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ST. PAUL… Folks, it is mere moments ago that the Minnesota Wild dropped another game, and honestly, looked poor in so doing. I have seen every game the team has played so far and to be fair there are times when I see the flashes, the glimpses if you will, of what most fans would expect from this team. And then I also see the stretches during games where their urgency and focus appear to be absent. They have had injuries, so has every other team in the league, they have had some games where they’ve played some efficient hockey and then the games where you are left wondering what you just witnessed.
Saturday eve in St. Louis and last night in Winnipeg were two of those games. I was at the STL tilt and after about the 1st 15 minutes of the 1st period I could tell it would be a long night for the Wild. They were down 3-0 on some mistakes by themselves and some great heads up play by the Blues. The final was 6-3 and it was a total eye opener for me as to what this team may or may not be all about. I saw times of intense focus and play and other instances that if I were the guy behind the bench I would be waiving players between periods. The moment that stood out for me as to where this team’s mindset might be at was during a shift early in the 3rd period right after former Wild forward Kyle Brodziak scored a short hander off of a turnover.
The Wild had some pressure in the Blues zone going and then there was a transition play going back up the ice and the players out at the time opted for a line change. One of those players, Marcus Foligno to be exact, basically took a Sunday skate from the end boards to the Wild bench. Yeah I get it, the 82 game season and all that, but I’m looking at the scoreboard and thinking you are getting your ass kicked son and you are loafing all the way to the bench? On top of that it’s only Game 23. Urgency? No, not here, not now. Am I nitpicking? Perhaps so, it’s a miniscule observation on my part but I have learned in my time around sports that Championship teams have Championship habits and they almost never deviate from them, so….
In the Peg’ this evening the boys actually had a very nice start to this game. They came out very sharp and focused. Just shy of the 14 minute mark they had gained a 2-0 lead which could have been 3-0 if not for a disallowed goal. Then it was like someone flipped a switch and it was over. Less then 2 minutes after the Wild went up by 2 the Jets scored and added another a minute and a half later. The 1st ended at 2-2. The 2nd ended at 4-2 Jets and they owned the 3rd for a 7-2 final. There were breakdowns and a lack of discipline in many facets of the game. Matt Dumba took a misconduct at the end of the 1st for squirting water at a Jet player. In the box to begin the 2nd he appeared to have cared less. In the 3rd, after the Jets scored twice in 1:05 the contest was officially over and Wild D-man Kyle Quincey decided to jump a Jets player after the second of those and got the boot from the game. The breakdowns were numerous and the lack of discipline too evident. Devan Dubnyk tended goal in STL and Alex Stalock played tonight. A youth coach of mine told us that it takes 6 players to prevent a goal, and I believe that strongly to this day, but neither Duby or Alex looked sharp.
After 24 tilts the team is 11-13. The basic team stats are indifferent. The Goals For and Against have the team at 13th and 21st in the league. Special teams though are strong (and need to be) at 5th on the Power Play and 9th on the Penalty Kill. They stand at 17th in PIM’s and are 18th in Face Off win percentage. They are 26th in Hits. Jason Zucker is tied for 5th in Goals, (13) and no other Wild player is in the top 50. Eric Staal is tied with several players at 13 Assists for a spot in that top 50, and is also tied with several players for a top 50 spot on the points list with 21 total on 8G and 13A. Forwards Granlund, Neiderreiter and Coyle are beginning to produce offensively but the bottom 6 production has been minimal. And amongst the skaters the majority are minus players so far, a season after having several in the leagues top ten for that stat.
For goaltending, Duby is 26th in GAA at 2.85, and 23rd in SV% at .911. He is tied for the lead in Shutouts with 3. Note that the SO’s were against 2 offensively challenged clubs in PHI and MON. For Stalock, he stands at 40th in GAA at 3.14 and is 34th in SV% at .904. He has posted no Shutouts. For the most part the goalie play has been average, both have exhibited stretches of solid play, then might leave you shaking your head at some of the scores allowed. But again, their ability to post strong numbers is dependent on their fellow players all being in sync.
The depth that may have made this club stronger in recent years is failing them now. Kunin, Eriksson Ek, Olofsson, Reilly have the tools, they don’t have the experience. The experience and skill lost in the salary dumps of Pominville and Scandella are hurting the team and getting Foligno and Ennis back has done little for them. In fact I view Ennis as a reverse salary dump. He is on the books for a $3.65mil cap hit, has 7 points in 24 games, is a -3 with one more year left on this deal. The team also misses Erik Haula at Center. Just that simple. On any given night your 4, 5 and 6 D-men shouldn’t be in this league. The youngsters aren’t ready and Kyle Quincey can’t deliver. The club is currently out of a playoff spot and I’m not certain they can get one… PEACE
THE ATHLETIC; 17TH and a 50% chance at the playoff, THE SAGARIN; 17th on a 11-13 record and 2-8 versus top ten, NHL STANDINGS by point percent; 23rd on a .521% rate, tied for 5th in CENTRAL, 11th in WILD CARD, out of playoff…. OVER & OUT!