Wild players got to play in front of their fathers in Philly tonight on the first game night of their “fathers’ trip”. Some of the fathers might want to give their boys a smack on the butt for motivation, because the effort tonight without captain Mikko Koivu on the ice was, well, nonexistent.
Facing their first full game in this second stretch of “missing Mikko”, the Wild played a solid first period only to crumble for the last 40 minutes.
An early powerplay goal by Kimmo Timonen put the Flyers up 1-0, but 1 goal games used to be fuel for the Wild. Now it just seems to mark the start of the slide.
I’m not going to rehash the game…you can get that from Russo if you want. It’s not pretty, let me warn you.
What’s wrong with the Wild? How has this once league-leading team dropped from first in the NHL to holding on to a playoff spot by a cracked fingernail (and thank you Red Wings for keeping us there for at least one more day by beating Dallas)?
Three problems up front to start:
No Mikko Koivu.
With Koivu out for weeks due to a separated shoulder and no timeline even in place for the return of PMB and Latendresse, the Wild find themselves even more short offensively than they were prior to the injuries taking over…and they weren’t exactly a high-scoring machine then either.
Lack of offense is absolutely killing this team, but I’m going to put forward that a large part of the crash has been due to a failure back at the blue line. We have a defense that is stinking it up on both sides of the puck, and it is having disastrous results.
The Flyers seemed to generate almost all of their offense from the blue line tonight, with easy deflections flying untouched past the Wild defensemen and goaltender Josh Harding. Harding had one of his worse nights that I can remember, but some of the points against him came from his own teammates turning over the puck, being part of deflections, and screening him from seeing the puck. It’s becoming extremely frustrating to watch opponent after opponent play bumper pool with our D as part of the table.
When the Wild D do take the rare shot, it’s a mess. Not a hot mess, just an utter mess. Let’s talk about Marek Zidlicky. Why he has not been placed on waivers is truly beyond me. As bad as Zanon has been, at least he doesn’t miss shot after shot at the net leading to turnovers and immediate goals for the other team. This from a player who is supposedly an OFFENSIVE defenseman! Zids needs to spend time in the press box, NOW. Honestly, the best thing for the Wild would be a trade involving these two non-performers, but who in their right mind would take them? Zanon’s early-in-the-season reputation as a top shot-blocker has faded, and unless he starts contributing, he can ride the same bus as Zidlicky.
I’ve been asked by friends if I see a trade coming. Fletcher is trying, according to multiple sources, but I’m not surprised he’s not having any luck. The Wild have D and possibly a goalie to trade, and neither department is producing right now. Yes, there are serious prospects coming in the next few years, but there’s still half a season to salvage now. Russo tweeted that he doesn’t even want to cover practice after a game like this, and I’m in agreement. There’s going to be nothing happy said. Yeo is frustrated, and I’m not sure even he knows how to flip this ship upright at the moment. Unless the players show some heart and dedication to playing as the Minnesota Wild rather than as individuals, this has the potential to get a hell of a lot worse.
A quick happier note…please welcome staff writer Bryce Wibben (hockeyfan17) to Gone Puck Wild! Watch for his intro and bio in the near future.
Off day tomorrow, we’ll update with any trade rumors and comments from the team. Thursday night game against the Leafs. Expect Backstrom in net (in fact, bet money on it). Zidlicky is a probable scratch IMO, and I’m sure we’ll see some line reshuffling. Callups? Possibly. I’ll post any reassignments tomorrow as well.