The Detroit Red Wings have lost 3 straight games, and they sit at 13-13-and-3 after an ugly 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, wrapping up a nasty set of back-to-back losses on the road (in both St. Louis and Denver), on top of a bad home loss to the Nashville Predators.
Our friends from Denver now sit at an impressive 15-7-2, while Ken Daniels informed those of us who were paying attention on Thursday night in St. Louis that, in terms of “difficulty of schedule,” the Red Wings, who sit at 13-12-and-3, have the hardest remaining schedule of any NHL team (in terms of their remaining opponents’ win percentage).
Long story long; between the 7-3 loss to Colorado on Friday and the 6-2 loss to St. Louis on Thursday–never mind the 5-2 home loss to Nashville on Tuesday–the Red Wings have learned a lot about what not to do defensively, as well as how not to stage a comeback from multiple-goal deficits.
As ColoradoAvalanche.com’s Laken Barker notes, the Avs’ win was one for the record books, or at least the record-tying ones…
The Colorado Avalanche have a 7-0 record in the last seven meetings against the Detroit Red Wings, including tonight’s contest. There is one more game schedule between the two teams this season on Dec. 20 in Detroit. The Avalanche have scored at least five goals in the last six consecutive games at home, which ties the franchise record. The Avalanche have won six straight games at home, totaling 38 goals and holds a 7-0-1 record in the last eight games at Ball Arena.
And, to the positive, the Avs were absolutely delighted with their Friday night effort, as the Denver Post’s Kyle Fredrickson noted…
The Avs dominated the Detroit Red Wings, 7-3, on Friday night at Ball Arena. It marked Colorado’s third-straight game with seven goals. Avalanche starting netminder Darcy Kuemper stopped 37 shots for his 11th victory of the season.
The Avs (15-7-2) have now won seven consecutive meetings against their old-school rivals from Detroit. The outcome on Friday was never in doubt.
“The crazy thing is we haven’t played out best hockey yet,” defenseman Devon Toews said. “Through our room, we understand that. We see progress.”
Colorado led 3-0 midway into the opening period with goals from JT Compher (in his first game back from injury), Andre Burakovsky (breaking a three-game point drought) and Darren Helm (against his former team).
The Red Wings resorted to pulling goalie Thomas Greiss for Alex Nedeljkovic — playing on the second night of back-to-back games. Detroit recovered with a late first-period goal from Vladislav Namestnikov and trailed 3-1.
The second period opened with a mad scoring rush. Red Wings forward Joe Veleno scored unassisted before the Avalanche rattled off a trio of goals from Nathan MacKinnon, Burakovsky and Sam Girard. Colorado led 6-2 before the midway point of the game.
The Red Wings didn’t go down quietly. Detroit defenseman Filip Hronek added a goal to make it 6-3 entering the third period. But that proved too little, too late against a simply scorching Avalanche team.
Colorado notched its seventh goal of the night with an empty-netter from Cale Makar.
But there was a problem, as Colorado Hockey Now’s Terry Frei noted:
After the game, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar confirmed [captain Gabriel] Landeskog had suffered a lower body injury in the second period. He logged 12:03 of ice time before he was done for the night.
“I don’t have a timeline on him yet,” Bednar added. “We’ll find out more (Saturday) at some point.”
The Avalanche already was without, among others, veteran center Nazem Kadri, who didn’t suit up and is considered day-to-day with a lower body injury suffered at New York Wednesday, plus Bo Byram (head injury) and Ryan Murray (lower body). The Avalanche went into the night with 122 man-games lost to injury, and only four players have played in all 24 games — Logan O’Connor, Erik Johnson, Tyson Jost and Darren Helm.
Overall, the Avs told the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Kate Shefte that they were satisfied with their collective and individual performances…
“It’s kind of a funny night because if you look at it, Kuemps probably lets in two bad goals. … and then he comes up with all these huge saves in traffic, rebound opportunities and put-backs that we didn’t do a very good job of right in front of the crease tonight,” coach Jared Bednar said. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the way he played. He’s a little bit like our team – he’s got to clean up, make sure they’re not getting any easy ones, and then make some of the saves that he made tonight.”
Spread over 14 seasons, Helm spent the first 744 regular-season games and 82 playoff contests of his career with the Red Wings before joining Colorado as a free agent in July. He had played the 17th-most regular-season games in Detroit’s franchise history at the time of his departure.
“Doing it against your old team in the first game against them is obviously huge,” Burakovsky said. “Really happy for him.”
Helm won the Stanley Cup in his rookie season in 2008, then saw the perennial contender sink down the standings.
The second-oldest player on the Avalanche, Helm is one of four players to appear in every game so far. The first-period goal was his fourth of the season and he is, as in Detroit, a trusted penalty killer. Helm said he tried not to think too much about the night ahead.
“I definitely think going back to Detroit will be a little bit harder,” Helm said. “Just play a game, go to work.”
Even the Red Wings had to admit that the Avs put on a clinic, as coach Jeff Blashill, the birthday boy, told the Associated Press:
”This team, probably, is going to test where you are defensively probably more than any other team in the league,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. ”They’re as good offensively as any team in the league, both on their rush and their O-zone. And obviously we’ve got to get better.”
Helm spent the previous 14 seasons in Detroit, debuting in the NHL as a 21-year-old in 2007. He had 251 points in 744 regular-season games with the Red Wings and won the Stanley Cup in 2008. Helm signed a free-agent deal with Colorado in July.
”It’s home,” Helm said of Detroit.
Helm took a feed from Nicolas Aube-Kubel and scored on a breakaway at 10:49 of the first period to chase Greiss.
Compher, who had missed the previous 11 games with an upper-body injury, tipped in Toews’ shot at 5:01 of the first, and Andre Burakovsky scored off a one-timer just over two minutes later.
After Veleno slipped a backhand past Kuemper to make it 3-2 at 3:21 of the second, the Avalanche responded with an offensive onslaught. MacKinnon and Burakovsky scored 23 seconds apart, and Girard made it 6-2 less than three minutes later.
”We’re just hungry around the net,” Burakovsky said.
Dylan Larkin was honest in his assessment as to where his team is at right now:
”We’re looking for answers,” Detroit captain Dylan Larkin said. ”It’s not uncommon to look around the league and see everyone has a great home record. Fans are back in the building, it’s exciting to be home. There’s extra jump, so we have to find a way, similar to what we did in Boston, to take away that momentum and energy from the crowd.”
Larkin was equally blunt about his team’s shortcomings, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted:
“They’re a good team, a premier offensive team in this league and that’s not the start you want to have in this building,” Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
Detroit gave Colorado too much room to skate and make plays, and got into a track meet that the Avalanche loves.
“They’re a premier offensive team, you give them time and they’ll roll around and make plays,” Larkin said. “You have to find a way to grind out your shift and stay tight and we just got beat on our assignments, and especially early. It was a disastrous start and you can’t have that kind of start in this building.”
Thomas Greiss started but was lifted after allowing three goals on seven shots in 10:49. Alex Nedeljkovic — who Greiss replaced the night before in St. Louis — relieved and stopped 36 of 39 shots.
“No goalie is going to be great when you’re giving up that many chances,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
Blashill, also, wasn’t particularly happy about the start Friday, and also didn’t like the way the Wings played defensively.
“The first period, we had a lot of guys play to their ‘C’ game and not their ‘A’ game,” Blashill said. “Obviously it’s a tough team to do that against. They’re going to exploit you. Our guys kept digging in and showed a lot of character. We had chances in the third (period) to at least make it interesting and didn’t score on those chances. When we came back from out West (in an earlier four-game winless trip), we needed to get better defensively and we did. This team (Colorado), you’re going to get tested where you’re at defensively as any in the league. We have to get better.”
You can compare and contrast the coaches’ remarks in NHL.com’s Rick Sadowski’s recap, especially given that the Wings have one of the least-productive bluelines in the NHL:
“Guys are moving well and shooting well, they’ve been getting to the net quite a bit,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “The puck decisions in the offensive zone have been much better. There’s a lot of activity, it’s tough to cover, and to me that starts with our back end. That, with the movement and puck protection with our forwards, it’s been tough to handle.”
As a reminder: these teams meet again on December 20th, at Little Caesars Arena:
“This team, probably, is going to test where you are defensively probably more than any other team in the league,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “They’re as good offensively as any team in the league, both on their rush and their [offensive] zone. And obviously we’ve got to get better. It was a litmus test for us defensively and we’ve got to grow. We’ve got to get better. They’re very good when it’s a bit of a shootout like that and we can’t let that happen.”
Update: This quote sort of serves as a non-sequitur, but I’m going to include it as it’s the most interesting one in the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ recap, and it’s…A different view of the game from the one I had:
“We had a lot of guys that played more like their C game and not their A game and that’s a tough team to do that against,” Blashill said. “They’re going to exploit you. I thought our guys kept kind of digging in. They showed lots of character in continuing to grind, certainly didn’t quit. Had chances in the third to at least make it interesting. We didn’t score on those chances.”
And, as Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff noted, the Red Wings were incredibly lucky to not lose one of their prized rookies to an injury:
A collective sigh of relief was exhaled by the Red Wings faithful when right-winger Lucas Raymond was seen returning to the ice late in the second period. A few minutes earlier, Raymond was wobbling to the Detroit dressing room, favoring his right knee. He’d been involved in a freak accidental knee-on-knee collision with Colorado’s Kurtis MacDermid near the benches during a line change.
“Those two guys just collided,” Blashill said. “We probably got a little bit lucky it wasn’t worse. It could have been worse for sure.”
Raymond was able to play the remainder of the game.
“I don’t think it’s going to be anything major,” Blashill said. “Doesn’t mean he won’t be sore. Just a collision, nobody’s fault.”
Defenseman Filip Hronek also left the game briefly in the third period after being cross-checked into the boards by Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar. He was back in action before the power play was over, though.
So the Red Wings will literally and figuratively limp home for a 3-day break; they’re likely to practice on Sunday and Monday, and then they play games on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday–at home vs. the Islanders, then away in Carolina, back home for games vs. the Devils and Avs, and finally, a road game in Minnesota to wrap up the pre-Christmas schedule.
Let’s hope that the Wings start learning this whole, “Score more goals than you surrender” thing before all of this pre-Christmas stuff is over.
Highlights: Sportsnet posted an 8:18 highlight clip:
NHL.com posted a 9:11 highlight clip:
Post-game: The Avs do something of a game recap:
The Avs also posted clips of Devon Toews and Andre Burakovsky’s post-game remarks…
And coach Jared Bednar spoke with the media as well:
Bally Sports Detroit posted Trevor Thompson’s post-game interview with coach Jeff Blashill:
The Free Press’s Helene St. James posted a 3:57 clip of Dylan Larkin’s remarks…
And a 5:03 clip of Blashill’s comments:
The Red Wings also posted a 4:36 combined clip of Larkin and Blashill’s remarks:
Photos: The Free Press posted an 18-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 25-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 32-image gallery.