Jeff Blashill didn't mince words Thursday night following the Red Wings' second 7-1 loss to the Predators in as many weeks. Detroit grabbed a 1-0 lead only to let Nashville score three straight in the second and four more in the third.
"It's another night where we get down and we just don't respond well," Blashill said. "The third (goal) is what really disappointed me in terms of how we responded. We just responded sh*tty."
Blashill called it a "huge step backward" for the Red Wings in a season in which they've struggled to take steps forward. It was the fifth time this season -- through just 42 games -- that Detroit has allowed seven goals. Not ideal for a team trying to establish a defensive identify.
It makes you wonder if Blashill's message is still reaching his players in his sixth season behind the bench -- over which time the Wings have the most losses in the NHL.
"I’ve had no concern about the message getting through, to be honest with you," Blashill said Friday. "I think we’ve ended up in nights like last night where we were fine, we’re in a hockey game, we got scored on (to make it 4-1) and I think mentally we give in and then the game goes the wrong way in a hurry. I’ve had no inkling of any issue with the messaging or things like that. I think our guys have kept coming back and worked to get better and understand that (Thursday night) isn’t acceptable."
The Preds buried the Wings in the third on Thursday. Two weeks ago, they raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. Between those two embarrassing results, the Wings played some pretty good hockey, going 3-2-2 with an impressive win over the Lightning.
Which is why Blashill isn't worried about the locker-room buy-in or his words turning stale.
"How do I get the team to believe that this can turn around? I mean, we just beat Tampa 5-1. We swept Columbus," he said. "We’re battling like crazy to become a better hockey team and to build."
While the Wings are on track to finish last in their decision for the second straight year, they're a better team than last season. And while this isn't saying much, their points percentage is up from .275 to .381 and their goals against per game is down from 3.8 to 3.2. On most nights this year, they've been competitive. Which is more than they could say last year.
"We understand that we’re in a rebuild and that we have to grind every day to get a little bit better. As I’ve said lots, anybody who thinks there’s going to be this big, giant leap is misinformed and probably doesn’t understand how anything turns around," Blashill said. "It's a slow process lots of times and it takes steps forward with two steps backward. It’s hard. You’re going to get knocked down and you have to keep getting backed up."
The Wings have 14 more games this year, starting Saturday against the Hurricanes. And Blashill, whose contract expires after this season, may have 14 more games in his tenure. Steve Yzerman will have to make a decision on Blashill's future this summer.
Until then, Blashill is focused on continued growth -- even if it has to happen through nights like Thursday.
"What we’ve been through the last number of years is an opportunity to be a great learning experience," he said. "If it’s always easy, you don’t learn much. You actually get fooled lots of times. Again, any thought that this was ever going to be an easy thing where we just miraculously show up and we’re winning games every single night is crazy. That’s not how it happens. You have to learn lessons along the way, and honestly that keeps going until you find a way to get to the top."