Some of the Wild’s strongest performances this season have come after the team finished shaking up the roster — perhaps a sign of a group capitalizing on the relief of getting past the NHL trade deadline, a wake-up call interpreted from the maneuvering or the enthusiasm felt by the new faces gaining a fresh start.
But turnover at this time of the schedule can also present challenges, and the Wild seems to be moving on to that phase of its transformation.
Another ineffective showing by the power play headlined a 3-0 loss to the Sharks Monday in front of 18,907 at Xcel Energy Center that spiraled the unit deeper into its funk.
“We’ve got to practice it,” winger Zach Parise said. “Right now it feels like it’s five strangers on the ice.”
After going 0-for-3, the Wild’s power play is in a 0-for-18 rut. It hasn’t converted since its first game after the deadline, going 2-for-2 in a Feb. 26 win over the Winnipeg Jets, and this struggle has underscored the growing pains that come with addition and subtraction late in the season. The Wild is 14-14-6 at the X this season, and has won only once at home since February 1.
“There just hasn’t been a lot of communication on the ice,” Parise said. “So it makes it tougher. It makes it really hard. Sometimes it feels like you don’t know where that next guy is. And to me, when you’re on a good power play, when you have a good power play, you know without even looking where that guy is.”
While this trouble spot was costly against San Jose, the Wild didn’t slip in the standings as a result. It remains in the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with 74 points after losses by the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche — a break that the team certainly didn’t get on the ice Monday.
San Jose center Barclay Goodrow opened the scoring 14 minutes, 6 seconds into the second period on a deflection off his stomach.
Just 4:37 into the third, the Sharks added an insurance marker when center Tomas Hertl buried a 2-on-1 look.
Later in the frame, center Logan Couture skated in alone for a breakaway chance that was impeded by an Anthony Bitetto hook.
Couture was awarded a penalty shot, which he slung five-hole on goalie Devan Dubnyk at 10:01.
“I thought it was a weak call for a penalty shot,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The Wild attempted to issue a coach’s challenge to determine if Couture was offside on his breakaway try, but it couldn’t since the original play didn’t result in a goal.
Dubnyk totaled 26 saves, while Martin Jones had 24 for his third shutout of the season — two of which have come against the Wild.
Only four of Jones’ stops came while the Wild had a man advantage. The team had issues getting set up in the offensive zone — a reoccurring theme since the team traded away playmaker Mikael Granlund. The Sharks went 0-for-2 on power plays.
“When you don’t take advantage of your chances,” Boudreau said, “usually bad things are going to happen.”
Boudreau agreed the Wild hasn’t had the practice time to emphasize the tweaks it has tried to install, and with a hectic schedule, the team has put a premium on rest — opting to illustrate what it’s trying to implement visually or verbally instead.
But when the team gets back on the practice ice Wednesday, its focus will be special teams.
“We need to practice it,” Parise reiterated. “There’s no question we need to practice it and work out the kinks like that and break it down to where you know you can put the puck and start from there.”