The loss to the Blue Jackets Saturday night was a tough one, not only because the team played better than they did in their overtime win over the Blues, but because it all but eliminates them from winning the tournament. Some people would choose to focus on the negative and let it get them down, but Coach Jeff Blashill and his team of young players are choosing to look at this as an opportunity for growth and dealing with adversity. After the game Coach Blashill said
"This is a huge evaluation process not only for myself but for the entire Red Wings staff. It's easy when things are going well, but how is it when you've got to face some adversity? That's a big factor in whether guys are successful in pro or not, so [how they respond to the loss] should be interesting to see. Can we come back and play really good on Monday."
How much is too much?
With four games in five nights, 5 scheduled practices, and every game being crucial for the standings, it can be a challenge for coaches to find the Goldilocks of practices. Not enough practice and the players aren't prepared enough and ready for the game, too much practice and they're physically and mentally worn out before the game even starts. There were no games on Sunday, but the team was still scheduled to practice in the morning. Blashill chose to cancel the team's practice, giving the players a day to rest and recover after two practices and two games in two days.
"Those were two hard games right away coming off the summer. It's real hard for these young guys, they're physical, intense hockey games and everyone's trying at such a high level that I think playing two and having a day off is important. "
Some teams at the tournament choose to run practices at full throttle for the entire 45 minutes, hoping to cram everything into the players brain that they possibly can. Blashill takes a more realistic approach to practices. On Friday morning the Wings practice was full speed, intense, and ran for the full 45 minutes. For a lot of the players it was their first real practice since their season ended last spring so Blashill needed to get their minds and bodies back to operating at capacity. The practice Saturday morning started off the same way as Friday, get the boys skating quickly up and down the ice, warmup passing drills, stretches, and then the special teams work. All that took place in the first 30 minutes or so, then the remaining 15 minutes were much more laid back with the players skated around, passed pucks, took turns shooting at the net, and sometimes goofing around. Blashill knows that he can only cram so much information into the players heads, and get so much out oft heir bodies before they start to become burned out and less effective at game time.
Practice today started off much like Saturday's practice, with fast paced skating and passing drills, followed by stretching, and then the fun really started. Most of the drills focused on play in the transitioning in the neutral zone and special teams- particularly the penalty kill. Practices are fascinating to watch, and there's a lot of instruction going on from the coaches during the drills. When players do something well, the coaches will tell them so, and when they're not doing something correctly, or need to do better, the coaches will talk to them (often one-on-one) and make sure they understand what they're supposed to be doing, and what they need to change. If a drill isn't being executed properly, Blashill will stop the drill, yell out more instructions, or go demonstrate how he wants it done, then resume the drill. There was a lot of starting, stopping, and yelling today, and after 25 minutes of intense practice, Blahsill left the ice and the players either worked on individual thing with the other coaches or "play" practices among themselves. Blashill expects a lot from his players, but he's also meticulous in making sure the players know exactly what's expected of them, and that they have all the tools and instructions they need in order to reach those expectations. I frequently hear Blashill, both during games and in practices, praise players when they do well, and that makes it easier to take the criticism when it comes. The balance between positive and negative feedback is important, and Blashill understands it well.
Blashill is trying to find good chemistry as well as production and on ice results, not only for this tournament, but also for the upcoming season in Grand Rapids where he’ll have several of these players on his roster.
In the third period of the game against the Blue Jackets, Blashill tried some different line combinations and some of them are sticking for this game.
"It’s obviously a tournament that you want to win, but just as important for these guys it’s also a huge evaluation process. They’re in a situation where they absolutely need to put their best foot forward every single day and you’re building a resume every time you’re going out there and so they need to build their resume in a positive fashion. We talk lots about that even through the season with the Griffins. Obviously there’s a team component to this but there’s an individualistic component that I think is important too. You've got to put your best foot forward. "- Blashill
Martin Frk was wearing a red jersey in practice today instead of his usual red, and that was the first indication that we are going to see some new line combinations when the Wings take on the Wild tonight at 7. The top line of Frk – Nosek - Mantha has been great and they've have carried a large portion of the offense. One line carrying the bulk of the offense isn’t getting the results the Wings need, so Blashill is breaking up that top line and try to spread the offense out a little.
Martin Frk and Tomas Nosek will stay together and move down to the 2nd line with Colin Campbell as the other winger, while Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi will move up to the top line with Anthony Mantha. That makes a 3rd line of Marek Tvrdon - Zach Nastasiuk - Jerome Verrier (probably) and a 4th line most likely of Brandon Robinson - Dominic Turgeon - Darby Llewellyn. Martin Frk has a magnificent shot, but he's barely used it so far in the tournament, instead choosing to pass to Mantha or Nosek most of the time. I hope he shoots the puck more tonight because he's got a shot that's hard (right up there with Teemu Pulkkinen and Ryan Sproul) and the places in the net that he can put the puck is downright impressive. More Frking shooting will equal more Frking score, and that's Frking good for everyone. Bertuzzi has been playing nice.... too nice. A significant part of what makes him so effective on the ice is the piss and vinegar element. Combining his skating skills, offensive skills AND the orneriness and agitation that gets him under opponents skin. He says that one of his goals in the tournament is to prove that he can play with skill and be valuable to the team, but so far he's been very underwhelming. It looks like he's playing without his mojo, so maybe someone needs to irritate him before the game so we can see the Tyler Bertuzzi I'm used to seeing.
The top 2 defense pairings of Mattias Backman - Ryan Sproul and Richard Nedomlel - Joe Hicketts will remain intact, while it looks like Mitch Wheaton will come in for Marc McNulty and play on the 3rd pairing with Ty tanton.
Jared Coreau will start tonight with Jake Paterson backing him up.
Live Game Updates
It's nearly impossible for me to post live updates on Twitter during the game while I'm recording it, but I'll try to post important ones as I'm able to. There is way you can keep up with what's going on however. There's a section of PointStreak for the tournament that has standings, game schedules, team stats, individual stats, box scores, and in-game live events. Once you click on the "box score" link, there will be a "live game" tab and that will help you know who scored, who took penalties, shots, etc...
Let's Go Red Wings!!!