Star goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for his third shutout of the season, and the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-0 at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday night. And it was not pretty. So hard to digest, along with the team's plans to rebuild as general manager Ken Holland traded key players like goalie Petr Mrazek and forward Tomas Tatar, especially for veteran star player and Henrik Zetterberg.
The 37-year-old veteran has been on the team for all of his career since they drafted him in the seventh round, 210th overall back in 1999, and the Wings always found a way to be part of the postseason and compete as a true Cup contender, winning one championship since Zetterberg's tenure with the club. But for the past two years, things have changed drastically. And now, it seems that the captain has had enough.
After Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Golden Knights, Zetterberg was quite clear and adamant that he wasn’t impressed with the way some of the young players on his team were playing.
“There’s too much poke-and-hope on a lot of players,” Zetterberg said, per the Detroit Free Press. “If you want to be a solid good player in this league, and if you want to win something, you have to learn to play the right way.
“You have to play defense first. We have guys in here who have enough skill to create chances and get enough chances. You can’t force and gamble all the time. You have to do it right and eventually you will get chances. It’s not often you get chances when you cheat. Sometimes you will get rewarded but not in the long run.”
While he did not mention any names, it appeared clear to many media members present during his statement that Zetterberg was talking about his young teammates Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou.
For example during the contest, Vegas' Cody Eakin scored shorthanded to make it 2-0, taking advantage of a bad Detroit line change to score on a breakaway. Eakin then scored again later, circling through the Red Wings zone before beating netminder Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot.
While some fans may be wondering what “poke-and-hope” hockey is, head coach Jeff Blashill defines it pretty well after his captain's comments:
“Poke-and-hope hockey is called 50-50 hockey,” Blashill told the Free Press. “It’s a way to lose tons of games. To me it’s a young mistake and we had enough young guys do it for sure. You basically poke and you hope that you get it and if you don’t get it they’re going to get a chance. Well, that’s not the way you win. You want to create chances without giving up chances. When you play poke-and-hope hockey you’re done.”
The Red Wings have now lost five in a row, but fans should be pleased to see Zetterberg speak up. If Holland is rebuilding and trusting young players to lead the way, then Athanasiou and Mantha must prove that they can have the right attitude and mind to find success.
Let's hope the team will respond to their captain's words as they face the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight...