We are two weeks into the season and the Minnesota Wild have an astonishing two points to show for it. What has happened since the Avalanche game, what could be said about the team, and where will this team head in the coming days.
Last Thursday, the Minnesota Wild shockingly fell to the Winnipeg Jets. The Wild score one in the first, hold the Jets scoreless, and then promptly give up two goals in the second while getting none to stop the bleeding. The Jets would seal the game in the third with three goals, two of which would come about thirty seconds apart on a 4v4. The more ice opponents have to skate with, the more the Wild are exposed. Brad Hunt would also score a goal, a pretty nice snipe, but the Wild would extend the losing streak to three.
In their home opener, the Wild would fall to the battered and bruised Penguins and lose 7-4. Patric Hornqvist would do his best Tom Wilson impression and rattle Devan Dubnyk’s cage. Not much was done to defend Duby. This would be the third time in four games that the Minnesota Wild would give up 3 or more goals within a period.
On Monday, the Minnesota Wild won a game! They defeated the Ottawa Senators 2-0 in a game described as “I’ve had more entertaining naps”. Look. A win is a win. I’m not complaining. Also, a Victor Rask GWG is never a complaint. He’s looked the most improved since training camp.
Then last night’s fiasco happened. A 1-0 lead for YOUR Minnesota Wild gets promptly met with a four-goal period in the second for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Alright, let’s talk about this real quick. What an odd sequence. First, it seems that Ryan Hartman is destroyed by a Leafs defender’s elbow, but upon further inspection, it seems a Carson Soucy check propels the defender into Hartman. Hartman doesn’t know this and grabs Jake Muzzin, and Muzzy promptly takes a bit of a dive that happened to negate Ryan Donato’s 1-0 breakaway. Now, while I fully agree with Ryan Hartman that Jake Muzzin dove, it would have been completely avoided if Hartman doesn’t even give Muzzy the chance to sell a call. Oh and this happens on the ensuing powerplay:
The shot hit the crossbar, hit the glass behind Duby, came straight back in front of the net where zero white sweaters not in goalie pads were clearing the crease for Devan Dubnyk. The puck would get batted in before it hit the ice.
This would be the last goal of the second and the last that the Leafs would score, but it was enough. The Wild just can’t get a break and once the opponent’s get the goal gate open, it floods the Wild. Several people were calling for Stalock/questioning the decision to start Duby. I understand why Dubnyk got the start in net. The game plan was always to have Stalock play the Sens and have Duby play the Leafs. On paper it makes sense: play your starter against the better team. While the stats would suggest that Devan Dubnyk is having an abysmal start of the season, I can’t blame it on him. The forwards play in the neutral and defensive zone has been garbage. This team is inexplicably slow too. The Wild seem to be skating in sand, or maybe with how “angry and motivated” this team was in preseason and training camp, they melted the ice they’re trying to play on. Every time I see that commercial on Fox Sports North I have two thoughts. First: How does Nick Seeler do that thing where he whips the medicine ball at the end of a rope against the wall? Is he the present-day Paul Bunyan? Second: Where has this training, anger, and motivation gone? Seriously, when Bill Guerin gave his expectations for the season in a team meeting, Matt Dumba was “ready to run through a wall”. This team does not seem to have that much energy in its’ legs. Herb Brooks is watching this team muttering: The Legs Feed the Wolf.
The lack of right-handed shots is glaring too. We knew it going into free agency, the draft, the end of the season last year! Fenton addressed this by drafting lefties and signing Zuccarello.
Speaking of, Zuccarello broke his streak of taking penalties in the first five minutes of hockey games by not traveling with the team on this three-game road trip with a lower-body injury. Splendid. This did provide a highlight for the Wild in the season so far:
I’m not even that upset with the loss to Toronto. I didn’t expect to win. The Leafs just have better goal scorers and talent. Look who scored for them: John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews (all bona fide all-stars and potential MVPs), and Andreas Johnsson (who played his first full NHL season last year). Morgan Reilly assisted on all four goals. Two of the goals came while the Wild were shorthanded (still an issue for the team, taking penalties early in the game and back-to-back), one was produced by a breakaway from the NHL’s darlings Auston and Mitch, and the other was just a ridiculous shot by John Tavares. To beat Toronto, you have to limit Auston, Mitch, and Tavares to one goal (if you’re lucky) and stop their bottom-six forwards, who are also likely better than your bottom-six forwards. The Wild let the all-stars run free and couldn’t take advantage of their depth forwards.
A lot can be said about week two that could be said about week one. The forwards are not producing, the defense (outside of the defensemen) are not performing, and the team looks old and slow. The overabundance of left-handers is glaringly obvious when it comes to passes, zone entries, cycling the puck, etc. Bruce Boudreau said it well:
“That’s why you gotta grind it out and you gotta play maybe a boring hockey game. But you can’t get into an end-to-end game with these speedy teams.”
It’s hard to hit the blow-up button this early into the season, but I think people are starting to eye it up. It’s hard to watch.
I’ll wait before officially proclaiming #LoseForLafreniere or #BombForByfield