The Red Wings balancing act: more attack without sacrificing defense
The Detroit Red Wings are looking for ways to generate more offense without sacrificing defense.
In seven games, the Red Wings are averaging 1.86 goals, the third from the bottom in the NHL. It’s even worse than in 2019-20, when they scored 2.00 goals per game, their lowest production since 1939-40 (1.88).
The absence of three top-nine forwards in the last three games due to COVID protocol (Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina, Sam Gagner) contributed to the decline. They will be sidelined on Thursday when the Red Wings face Dallas in the second straight game at American Airlines Center (8:30 p.m. Fox Sports Detroit Plus), and possibly longer.
Until then, and even after the team is back to full roster, the Red Wings need more goals.
“How do you score more? Either the guys are burying their chances or we have to do a better job scoring the dirty goals with the chaos at the net, ”said coach Jeff Blashill. “(Dallas) are not an easy team to find our offense against. They are extremely good defensively. They have a few elite defenders (Miro Heiskanen, John Klingberg) and a very big D body and they are playing well structurally.
Whatever they do, Blashill said it was essential that they play the kind of tight checking game they did in Tuesday 2-1 overtime loss to the Stars.
“If we can get into a lot of 1-1 games late in the game, that’s a good place for us,” said Blashill. “We have to find a way to win them over. You earn them by playing the power play when you get these opportunities. You earn them by making a critical play at a critical time. But we want to be in as many close games as possible in the third period. In order to do that, we have to make sure our defense is excellent.
“(Henrik) Zetterberg used to say it a lot, everything has to be fine without anything happening during a shift. You can’t force it. You must attack when the opponent is vulnerable. If you force it, bad things usually happen. I thought we had shown maturity (Tuesday) by just putting pucks behind them and being okay with that.
The path to more offense is through the power play, where Detroit only converted 3 out of 20 (15%) chances, two in the same game by Tyler Bertuzzi. Fabbri, Zadina and Gagner are regulars in the power play.
“Just more run of the puck to keep us in the zone longer, it would be No. 1 by a mile nationwide,” said Blashill. “A lot of times we’ve given the puck, not really trying to make plays, just mismanagement of the puck, both on our entries and in the zone, so you’re not in the zone long enough. The more you are in the zone, the more tired the (penalty killers) are and the less clearly they think.
Blashill said they need to find ways to get the puck down to Bobby Ryan, which could create more one-off opportunities for Anthony Mantha and Filip Hronek on the flanks.
“Our execution has yet to be much better, and a number of players have yet to be much better,” said Blashill. “Even though it was good, we were better defensively, I still think there are a lot more people. “
Mantha performed better on Tuesday after being on the bench for most of the third period in Sunday’s loss to Chicago. But he only has one goal and three points in seven games.
The team were happy to see Vladislav Namestnikov score his first goal on Tuesday. They hope Mathias Brome (no points in seven games) breaks through soon.
Larkin misses training
Blashill said Dylan Larkin did not train in Dallas on Wednesday and it was not due to the COVID protocol. He missed a few shifts in the second period on Tuesday after getting ripped off.
“I don’t think it’s going to be something that forces him to miss the game, but we’ll see,” Blashill said.