On Feb. 14, the Detroit Red Wings began as difficult a seven-game stretch as they likely have faced in years, playing what they were at the time seven of the top eight teams in the NHL.
They went 2-5-0. They picked up impressive wins at the Rangers and home against Carolina. They felt they played well enough to win in Minnesota and Tampa Bay. They were awful at the start but finished strong in a wild 10-7 loss to Toronto. They were stymied by Colorado and run out of the rink Saturday in Florida to finish the stretch.
The Red Wings (24-26-6) learned they have a long way to go to reach that elite level.
“We obviously have work to do to be amongst those types of teams,” coach Jeff Blashill said after the 6-2 loss to the Panthers. “I think on the most good teams, you defend well, you don’t give up easy chances, you defend the middle of the ice, and you can put pressure on the other team. I think we go in spurts of doing that.
“We ultimately got to work extraordinarily hard, we got to compete extraordinarily hard to have success right now against those kinds of teams. I think there’s been moments over the last seven games when we’ve done that and moments when we haven’t. We got to find a way to be super special with that. We can’t get down 3-1 or 4-1 and then not continue to compete like that.”
The Red Wings also have a way to go before seriously competing for a playoff spot. They are 15 points behind Washington for the final wild card position.
“We have to find consistency in our game,” Sam Gagner said. “For stretches of the seven-game stretch, I thought we played well, played great against Carolina. We have to build off those good games and find a way to be consistent with it and be an every-night team. It’s a tough league, you play against good teams all year. We got to keep finding ways to build and get better.”
The Florida loss was more deflating than the others before the Red Wings, after tying it at 1-1 on Robby Fabbri’s goal at 7:16 of the first period, fell apart and did not compete the rest of the night.
“I don’t think it was from the onset of the puck drop, but I just felt like it went along, our competition level disappeared,” Blashill said. “That simply can’t happen with our hockey team. We got work to do.”
Gagner said they can’t let this game deflate or frustrate them.
“We’re trying to build here,” he said. “We’ve had stretches where things have gone really well and find that consistency. You take lessons from games like this and try to build and hopefully do better next game.”
The schedule lights up Tuesday at home against Arizona, which has the worst record in the league (16-35-4), but the Coyotes have won back-to-back games and are 4-2-0 in their past six.
“You have to do it every day and it has to be throughout your lineup,” Gagner said. “We certainly have room to grow. We have grown. We have to find ways to be better in a lot of different areas. We’re going to have a chance to redeem ourselves the next game and have to be ready for it.”
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