadina, Robby Fabbri, Sam Gagner, Jon Merrill, Adam Erne) likely to return in short order, this is the roster that will have to shake itself out of its 2-5-and-1 slump, and my best guess is that Blashill and his staff are the coaches who will see them through the regular season.
Regarding Thursday’s game, our friends from Dallas extended their record to 4-and-0 at the Red Wings’ expense, and they did so on the back of rookie goaltender Jake Oettinger. The Dallas News’s Matthew DeFranks reports that the Stars ended their 4-game home stand very much so “on the same page,” in many aspects:
“Very happy with that considering what we went through in training camp, considering the amount of injuries we have to key players,” [Stars coach Rick] Bowness said. “Give the credit to players who stepped in tonight and the whole homestand.”
Joe Pavelski (fourth goal of the season), Denis Gurianov (third) and John Klingberg (second) continued their hot starts to the year, while Andrew Cogliano, Jamie Oleksiak, Ty Dellandrea and Justin Dowling (empty-netter) scored their first goals of 2020-21. It was the first goal of Dellandrea’s NHL career.
“That’s Jake’s first win of many to come in his career, and Ty’s first goal of many to come in his career,” Bowness said. “It’s nice that they got them both in the same night. Both of them are a huge part of this organization as we move forward, and it’s great to see them get that behind them.”
Dallas killed six of seven penalties, but the Stars’ penalties gave Detroit life during a game in which the Red Wings finished with just 13 shots on goal at 5 on 5.
The Stars largely stifled the Red Wings in Oettinger’s debut, with two of Detroit’s goals coming off rebounds at the net-front, and the other on a deflected point shot. They didn’t ask Oettinger to be the best player on the ice during his first NHL start, and they survived a third-period push by the Red Wings that sullied Oettinger’s overall stat line.
“For the most part, I was happy with how it went,” Oettinger said. “I’m just happy to get the first one behind me and just continue to build confidence every time I’m in there. Thankfully, the guys played so well in front of me and made my job really easy tonight. If we keep playing like that, then we’re going to keep getting wins. I was just happy to be out there, and really a dream come true.”
Oettinger continued while speaking with NHL.com’s Dave Hogg:
“This means everything to me,” said Oettinger, who made two relief appearances for Dallas during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. “I’ve obviously been around this group for a long time, so getting an opportunity to come in and help out is a very special moment.”
Ty Dellandrea scored his first NHL goal and had his first NHL assist in his fourth game.
“That’s Jake’s first win of many in his career and Ty’s first goal of many in his career,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “It’s nice they got them on the same night because they are both a huge part of this organization going forward.”
You don’t need to work hard to contrast what the teams’ coaches had to say about their respective charges:
“I’m very happy with this start, considering everything we went through in training camp and all the injuries we have right now,” Bowness said. “Everyone who has stepped up has done a wonderful job.”
Jonathan Bernier allowed three goals on 19 shots in two periods and left with an upper-body injury. He was replaced by Thomas Greiss, who made six saves for Detroit (2-5-1), which went 0-3-1 on its first road trip of the season.
“I think we took a real step back on this trip,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “It isn’t just results, we didn’t play good hockey. We’ve got to find a way to regroup because we need a lot of guys to play way better than this.”
Dylan Larkin agreed with his coach…
“We finally got one on the power play and we got within 4-3, but then it got away from us again,” Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin said. “We can’t continue to let two points get away from us every night.”
Ty Dellandrea, a former Flint Firebirds forward, was happy to have scored his first goal as well, as the Associated Press’s recap noted…
Dellandrea then got his goal on a power player after a nifty pass from Heiskanen, then Dowling scored an empty-netter and Dellandrea assisted Klingberg.
”Yeah, it was a lot of emotion. Once I saw it going in, I was pretty pumped and it was an unbelievable play by Miro,” Dellandrea, the 13th overall pick in 2018. ”That was special.”
Oettinger, who turned 22 last month, was the 26th overall pick in the first round by the Stars in the 2017 draft – they got Heiskanen with the third pick that year.
”The ones that went in, he had absolutely zero chance,” Bowness said. ”He made the saves he had to make.”
And, again, the Red Wings were plain old frustrated with themselves:
”We spent so much time in the game under siege it felt like, where they were on top of us everywhere we looked,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. ”They were just flat-out a step quicker than us all over the ice.”
While the Stars, as DallasStars.com’s Mike Heika suggested, have looked like a team whose interchangeable parts have the 4-and-0 Stars team looking toward another long playoff run already:
“In the bubble, we spent a lot of time with the guys that weren’t with us every day and weren’t playing every day. You know at some point they’re going to play and they’re part of our family here,” Bowness said. “We work closely with our players. We had great leadership from the veterans on this hockey club. They stepped up and made the young guys feel part of it. We all work together here, that’s what it is.”
And four games into this very odd season, it looks like the Stars might simply be who they are — a pretty good hockey team.
We knew that this year’s Red Wings were not going to be a “pretty good hockey team” when the season began, but some six games ago, there was a sense of hope that the Wings would be a much more competitive team. 2-5-and-1 games later, the Red Wings are mired in a 4-game winless streak, and the post-game tones struck by coach Blashill and Captain Larkin were almost more worrisome than the game itself.
Blashill expressed frustration about the Wings’ powerless power play to DetroitRedWings.com’s Josh Berenter…
Detroit went 1-for-7 on the power play in the game, but didn’t convert until the third period, and Wings coach Jeff Blashill said his team needs to do a better job of executing when it has opportunities.
“You get 12 minutes of power-play time, you’ve got to score, and you’ve got to score earlier than that,” Blashill said. “We have good entries, we’re in great spots and then we give pucks away. When we’re in the zone, we’re not executing. We’ve got to find a way. Those guys have got to pick their games up.”
Blashill isn’t a “naming names” guy, but Larkin, Bobby Ryan, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Hronek constitute the first power play unit, and Taro Hirose, Mathias Brome, Michael Rasmussen, Valtteri Filppula and Christian Djoos have been on the second unit lately.
Captain Larkin (as we will call him here) expressed equal measures of exasperation and stabs at hope while on his post-game Zoom call…
“Not a good enough start,” Larkin said. “If there’s a positive, we worked our way back into the game. The power play wasn’t good enough, but then we got one, made it 4-3 there and it got away from us.
“It’s the Western Conference champs over there. I think we were in it, but again, we just let it slip away. We can’t keep letting two points slip away here. Every game is important, being against our own division.”
And Larkin continued while speaking with the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“We’re fighting against ourselves, not actually fighting, but we have the puck on the stick and we’re nervous to make plays and we don’t want it on our stick,” Larkin said. “We’re second-guessing everything and not moving around. We’re not hard on it to get in on entries.
“Every power-play goal we scored this year, we kept it simple and threw it on net, and it’s not the prettiest goals, but it’s in the net. We didn’t do that nearly enough and it has to find a way to get going.”
Coach Blashill got as close as Blashill gets to expressing real anger while speaking with Kulfan…
“We took a real step back,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have to regroup. It’s not going to be easy. We’re getting home late and we have to turn around and play on Saturday but we have to find a way to regroup. Dig deeper and ultimately we have to a lot of guys play a lot better. We have individuals who can play better hockey for sure.”
And, as Kulfan notes, just a week after wrapping up a 2-and-2 start, the former goaltender (Blashill) was particularly annoyed with the fact that they’d essentially let Oettinger off the hook:
“Too easy in the sense we passed up shots and we just didn’t have enough zone time,” Blashill said. “We spent so much time in the game under siege, it felt like they were on top of us everywhere we looked and again, some of that is execution on our part and some of that, they were a step quicker than us all over the ice. We didn’t get enough pressure.
“He’s a good goalie, he’ll have a good career, but as a young kid in his first start, I know he played a couple of playoff games in relief, but we have to do a better job for sure.
“I was disappointed we were a step slow all over the ice.”
The only good news here is delivered by Kulfan, that is that Bernier’s “upper-body injury” shouldn’t require significant time off (I figured that Bernier got taken out of the game by the concussion spotter, frankly), but I was at least feeling nonplussed about this loss before I read through and listened to Blashill and Larkin’s comments.
Now? I’m genuinely concerned. I know that all post-game remarks involve frustration seeping through, but there is a sense, at least among the fan base on Twitter, that this team is already aboard a sinking ship, and not a listing one, and this team’s coach doesn’t usually bark as loudly as he did tonight.
So I’m worried…And as someone who doesn’t believe that we’ll see a coaching change this season, I’m a little lost in terms of looking for answers.
Also: If you want to read a little bit more about Dellandrea’s night, the Dallas News’s Matthew DeFranks filed a notebook article discussing Dellandrea, Miro Heiskanen and Tanner Kero’s respective outings on Thursday, that may serve as a palate-cleanser after all this gloom and doom.
Highlights: Sportsnet and NHL.com posted highlights:
Post-game: The Stars’ website posted clips of Jake Oettinger…
And coach Rick Bowness’ post-game remarks:
The Red Wings posted a combined clip of Dylan Larkin and Jeff Blashill’s post-game remarks:
Fox Sports Detroit’s clips separated Larkin and Blashill’s remarks:
Photos: The Free Press posted a 21-image gallery;
The Detroit News embedded a 17-image gallery in Ted Kulfan’s recap;
The Dallas News posted a 26-image gallery;
And NHL.com posted a 100-image gallery.