(DETROIT, MI) – Looking at the standings, it seems like the Red Wings are off to the kind of start they were looking for at 3-1-1 in the first five games.
Looking at their faces and listening to their words following Thursday’s morning skate prior to tonight’s home game against Calgary was a different story. The Wings will take their seven points, but they are far from happy about the way they’ve gotten it done.
This is a team loaded with talent, experienced veterans and a starting goalie in Jimmy Howard who’s got a dazzling 1.59 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in three games. They’re supposed to put the pressure on opposing defenses and know they’re probably going to win every time they come to play a game.
So far, though, it’s not happening that way.
“When you’ve been around the game for awhile, you understand what wave after wave is, and going after people and what winning every night is,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “When it becomes automatic that you come to the rink and know you’re going to win is the stage you want to get to, but we’re not at that stage.”
What will it take to get there? In a word — work.
“We need to get everyone going working-wise,” Babcock said. “Then the rest looks after itself. The work comes before the rest of it. Once you get a little structure and a little work ethic, then the skill comes out.”
Everybody’s still waiting for that skill to come out this season – including the Wings. Going into tonight’s game, three of Detroit’s top scoring threats haven’t scored a goal and Tomas Holmstrom hasn’t recorded a single point in any of the five games. Henrik Zetterberg also has no goals to go with his 4 assists and Jiri Hudler hasn’t scored either. Free agent acquisition Mike Modano, who centers the Wings’ third line along with Hudler and Dan Cleary, has just 1 goal and 1 point.
Modano, Hudler and Holmstrom each have minus-2 ratings, as well. None of them is too concerned, but they are all aware of their slow starts.
“Over time, you just keep doing good things and the chances will be there,” the 40-year old Modano told NHL.com. “Once you break through, you kind of get on a roll. You just can’t get too caught up in it. The tide will turn eventually and we’ll start getting more chances. The puck will find its way in eventually.”
Especially on the power play, which was ranked 12th in the League overall and 16th on home ice before tonight’s game. Babcock toyed with the power-play units this week in practice, putting Johan Franzen with Pavel Datsyuk and Holmstrom and putting Zetterberg with Todd Bertuzzi and either Jiri Hudler or Valtteri Filppula.
Babcock said earlier this week that if the power play doesn’t improve from its current 4-for-24 rate of success, more permanent changes may need to happen. Overall, though, the Wings have zeroed in on the word “work” this week as the best way to fulfill their potential.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to put more pucks in the net,” said Hudler, who rejoined the team this season after playing last season in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. “We’ve got to score goals and get our chances. You’ve got to work.”