This Wild have yet to reach a consistent level of play this season. They’ve had stretches where they’ve looked like they figured it out and will get on a roll but then they’ll have a setback with a loss because of uncharacteristic play. Or they’ll lose confidence in their play and have up and down stretches during the game and have to turn it on in the 3rd period to comeback from a deficit.
Maybe that shouldn’t be very surprising considering the injuries and new players transitioning to the lineup. They made the trade for Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis from Buffalo and lost 2-3 players in free agency and the expansion draft. That’s 3 defensemen and around 7 forwards transitioning or still working on transitioning to the Wild’s system when you include the prospects who have been up & down so far this season.
That’s half of the forwards and the bottom pair of defenseman. Add a new defensive coach to that list and that means there were probably some changes to the defensive scheme, too. Maybe that explains the problems as the younger players & prospects have played pretty well in their roles. It’s been the veterans who haven’t brought their A-games or haven’t prepared well enough to be ready for the game. You have to live with the mistakes from the younger players who have yet to complete a full season in the NHL like Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly. They still need time to develop but that time needs to be in the NHL. They probably aren’t going to learn as much at the minor league level at this point in their careers.
Those are traits of a weak-minded team that doesn’t yet trust their teammates or understand the system they are playing. No, it doesn’t help that they suffered injuries to 4 of their top forwards but injuries are a part of the game and every team has to deal with them at some point during the season. The good to great teams find ways to battle through the injuries whether it’s a “next-man-up” situation or multiple players stepping up their game.
Last season, Bruce Boudreau said he thought it would take his team until Thanksgiving to play his system the right way. That meant they’d just play the game and know what to do from playing this new system for the first quarter of the season. They wouldn’t have to think about what they were supposed to do in any situation. It would just come naturally after playing that way for the first 20 games or so.
Well, look at the calendar! Thanksgiving is tomorrow and this team has yet to hit a level of consistently good play. They’ve been consistently inconsistent. We don’t know what team is going to show up at any point of the game. We know they won’t quit as they’ve shown with multiple comebacks and the way they bring it in the 3rd period.
The bottom line is they need to start games like they play in the 3rd period. Get and play with a lead. They are still one of the best defensive teams in the league. The offense hasn’t been great but that also shows a team not trusting each other or even themselves as they hesitate to shoot the puck way too much.
It was a good sign to see Mikael Granlund start to shoot the puck more in the loss to New Jersey on Monday night. He scored two goals in the 3rd period to tie the game and force overtime before the Devils scored early to force the Wild to settle for only 1 point. Hopefully, the rest of the team will take a note from that and also start to shoot the puck more and have a shoot-first mentality. Should they shoot every time? No, but they should have confidence in their shots and know when they should shoot the puck. Obviously, sometimes a pass will work better in certain situations but, a lot of times players are looking to pass when there’s a clear and very good opportunity to shoot and to score.
Tonight, the Wild are in Buffalo to face a couple old teammates in Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella. Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis return to where they played the majority of the 6 and 8-year NHL careers, respectively, before being acquired by the Wild. The game starts…well…right now so….