Blashill, Abdelkader speak on off-day before crucial game three vs. Lightning
As the Wings await game three of their series against the Lightning, they know facing an 0-2 hole is a big challenge. After losing a 2-1 lead in game one and then eventually the game, Detroit's answer in game two was yet another good first ten minutes that turned to mud by the third period; this time with the added ignominy of having lost their composure along with the game.
Today, the team mostly took a break to dress their wounds and hopefully watch some tape on how they're being exposed, with only five players taking part in the optional skate:
Smith, Nyquist, Pulkkinen, Miller, Jurco and Mrazek only #RedWings on ice for optional practice— Brendan Savage (@BrendanSavage) April 16, 2016
If we're forced to read into this, it's interesting to see Nyquist out there with the scratches (and the still-injured Miller), but Smith, Pulkkinen, and Jurco probably can't see this as an optional skate if they want to be given a chance to draw into this series. Unfortunately, Nyquist wasn't one of the players made available to the media, so it's not entirely clear why he decided to join the skate other than the obvious guesses that this is how he's dealing with trying to improve in this series.
As for media availability, it was just Athanasiou, Abdelkader, and Blashill. We have Gregg Krupa and Dana Wakiji to thank for being there and taking the questions. Both of their timelines have a lot more info, but I'm going to go over some of the highlights.
athanasiou: not feeling too bad about his opportunity. obviously its limited.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 16, 2016
AA also talked about having been with the Griffins last season when they overcame a 2-0 deficit to the Toronto Marlies and how the team has had good looks, but this is the most-interesting piece because it's what many fans want to know more about. Obviously AA likely isn't telling the press that he thinks he should be playing more because that's not going to accomplish that. I will say that with rumors about AA having an attitude, the fact that he's showing anything but that in press interviews at least tells us that the 21 year old is smart enough to not feed into that when he talks to the diggers.
Blashill did give an answer about AA and his limited opportunity though:
#RedWings Blashill said Athanasiou was very good AHL player, but had not established himself as elite as #TBLightning Johnson, Kucherov did.— Dana Wakiji (@Dwakiji) April 16, 2016
Blashill did say there are "flashes" of elite, but this is mostly about how AA wasn't as good as Johnson/Kucherov in the AHL. Kucherov played 17 games in the AHL two seasons ago and spent his age 21 season (AA's age now) in the NHL playing 15 minutes per game. Johnson's age-21 AHL pace was higher than AA's as well, but it seems weird going down the Red Wings lineup to see which guys are performing worse than Kucherov & Johnson and then implying Athanasiou has to be at least as good as those two before he can get more minutes.
abdelkader: saw Richards in headlock. tried to help. jumped from behind. slid out. "obviously there were some punches thrown."— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 16, 2016
#RedWings Abdelkader said he doesn't expect anything to carry over from last game.— Dana Wakiji (@Dwakiji) April 16, 2016
That would be good from the Wings' side, but I'm not sure the Lightning agree.
Asked if he expects there to be any retaliation in Game 3 for Abdelkader punching Blunden, Cedric Paquette responds "probably" #TBLightning— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) April 16, 2016
It's important to note that the Paquette quote came from immediate postgame, where Abdelkader had a night to calm down, but whether for better or worse, Abby's antics (and the general spiteful tone of the series) is going to be a thing going forward. Abdelkader also talked about neutralizing the Johnson line and doing better on power plays, but he's not the coach, so who cares?
abdelkader: fine line between being physical and not taking penalties.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 16, 2016
need PP goal, to counter.
At least we know he's aware there is a line.
Blashill didn't reveal anything about lineup changes other than to tell the collected press he was considering them. The only juicy personnel tidbit came about the guy who isn't even on the roster.
blashill:no discussion of returning mantha for big body in front of bishop on PP. bigger issue is puck delivery. net presence not issue.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 16, 2016
I seriously doubt this was unprovoked, but without knowing exactly how the question was asked, it's harder to parse out stuff from this answer. My immediate knee-jerk is that Mantha delivers the puck pretty damn well too, so you don't have to call him up for the big body thing as much as it might help in the puck delivery thing that Blashill calls the problem.
In terms of matchups, execution, and focus, Blashill was as coach-ey as ever while also saying that the home ice matchup should help.
#RedWings Blashill: No matter how you match, guys have to go out and play. Biggest thing is execution.— Dana Wakiji (@Dwakiji) April 16, 2016
blashill: both teams lost focus with physicality, a bit. measure intensity with focus on doing job you need for success.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 16, 2016
Both teams might have lost focus, but only one team lost the game.
Finally, in terms of how the Wings have been beaten and overall feel of the series, here's what Blashill had to say.
blashill: I don't think there's been any significant difference at all. they've made a play or two more offensively and defensively than us.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 16, 2016
I know that my immediate reaction to reading that as a fan was the kind of knee-jerk worried anger you get when you've just stopped your own child from pulling a hot teakettle down on her own head and you know that things objectively are still fairly all-right but you just want to scream. However, I think Blashill is only a little wrong here and just in the fact that he said "a play or two," but not so terribly wrong that I think it's been dozens of plays.
The Lightning have taken advantage of Red Wings mistakes better than the Wings have taken advantage of the mistakes they've been able to create from the opposition. I'm not saying it's luck that's abandoned the Wings or that they'll need luck to even make a competitive series out of this, but the unstoppable juggernaut theory of the Lightning's playoff run is a lie to the face of the fact that the Red Wings have largely beaten themselves in the first two games and that beating yourself is something that can be fixed.
Of course, better personnel decisions might help fix that too.