The Minnesota Wild finished their three game road swing leading up to the NHL Christmas break just as they started it, by losing another road game. The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Wild 4-1 Monday night at Wells Fargo Arena. The Flyers ran their home win streak to 9 with the victory. For Minnesota this is getting more and more frustrating for all involved, the players, the coaches, and the fans. After the game Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo said,“I’m not going to try to paint a rosy picture and I’m not going to make any excuses. Flat out we need to be better.” ” It’s every one of us, starts with me.” The Wild just can’t seem to win on the road this season. Their road record now stands at a woeful 6-11-3 while they are almost invincible on home ice going 14-3-2 to date. The Wild now have more road losses than every other team in the Western Conference with the exception of the Edmonton Oilers. This road trip has been a disaster with Minnesota being outscored 13-4 over the last three games. I’ll say the obvious here. You can’t win if you can’t score. Niklas Backstrom has been OK on this trip, not great, but even Josh Harding wouldn’t have been able to come up with two shutouts and a 1 goal game over the last three outings. The Wild’s problems are more than just a lack of scoring. They are getting pushed around on the ice, lacking team and individual toughness and there defense has been porous and prone to breakdowns. The difference between this group on the road and at home is night and day. Hopefully a three day break away from the rink will allow the team to decompress a bit, rest up and come back with a renewed vigor and better mental state.
The Wild started the game without one of their best players. Zach Parise was a late scratch Monday afternoon, when it was announced he would not be playing due to a lower body injury. Any body who has watched Parise since he injured his foot blocking a shot against St. Louis back on November 25th can see he hasn’t been 100%. He missed only one game but has clearly not been the same since and today it finally become too much. We’ll see if a few days off is long enough to get him healthy enough to go against the Winnipeg Jets on the 27th. Since Parise was injured the Wild have gone 1-6-1 on the road.
There were two things Minnesota couldn’t do against the Flyers, 1) give up an early first goal. 2) give up a power play goal. The Flyers did both by the 10:51 mark of the first period. The Flyers opened the scoring on their first shot of the game just 1:52 in on a goal by Luke Schenn. Philly made it a 2-0 game on a power play goal by Wayne Simmonds just past the midway point of the period. The Wild fought back briefly and made it a 2-1 game on a goal by Mikael Granlund. The power play goal was the first 5 on 3 goal the Wild have scored this season. With two Flyers in the box Minnesota used great puck movement and Granlund buried the puck off a feed by Jason Pominville. Ryan Suter picked up the second assist on the play, his 22nd of the season, giving him a 7 game assist streak which is a franchise record for the Minnesota Wild. At this point in the game the Wild were playing well and the possibility of more goals looked good. Silly me. That would be then end of the goal scoring for the Wild. Much like Sunday’s game in New York. The Wild would out shoot the Flyers 11-5 in the opening period while being out scored 2-1. The Flyers would out shoot the Wild 26 to 16 in the final two periods and out score them 2-0. Ouch, not how Minnesota envisioned this little three game road trip against Eastern Conference teams ending.
Niklas Backstrom took the loss again for the Wild, his third straight on the road swing. His season record now stand at 2-8-2 with a goals against average that’s climbed to 3.18 and a save % that’s fallen to .896. He’s struggling and getting almost no goal support from his teammates. Josh Harding is due to rejoin the team after the Christmas Break and unless the Wild start scoring some goals it’s not going to make a bit of difference. Steve Mason took the win tonight raising his record to 14-9-4 with a goals against of 2.35 and save % of .923.
The Wild have one more road game on the 27th against the Jets before they return to the comfy confines of the Xcel Energy Center to finish out 2013 with games against the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues. The Wild are struggling right now but all is not lost. There are still 43 games to go in the regular season and with the players the Wild have this bad road streak will not last. Right now the team is frustrated and looking for answers. I think a few days off will do the boys some good. They can put this horrid road trip behind them and come out to finish 2013 and enter 2014 with a renewed energy and focus. (I hope)
That’s all I’ve got for tonight. I’ll be back on Friday morning with a preview of the Minnesota Wild at the Winnipeg Jets. Merry Christmas from me and the staff at GonePuckWild.com, I hop you all have a wonderful holiday. Until next time this is Scott Drain still shouting, “Let’s Go Wild!”