Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff posted an article discussing the Red Wings’ struggles on defense of late:
Only the Montreal Canadiens (67) have allowed more goals than the 65 given up by the Red Wings. Detroit’s 3.42 goals-against average ranks 28th overall in the NHL. The Wings are allowing 34.1 shots against per game. That’s 30th in the NHL.
“Statistically we’re one of the worst defensive teams in the league and we have to become a better defensive team,” Jeff Blashill said. “When you give up that many goals you’re just never going to be able to overcome that. We gotta get our structure back, we gotta get our habits back, specifically in D-zone coverage and track, sorting back into our end.”
Last season, while they were clearly suffering from a lack of scoring punch, as the season was progressing, the Wings were carving out an identity as a team that wasn’t giving up a ton. This season, with player personnel upgrades in goal, along the blueline and up front, the thinking was that the team would continue to take forward strides in this area of the game.
Instead, they’re getting further away from the objective of becoming a responsible defensive team.
Ongoing issues aren’t being cured. The Red Wings are still struggling mightily to make smooth clearances from their own end. They continue to allow free passage to opposing players through the neutral zone. Understanding defensive zone coverages seems to puzzle some of them.
In the loss to Vegas, three goals were the result of missed defensive zone assignments. One came directly from a lost defensive-zone faceoff. The opening for another goal came from a feeble clearance attempt by defenseman Danny DeKeyser.
“We’re getting good goaltending, so it’s a scenario where we have to be better defensively,” Sam Gagner said. “It comes down to executing. With our puck touches in our own zone, make sure we’re cleaner and when we are in our own end, finding ways to stop the cycle and keep them to the outside, not give up chances. We have a structure and we’ve got to stick to it and make sure we’re on the same page.”