They are in a flat spin heading out to sea.
Looking for a rebound from a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, the Minnesota Wild had a great start to last night’s game in Winnipeg against the Jets. They could’ve been up 3-0 if a goal wasn’t overturned because it was ruled offsides when Charlie Coyle’s skate came off the ice just a split second before the puck crossed the blue line. They scored about 2 minutes later to make it 2-0 and then the wheels came off and the Winnipeg Jets scored 7 unanswered goals and won 7-2.
It doesn’t make any sense. The Wild got the start they wanted. They got a 2-goal lead. Say what you want about a 2-goal lead being the worst lead in hockey but this team has no reason to relax with any lead. They looked confused about how to even play the game defensively, like they weren’t sure where to be or who to cover. They stopped competing and winning battles. I don’t care what the score is. You have to keep competing in this league because no lead is safe. Look at what happened in the playoffs. How many multiple goal comebacks happened last season in the playoffs?
Maybe a good beatdown is what this team needs. Maybe it will show them they aren’t doing enough and they need to prepare more and better to win in the 2017-18 season of the National Hockey League. They are no easy wins anymore and they aren’t in a place to overlook anybody anyways.
You can’t tell me this team is as bad as they’ve played in the last week. They’ve had stretches against some of the best teams in the league where they’ve made them look lost. They came back against a very good Nashville Predators team to win in the 3rd period. They even had stretches against St. Louis where it appeared they had them on the run and scrambling to get the puck and clear their zone. Look at their 3rd period production and that they never quit. Before this stretch of bad defense, they shutout 3 teams in a row.Those teams were the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers twice. The Habs were a mess and the Flyers have now lost 8 games in a row.
Sure, the defense isn’t as deep and they’ve had a lot of injuries to their top players but that’s hockey and that’s sports. Find a way to get through it & move on. They don’t trust each other and aren’t playing as a team. They are trying to make plays individually instead of making the good team play.
Making a pass at the blue line to a player standing still is not a good play. The puck has to get deep so you can get your forecheck going and that forecheck has to work together to make it work. The Wild has speed and some physicality to make things happen on the forecheck. F2 & F3 have to read the play and switch depending on where the puck is and where it’s going. Sometimes a defenseman will be F1 and then a forward will cover for him. It’s about working together as a team.
Defensively is the same thing. They have to work together. Communicate, switch and backcheck. Backcheck to get even with the offensive player not just so they can barely reach them with their stick. It’s somewhat amazing to see players struggle with how to play the game on both ends of the ice. If you’re a good offensive player, you have the ability to be a good defensive player. You’re offensive instincts can help on the defensive end because you know what the offensive player is trying to do. If they want time & space then you take away time & space. If they are driving towards the net, you drive towards the net. If a player can change the game with their speed offensively, they can change the game with their speed defensively.
Looking at the big picture, the Wild are only 2 points out of a playoff spot. There’s actually 7 teams with 24 to 27 points battling for the Wild Card spots. It feels too early, with 57 games to go, to be talking about Wild Card spots and the playoffs but this will be a battle all season long, especially in the Western Conference. There are a lot of teams struggling right now and really, with so many games to go, there isn’t one team that should feel safe or comfortable with their place in the standings.
Obviously, the Blues, the Jets, the Predators and the Vegas Golden Knights should feel good about how they are playing but they aren’t that far ahead that they should feel comfortable by any means. The Blues have the Jets right on their tail. The Jets have the Predators hunting them. Vegas are only 2 points ahead of the Kings and the Calgary Flames are only 2 points behind them.
The Chicago Blackhawks are in the first Wild Card spot and have started to play a little better lately. The Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks have had just as shaky of a start to the season as the Wild. You’d be crazy to think those teams aren’t going to play a role in how the standings shake out by the end of the season. Trades will happen and injuries will happen. There’s a long way to go to get to the postseason. This season might be like no other with the mix of teams in the Western Conference.
The Wild have to keep working on fixing the problems and get to playing a consistently good game for a full 60 minutes so they’re in the thick of things as soon as possible. They have the talent and the players to make it happen. It’s hard to see now because we are judging them at the lowest point of the season so far. It’s the same as judging the Blues as the best team in the league. They might be the best team right now but they will have everyone coming for them every game because they are the top team in the West and one of the top teams overall.
The Wild have 2 days before they play at home against Vegas for the 1st time and reunite with former teammates, Erik Haula & Alex Tuch. You’d think it’d be good to have 2 days between games but one of them is a mandatory off-day so they won’t get the practice time they need to fix their current problems. They’ll have to get most of it done on Wednesday. We’ll see on Thursday if we want what happened on Wednesday will change this team. Hopefully, it’s a Golden Night for the Minnesota Wild!
Thanks for reading some Clutter. What do you think the Wild have to do to fix this team?
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