Blashill: Team USA has room to improve on ‘D’
Detroit — Team USA is undefeated at the men’s hockey world championships, but coach Jeff Blashill feels there is room for improvement.
The national team is 3-0, which includes an opening-game shootout win over Canada, and will look to stay perfect Thursday against a good Latvia (2-1-0) team (10:15 a.m./NHL Network).
“We have to get better,” Blashill told USAHockey.com. “Our goal is to get better throughout the tournament. There’s no question we have to get better.
“Now we get to regroup and get ready for what we know will be a real tough Latvia game. They play extremely hard so we know it will be a good challenge.”
One area where Blashill wants to see improvement is defensive zone coverage.
Blashill felt his team took a step backward in that area after a fine performance in a victory over Denmark.
“We have to get on the same page,” said Blashill of the defensive coverage.
Blashill has watched two of his Red Wings players — Dylan Larkin and Nick Jensen — both get off to good starts in the tournament.
Larkin had two goals in the victory over Canada, while Jensen had a goal and assist against Denmark.
Larkin is playing a little bit different role than with the Red Wings, but is enjoying it.
“Shutting down the other team’s top lines, penalty killing, and it’s been fun, doing anything it takes to win,” Larkin told a Danish sports network. “It’s a little bit harder (defensively) on the big ice. Guys get a lot more time and space. You have to be smarter with your stick.”
Larkin is enjoying being part of this national team.
“This group of guys is pretty special,” Larkin said. “We know we have a team to be with the big guys (Canada, Russia, Sweden) in the tournament. We know we can hang with them.”
Along with many of the NHL players on the roster, Blashill has been impressed with Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes, who is projected to be a top-10 pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft.
Hughes, a talented offensive defenseman, has two assists.
“He’s done a number of good things so far,” Blashill said. “Like some of our other defenders, he has the ability to chip in offensively from the blue line, which is great.
“It’s a great opportunity for him here, not only to play against some elite competition, but to be surrounded by some great fellow American players.”