The Minnesota Wild are a team in free fall right now. On what started out to be a festive New Year’s Eve game turned into yet another disappointing loss. The St. Louis Blues outplayed the Wild and rode two second period goals to a 2-1 win at the Xcel Energy Center. Here’s a few little tidbits about Tuesday’s loss. This is the first time in franchise history that the Wild has lost 6 straight games in regulation. This is also the 9th loss in 14 games in the month of December 2013. This is Minnesota’s 7th consecutive loss to the Blues who now lead the Wild by 14 points in the Central Division standings. This was also the first time net minder Josh Harding has lost consecutive games all season. This team is a mess right now. After the game Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “It feels a little bit like Groundhog Day right now, the difference is that every game has been a different story. We had a good start, our first was good against a team we knew was going to defend hard and play well, and then unfortunately we broke.”
What Coach Yeo means by broke are two plays in the second period nearly 10 minutes apart. A Keith Ballard pass meant to go out of the defensive zone went into Mikael Granlund‘s skates and was knocked free by the Blues Jaden Schwartz, who hit T.J. Oshie with a quick pass. Oshie then went in on a short breakaway on Harding beating the Wild goalie with a deke move and making the score 1-0 at the 6:49 mark of the 2nd period. Schwartz figured in the second Blues goal as well when he cruised in and scored on a 2 on 1 break to make it a 2-0 St. Louis lead at 15:59 of the period. The play started when St. Louis goal tender Brian Elliott found Vladamir Tarasenko as all five Wild players were caught down low in the offensive zone. Tarasenko then found Schwartz and the rest is history. That wrapped up the scoring for the Blues, this night against a Wild team that never really found any rhythm and consistency of play on defense or offense.
The nets the Wild hit most often tonight were the ones above the glass. Time after time pucks sailed wide of their target, or were blocked by St. Louis players who racked up 24 blocked shots for the game. Minnesota picked up the pace in the third period but once again it was a case of too little too late. They managed to out shoot the Blues 11-7 in the final period and had two power plays that led nowhere. The lone bright spot for the Wild came with just 9 seconds left on the clock when Ryan Suter scored his second goal in as many games with a canon of a slap shot from the point. The crowd still in the arena erupted but by then there were far less than half of the announced crowd of 18,919. Coach Yeo then took a time out and drew up a last gasp desperate play the promptly broke down burning off the last few seconds of the game.
The Minnesota Wild are at a loss for answers right now. The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be an oncoming train at this point. It’s no secret that Coach Yeo and staff are on the hot seat as is General Manager Chuck Fletcher. The players are reaching for cliches in every interview, and floundering on the ice. The hope is that a new year and the second half of the 2013-14 season brings a turnaround for the Minnesota Wild. Right now though this is a team going nowhere fast and fraying at the seams. It seems as though as soon as one problem/need is addressed another pops up in another area thought to be a strength. The Wild still have teo games remaining on this home stand starting with the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night. I’ll be back with a preview of that game Thursday morning. Until then, Happy New Year and Let’s Go Wild!