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Getting To The Net Only Half The Solution

February 10, 2019, 10:33 AM ET [0 Comments]
Bob Duff
Detroit Red Wings Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Go to the net. It’s an ongoing concern of the Detroit Red Wings, and yet it’s also an ongoing failure of the team.

Net front presence was again an an issue in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Or rather, a lack of net front presence was the issue.

“If you look at the league, all the goals come from right in front of the net, right around the net,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill told Detroitredwings.com.

A return to the lineup by 6-6 forward Michael Rasmussen has made a difference in this department. He scored from the front of the net in Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, his first game back after a lengthy absence due to a lower-body injury.

“He’s a menace around the net,” Blashill said. “As I’ve said here lots, he’s probably going to score 20-plus in the league because he’s real good around the net. I think he’s an elite net-front guy. Even as a 19-year-old, he’s an elite net-front guy.

“I would say from the beginning of the year he’s been very good net front. I think he’s been good the whole year to be honest with you. He’s got a real willingness to go to the net. He’s a big, big man, he really can screen and he’s also hard to move out of the way and he’s got good hands in tight and he’s a good tipper. So I think he’s a really good net-front guy.”

Improving Detroit’s net front presence has been an ongoing objective of the club, and it’s a point that is continually emphasized within the club’s development process, seeking to end a long-standing problem of players playing on the perimeter and missing scoring chances because of it.

“I think there’s a little bit of improvement in areas we’ve talked about as a coaching staff with our development group led by Shawn Horcoff, just little ways to rotate around the net a little bit better to get in better position to elevate the puck and those types of things,” Blashill said.

But getting bodies there is only half of the solution. The puck must first be delivered to the goal area in order to commence the battle that can ultimately lead to net front tallies, and this has also proven to be an issue with too many Detroit players who pass up chances in shooting areas to make an extra pass.

“You could be the best net-front guy in the world but if the puck never gets delivered, then you’re not going to create much,” Blashill said. “We never shot enough pucks when Tomas Holmstrom was here. He’d come back to the bench every time, ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot.’ Those guys want the puck to get delivered so they’re dependent on that for sure.

“I think it’s a little chicken or the egg. I think the more you’re there, the more the puck’s going to get delivered there. So you’ve just got to keep going there and creating chaos.”

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