You can excuse the Detroit Red Wings if they came into their two-game series with the Chicago Blackhawks anticipating two wins. After all, the Blackhawks had dropped their first four games of the season and looked every bit like a team entering a rebuild.
Instead, Chicago turned the tables on Detroit, taking both games from their division rivals.
This afternoon was far more difficult for Red Wings fans to watch, as the Blackhawks resembled the teams that won three Stanley Cup titles in six years.
Following today’s loss, captain Dylan Larkin was frank in his assessment of the current state of affairs with his team.
“We left our goaltender out to dry and lost battles,” Larkin said. “We had an opportunity here against a team we thought we could beat twice and we didn’t show up.
Of course, things won’t get any easier for Detroit, as their next game comes against last season’s Stanley Cup finalist Dallas Stars.
“We have to turn around before we go to Dallas or else it’s going to snowball,” Larkin said. “It’s a good team waiting for us down there, we have to figure it out fast.”
“We have to have guys that play like they want to be here,” he continued. “They controlled the play and we have to get on the forecheck to make their D pay…we let them do what they wanted. If we do that in Dallas and not engaged in battles, it’s not going to go well.”
Head coach Jeff Blashill echoed Larkin’s sentiments, saying his team was far too loose defensively against the young Blackhawks.
“We didn’t do a good enough job of putting pucks behind people and being on the same page,” he said. “Tonight was loose defensively. We’ve given up chances but I thought today for sure we were way too lose defensively. We have to do it way better in terms of defending. Can’t give up lots of chances….we need to defend way better.”
Blashill then issued a challenge to his team ahead of their matchup against the Stars – they need more out of their players if this season is going to be different than last year.
“We have to play better…we need more out of more people. From an individual standpoint, today and the other day, we didn’t have enough guys going. We need guys going at a higher level.”
Despite the fact that the Red Wings have several players missing due to COVID-19 protocols, that won’t fly as an excuse for poor play. For Blashill, the players who step into the lineup for the absent regulars will be expected to step up their game, as well as those on the roster needing to carry a bigger workload.
“Two ways that you counteract (missing players) it is that guys have to raise their games,” he said. “It starts with the guys that are regulars have to play at a higher level when you’re missing other players, and the guys who step in have to play at a higher level. Too many of the first part of that, the regulars, haven’t raised their game. We are missing a number of guys, so other guys have to raise their game. We haven’t had enough of that yet.
“Compete level wasn’t good enough. I didn’t think we were competing like crazy out there; I thought we were competing okay. Okay doesn’t cut it in this league, and it doesn’t cut it for us for sure.”
Detroit will take on Dallas from American Airlines Center on Tuesday night.