The Minnesota Wild lost to the St. Louis Blues 5-1 Thursday night. That wasn’t the embarrassing part. The overall effort, performance on special teams and lack of leadership is the embarrassment. The lack of conspicuous leadership on this team is showing in the overall performance of the team. It’s time for someone in the Minnesota locker room wearing a C or an A or a Veteran to step up grab this the reins and take control and demand more from himself and his teammates. The Wild jumped out to a 8-1 lead in shots in the first few minutes of the game. The Blues then scored on an T.J. Oshie rebound shot the seemed to deflate Minnesota and they never recovered. The Blues are now 40-2-5 this season when scoring first. Wow. The next goal for St. Louis came with just 26 seconds left in the opening frame, a short handed goal by Oshie after a brutal turnover play by Dany Heatley and Jared Spurgeon. Then Jaden Schwartz scored a power play goal for the Blues at 13:10 of the 2nd period. When a team scores in all three categories, short handed, power play, and 5 on 5 that usually equals a victory. The Blues then added two more goals, one by Oshie for his first career hat trick, and one by Brendan Morrow to take a 5-0 lead on a struggling Wild squad. Zach Parise then broke up the shut out bid by St. Louis’ Ryan Miller scoring his 25th goal of the season at the 11:11 mark of the 3rd period. That was the lone highlight of the game for your Wild. The assists on the goal went to Charlie Coyle who now has a four game point streak going along with Mikko Koivu who picked up his team leading 36th assist of the season. That wraps up the Minnesota scoring summary.
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said after the game that, “Our special teams have been terrible and costing us games. We have to figure that out or we’re not even going to make the playoffs.” Tonight the Minnesota was 0 for 6 on the power play and 3 of 5 on the penalty kill. Those numbers are unacceptable at any level and definitely not indicative of the Minnesota Wild. Head Coach Mike Yeo in his post game comments said, “We all know how important special teams are at this time of the year. So if you’re -1 that’s one thing, but to have a night like tonight makes it extremely difficult.” For the season their power play has dropped to 16th in the league at just 18%. Their penalty kill is even worse ranking 27th at a paltry 79%. Those numbers are just not acceptable at the NHL level and show why the Wild are now 3-4-3 in their last 10 games, not the record of a team in a push to the playoffs. Goal tending has now become an issue as well. In the last four games the Wild have given up 16 goals on 89 total shots. That’s a save % of .820. and a goals against average of 4.00. OUCH, that’s atrocious, those numbers would get any NHL goal tender benched and those are combined between the two best goalies on the team right now. Kuemper is good but his numbers have been slipping. He’s now 12-8-4 for the year with an overall save % at .915 and a GAA of 2.43. You can’t lay all the blame at his feet though when the offense stinks and the defense is faltering. Kuemper’s a young net minder and definitely the future of the Wild in net, but clearly he is struggling right now and his confidence is shaken. With Wild’s goalie coach is Bob Mason and there’s a reason he’s been with the team as long as he has. Kuemper will turn things around and be stronger because of this. but that doesn’t get us any wins right now does it.
The Minnesota Wild are a team in free fall right now. They are now just 1 point ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes in the race for the top Wild Card spot in the West. Dallas is also just 6 points back of the Wild and has two games in hand. the race is getting tight for the Wild Card spots,to put it mildly. The Coyotes beat the New Jersey Devils in a shoot out Thursday night. They are sure to be pumped up and ready to face a struggling Wild squad that comes to Phoenix Saturday. Coach Yeo was asked specifically about some players after the game including Dany Heatley, a -7 with 2 shots on goal in the last five games and why the #3 goal scorer on the team is in the press box, Justin Fontaine with 13 goals. Yeo replied, “This is not the time to talk about individuals, this was a team loss tonight.” Wow, thanks for the insight there coach. We know the TEAM wins and loses but INDIVIDUALS step up and LEAD, calling out and motivating their teammates, not nesecarily in public but in the locker room and on the bench. That is what this team is missing right now a leader who is going to step up and LEAD THIS TEAM. Another sign of a lack of leadership and team togetherness was the scuffle and jawing between Kuemper and the Blues David Backes. Any other team in the league if a player cames at their goalie like that, chirps hime from the bench and gets into a pushing and shoving match you get hit in the mouth by someone. No one came to Keumper’s aid tonight. He was left twisting in the wind on that one. This team needs to come together and do it now. Saurday is a new game and the biggest game of the season to date. The Wild need to make a statement in beating Phoenix. I’ll be back with a preview of Wild vs Coyotes on Saturday morning. Until them this is Scott Drain still believing, still supporting and still shouting, “LET’S GO WILD, LET’S GO WILD!!”