The Islanders are an exceptionally well coached team. While there are some who insist coaching is a lesser factor than talent, the Isles are clearly a team that owes its turnaround and new identity to the very capable hand of Barry Trotz. The execution is nearly flawless, and the team suffocates opponents in the neutral zone as well as defensive zone. They don’t get a lot of shots, but they make them count. When a team looks similar throughout the line up on the ice, that is the sign of buy in.
The Red Wings are a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team. A fantastic shift by the Larkin line can be followed up by a hemmed in nightmare by the next line up. The Wings look like a team that doesn’t know itself. Passes are constantly in a less than ideal spot. Positioning doesn’t match up. Players are doing their best to break out with a lot of individual work and low percentage plays. Either this team doesn’t know the system, or they don’t trust it.
With the amount of injuries and roster swapping, it could be just a lack of familiarity. Losing Anthony Mantha has completely deflated Larkin and Bertuzzi. They don’t look like themselves. Fabbri has been a fantastic pickup with 5 goals and 5 assist in his first 12, but for whatever the reason he doesn’t match well with Larkin and Bertuzzi. The power play has had some good looks, but not enough solid looks. The times when Detroit does click, the bounces aren’t there.
The team will have 4 days off, and you can imagine a large amount of time will be spent clarifying positional expectations. This is an extraordinarily difficult time. Losses are mounting in a way that most of these players just aren’t prepared to handle. The answers aren’t readily available.
The trip through the marshes (see my previous article here
) is long and treacherous. This team is staring down the barrel of just 3 wins in the past 20+ games. While it may feel like “something needs to change”, there really aren’t any fixes available. Yzerman brought in Comrie for some goaltending depth. Trades for Fabbri, Perlini and Biega have yielded a solid pickup in Fabbri. Perlini just can’t find his game in Detroit. To be fair, neither can much of the team right now.
On the positive side, Dylan Larkin knocked in a power play goal with assists from Bertuzzi and Zadina. Zadina has shown some good flashes. For the most part, the team just needs to find a way to believe in each other and their systems. You need buy in throughout the lineup. As badly as guys want to step up and be a hero, it comes with great risks.
The team has 4 days to soak in the current streak. It will be unpleasant. The hope remains that they find a way to come together in some kind of agreement about how things need to be for 60 minutes. John Keating quoted Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and it fits this narrative. Perhaps the golden oldie of “love the one you’re with” by Stephen Stills is even more appropriate. Complaining about the situation won’t help it. Find a way to believe that your teammates are the best you can find and get them to believe it too.
It is still perplexing that of 20 expiring contracts for this organization, not one seems to be in negotiations that we’ve heard anything about. There are many reasons for the players to feel insecure right now, and that is one more. The mental game may be as stifling as the physical game right now.
Keep a close eye on Steve Yzerman though. He seems to have deals ready to go at any point. With this many days off it may be ideal to make a small tweak, but don’t count on it. This GM is hard to get a read on.
There is always hope that tomorrow will be better. A sizable gap between games may seem a bit frustrating, but it may also serve to help this team come together. Let’s hope that Detroit is ready to go when Pittsburgh comes to town on the 7th.
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