ANAHEIM, Calif. — With all due respect to the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, there’s no way those two teams should be dominating the Detroit Red Wings two games in a row.
Coming into this road trip, the Wings were 6-0 against those two teams this season.
But a 5-2 shellacking by the Kings Tuesday and a 4-0 shutout by the Ducks Wednesday are making the Wings look less like a Stanley Cup contender and more like a team getting ready to be the fifth seed in the Western Conference — at best.
There are those who will argue that this Wings team is not the same one that ran off an NHL record 23 straight home victories. It’s true, they’re not. That team had captain Nick Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Jimmy Howard (for most of the streak).
With the news Wednesday morning that Lidstrom seemed to be experiencing a setback with the bone bruise in his right ankle and no timetable for his return, plus no known date for Datsyuk’s return, the Wings are going to have to plan on righting the ship without them.
“Eleven games left, we need to get people back and healthy and we need to get playing good,” coach Mike Babcock said. “But instead of waiting for the cavalry, why not get playing now? Where we finish is where we’re going to finish.”
The Ducks were missing top scorer Corey Perry, which didn’t seem to bother them one bit. The Wings had a much better start against the Ducks than they did against the Kings, but with a similar result.
It was the first time the Ducks have shut out the Wings at home and the four-goal differential was their greatest margin of victory against them.
“We made it way too easy on them,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We didn’t get the pucks deep, we didn’t get out of our zone quick enough. A lot of times I thought we put ourselves in trouble, same thing like last night.
“They got some talented forwards, they’re going to create some damage if you’re not playing the way you should. Tonight, I thought we shot ourselves in the foot. We kept making mistakes and they got way too much time in our zone.”
The Wings have now lost three straight games in regulation for the first time since their awful six-game losing streak near the beginning of the season.
What is similar to that skid is the lack of offense. In those six games, the Wings averaged one goal a game. In their current 3-7-1 swoon, they have 29 goals but just 11 in their last six.
“In those last games we haven’t given up many shots either but we’re not getting enough,” Babcock said. “We’re not spending enough time in the O-(offensive) zone. If you turn the puck over coming through the neutral zone you spend your shift in your own zone, it’s way more fun to play in the offensive zone.
“We have to get our head around the fact we have to get through the neutral zone. That might be the toughest thing we’ve done here lately.”
Their road record stands at 16-20-1. With four road games left, the best they’ll be able to do is reach .500 and they have to win all four to do so. They have 94 goals scored and 109 scored against them away from home.
It’s a completely different story at home, as we all know. They’re 28-4-2 at Joe Louis Arena and have scored 125 goals there compared to 62 for their opponents.
But haven’t the Wings always prided themselves on their depth and their ability to overcome adversity?
“We believe we have enough intensity in here, we want to win games,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We don’t want to go out there and lose. I think we’re trying, sometimes you try a little too hard and it ends up being in your net instead.”
When the Wings were winning all of those games at home, even when they were behind in games — which was rare — there was never any panic, but rather a sense that somehow they would find a way.
“I guess somehow things don’t go the way you want and you start thinking too much and playing slower,” Valtteri Filppula said. “I think we have to try to play more confident and good things happen that way.”
That’s kind of a Catch-22. You need confidence to play well but you don’t have any confidence right now because you haven’t been playing well or winning.
“I think we have to be better,” Zetterberg said. “I think over the course of a year you will have little slumps. It’s up to us to make them as short as possible. We have the day off (Thursday), good practice on Friday and we’re going to regroup on Saturday.”