Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Detroit Red Wings

Looking for more offense

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Gustav Nyquist will be cheering on his namesake in this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- The Red Wings were offensive juggernauts in the preseason but that has not carried over to the regular season.

Part of the problem is that through five games, the Wings rank last in shots per game at 21.4.

The New York Islanders lead that category with 34.2 shots per game, followed closely by the 6-0-0 Montreal Canadiens at 34.0.

"I look at the shot total for and the shot differential, we won’t have long-term success if those stats stay the same," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think our job as a coaching staff is try to figure out what we can work on to make sure that doesn’t happen and certainly I think we got to get the puck out of our end better. There’s multiple facets to that. One, we can’t turn pucks over. Two, we need to have better support, that helps eliminate turnovers. Three, we got to win some wall battles.

"And in the other areas, we got to have the puck more in the offensive zone. For me, that’s more pressure on the forecheck and being heavier and stronger on the puck and rolling it around a little bit and creating more O-zone time."

The top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader and Dylan Larkin has provided the bulk of the offense for the team, scoring eight of the team's 15 goals.

"The first line, where Z’s playing, they’re playing really good, they’re carrying us," Tomas Tatar said. "The other lines got to get a little more involved, too. Just play more simple. If things don’t go good for you, you have to shoot the puck more, try shooting it from the net-best position just to get it going."

In the Atlantic Division, only the Toronto Maple Leafs (12) and Buffalo Sabres (9) have scored fewer total goals.

In the preseason Tatar was tied for the team lead with four goals. In the first five games, he has just two assists and only five shots on net.

On Monday, Blashill switched up the lines a bit.

While the top line remained the same, Riley Sheahan centered Tatar and Gustav Nyquist while Brad Richards centered Darren Helm and Teemu Pulkkinen.

"I have a little experience with Tatar and Nyquist playing together; at that time it was Andy (Joakim Andersson) in the American League," Blashill said. "Sheahan has played with both of them as well. As you try to match up lines. Both Tats and Nyquie have good skill, have good give-and-go ability. I think Sheahan also has good skill, but he’s also strong and heavy and he’s a net-front presence and he has some speed as well, so hopefully it’s a good combination."

Another factor is face-offs. The Wings are in the bottom six in that category at 46.5 percent.

"It’s a puck possession league now," Richards said. "It’s tough to get it back in good areas. Sometimes winning the face-offs you can start the shift on your toes rather than on your heels and that helps a lot. That’s everything right now. Winning those one-on-one battles, even in face-off circles. Those 50-50 battles we have to get them more on our side. It’s pretty black and white. We can control all that. That’s the good news."

One thing that the Wings are keeping close track of is time in the defensive zone versus time in the offensive zone.

"We're spending 45 seconds more per game in our D zone than in the O zone, and that's even strength, which is actually not ridiculously high but it's high enough," Blashill said. "In three of the five games, it's been in the three-minute and four-minute range, where we've spent more in our D zone than in our O zone. That, to me, is the concern more than whether or not we have a reluctance to shoot."

HEADING WEST: The Wings leave Tuesday for their first extended road trip, a three-game western Canada swing.

It will take them to Edmonton Wednesday, Calgary Friday and Vancouver Saturday.

"I think the biggest thing is start playing some good hockey," Niklas Kronwall said. "I think it’s been too much up and down. Too many turnovers, all over the ice, winning more puck battles. There are a lot of things we need to get better at. It’s a good time to get started on that."

It will be the Wings' first chance to see top overall pick Connor McDavid play for the Oilers.

"I hope he doesn't get much done," Blashill said. "He's a really good player. I watched him last night. I saw him play a little bit in junior on TV. He's a great, great hockey player but I'm just focused on our team."

McDavid has three goals and two assists in six games.

Larkin had a chance to meet McDavid when the two were part of the Rookie Showcase before the season.

"I played against him since I was probably 12, 13," Larkin said. "He's always been a special player. Obviously last game three points. He's going to be someone we have to watch and I'm excited to see him."

NYQUIST THE HORSE: Wings fans might take an interest in this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile to be held at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, Oct. 31.

Paul Reddam is originally from Windsor, Ont., and owns 40 thoroughbred race horses, several of which are named after Wings players, including Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Datsyuk.

Reddam, now 60, said he's been a Wings fan since he was five years old and his childhood hero was Gordie Howe.

One of Reddam's current horses is named Nyquist and that horse is considered one of the favorites for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"We have a long way off, but he has run four times and won every start," Reddam said. "The real test will come in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but we’re expecting big things so hopefully we’re not wrong."

When Nyquist originally came up for auction in a training sale in Florida, Reddam had heard good things about him and decided to spend $400,000.

"In his first race he had the rail, which in a thoroughbred sprint is a disadvantage," Reddam said. "He was kind of head to head with another horse and it looked like he was going to lose but he outgained the horse to the wire and won and paid about $15. At that point we said, ‘Oh my goodness, what do we have here?’ It was really a very special performance and since then he’s gone on to validate that performance.

"Now the $400,000 looks like a complete bargain."

While Nyquist the hockey player is not too familiar with horse racing, he has heard about his namesake.

"It’s kind of a fun little thing," Nyquist said. "I saw it a few weeks ago when he won some big tournament. Some people were telling me about it. I was thinking about reaching out to (Paul Reddam) and wishing him luck. Hopefully the horse keeps running fast."

Reddam is happy that Nyquist took it as a compliment that a horse is named after him.

"I’ve been a Nyquist fan for a couple of years," Reddam said. "To me he’s got kind of a special talent. He’s a tremendous stickhandler. It’s kind of exciting to have named the horse after him and find out that the horse is a superstar."

Nyquist the hockey player said he hoped to catch Nyquist the horse's race before their game in Ottawa Oct. 31.

View More