The Wild has lost 14 of 17 games in 2016 (3-10-4), 11 of the past 12 games (1-9-2), six in a row overall since Jan. 21 (0-4-2) and six straight at home since Dec. 28 (0-3-3).
“To get off the schneid,” as Mike Yeo said this morning, the Wild will have to beat the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
The Caps: The No. 1 team in the NHL which is one win from 40 and with 84 points. The team that leads the NHL with 3.29 goals per game, ranks second with 2.25 goals allowed per game, has the NHL’s best power play at 24.4 percent and fourth-best penalty kill at 84 percent. The team with a league-best plus-56 goal differential.
The team with Alex Ovechkin, who is second in the NHL with 31 goals, second with 12 power-play goals and tied for fifth with a plus-22. The team with Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is fifth with 54 points, third with 39 assists and third with a plus-24. The team with Nicklas Backstrom, the one who plays, not the goalie who sits, who is tied for fifth with 20 power-play points.
The team with goalie Braden Holtby, who has ONE regulation loss in the past 31 games and a 34-5-3 record with a 2.08 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.
The team with T.J. Oshie, Matt Niskanen and the bubbly Nate Schmidt. #threeofus.
To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “Good luck with all that!”
Now that I lowered your expectations to the nth degree, watch the Wild win Thursday night. Maybe Ovechkin will take his teammates out on the town tonight.
The Wild had an optional practice today. Coach Mike Yeo didn’t go on the ice, nor did forwards Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle. We know Koivu is banged up because he left practice a few days ago, and we can assume the same for the other two.
Yeo said all the players are good to go against the Caps.
Also, defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who said he got hurt early in the Blues game Saturday and it got progressively worse until he could go no more early in the second, practiced today. He said it’s up to the coaches whether he plays, but he thinks he’s good to return after missing Tuesday’s game against Dallas.
If he plays, one of the D would come out. Yeo indicated the Wild probably wouldn’t bring back Tyler Graovac right now because he liked the line construction in the Stars game, especially Erik Haula centering Thomas Vanek and Justin Fontaine.
Speaking of Vanek, the Wild’s 1-10 in overtime and shootouts and last night’s loss came after Vanek’s mistake.
Vanek had a huge first period, but he also made a series of mistakes in overtime starting with disregarding a line change well before his decision not to just get the puck deep and go for a change before his turnover led to a loss.
Yeo said there will be personnel changes the next time the Wild gets to overtime and “hopefully we get there a whole bunch more times and you guys get to see.”
I asked him if he regretted using Vanek,. Yeo said, “I’m not going to talk about that. Going forward, I’ve got some different ideas that we have that we’ll try and we’ll continue to do that. The one thing I’ll say is we didn’t try him a whole lot early in the year and we started to lose some games. Obviously with his skills, you think 3-on-3 is a game of skill, so that’s why we gave him an opportunity there.”
Fair enough. I’d almost guarantee one of those personnel moves will be no longer using Vanek in 3-on-3.
Yeo is under the gun right now.
I’m hearing from sources that his job is not as secure as GM Chuck Fletcher led to believe Saturday in St. Louis.
Yeo knows the pressure is on. He has met with Fletcher a lot lately.
“That’s the life of a coach in the NHL,” Yeo said. “I’ve got no problem with that. I deal with that just fine.”
He said, “I’m not going to sit around and say, ‘Poor me.’ This is not about me, this is about us, all of us together and I’ve got my job to do. The guy have been doing their job the last couple games and if we keep going that, then we’ll be fine.”
On Zenon Konopka’s tweets on the previous blog, Yeo said, “I really don’t care what he says.” He added with a laugh, “I will say I was very disappointed to see Hoppy holding that sign.”
On a serious note, the reality is Yeo and the Wild has gone through this before. The reality is they’ve gotten out of this before, too, and usually for the better.
But it does seem like Yeo’s not able to find the right buttons to push right now and his words are bouncing off the locker-room wall.
The possible good news is the Wild has played much better the past two games, outshot and outchanced two very good teams. It has one point to show for it in those games, but quite often in losing streaks, you hear about how a coach started to see cracks in a team’s game before.
Maybe the coach is starting to see signs of the game building and a win streak on the horizon?
Yes, “We’ve got to get a win, we’ve got to back it up with another. It’s difficult to keep trying to point toward positives even though there are signs that the game has been better. With the shots that we’ve been creating and the chances that we’ve been creating, those are positive signs and we’re doing it against good teams. Those things are hard to see and hard to feel good about if you’re not winning hockey games. The way things are going, we need some things to feel good about right now.”
I’ll have more in Thursday’s paper.