Minnesota Wild Must Tighten Up Their Defense

The Minnesota Wild have enjoyed a run of sustained success that has them in first place in the Western Conference. However, there are still areas the team needs to identify and address if the team wants to finish the season in the same spot.

The Wild’s balanced scoring from up and down the lineup has allowed the team to come back in several games and outscore teams in others. While the results have been positive with the team posting a 19-3-1 record in the past 23 games the team has allowed far too many goals to sustain this level of success for the rest of the season.

Still, the additional goals have not stopped the team’s torrid run. But something must change before this trend starts to hurt the team in the win-loss column. Over the past month Devan Dubnyk’s GAA has risen from 1.58 to 1.91. So what seems to be the issue?

Although there are times where Dubnyk has let in some soft goals (Patrick Kane’s goal in the Chicago game comes to mind) he is not the root of the issue. Even when he is not playing up to the ridiculous standard he’s set for himself. Dubnyk makes tough saves in big spots to keep the team in the game, which has allowed them to come back on numerous occasions. He has played unbelievably this season and this is a just a little bit of a rough patch that he will be able to recover from.

It is not the fault of any individual player either. The loss of Jonas Brodin for the foreseeable future will no doubt hurt the Wild defensively. He has been a steady presence on the blue line for the team, but 7th defenseman Nate Prosser has filled in admirably when called upon in the past making this a blow the team can take in stride.

Jan 5, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Melker Karlsson (68) and Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser (39) fight for control of the puck during the second period of the game at SAP Center at San Jose. The Minnesota Wild defeated the San Jose Sharks with a score of 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 5, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Melker Karlsson (68) and Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser (39) fight for control of the puck during the second period of the game at SAP Center at San Jose. The Minnesota Wild defeated the San Jose Sharks with a score of 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

From my observation, the issue stems from the fact the Wild are scoring more goals.  The barrage of goals the Wild have scored lately has allowed the team to still win games while giving up 3 or more goals. However, it has come at the expense of defensive responsibility, with defensemen jumping up into the play more and creating holes behind the defense.

The Wild do possess talented defensemen capable of scoring goals if they jump into the play, so I’m not saying they shouldn’t be involved offensively. Forwards have been guilty of the same thing, and are looking to make the big play so to speak as opposed to doing their job. It creates a void whereby the defensive side is sacrificed for the offensive.

Although the team is allowing more goals, they have been successful as of late so this may seem a bit nitpicky, especially for a team on top of the Western Conference. But issues need to be identified and fixed before they come back to hurt the Wild in future games. This is not a team that can afford to get complacent, not if they want to prove themselves as serious Stanley Cup contenders.