The All-Star break is officially over. Back to life, back to reality for the Wild, which looks to get back into the top-8 in the West starting with a three-game road trip that opens tonight in Brooklyn against Nick Leddy, Kyle Okposo, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and the Islanders.
Devan Dubnyk vs. Jean-Francois Berube tonight.
Interesting decision by the Isles starting Berube over Jaroslav Halak.
Berube, 24, a 2009 Kings' fourth-rounder, has started one NHL game -- Oct. 10 against Chicago. He stopped 30 of 34 shots in a loss.
In his last four starts with AHL Bridgeport, Berube is 4-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average and .967 save percentage.
Maybe Isles coach Jack Capuano has seen what the Wild has done against backups or young goalies with little experience lately: Arizona's Louis Domingue, 34 saves on 35 shots in a win; Nashville's Carter Hutton, 29 saves on 29 shots in a shutout; Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck, 24 saves on 24 shots in a shutout; Buffalo's Linus Ullmark, 28 saves on 30 shots in a win; Florida's Al Montoya, 38 saves on 39 shots in a win; Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy, 30 saves on 32 shots in a win; Pittsburgh's Matt Murray, 25 saves on 26 shots in a win.
I asked coach Mike Yeo about the lack of scoring today in general the past month, and he said, "Over the break you take some time to analyze things. Statistically, a lot of the areas of our game are very, very similar to what they were earlier in the year when we were scoring goals. Before Christmas, we were eighth in the league in goal scoring. Since that time, obviously we’ve plummeted. Yet shots haven’t gone down – we’re shooting pucks even at a little higher rate than we were. Shot attempts are right at the same range. I would say that one thing that has been a significant difference, the main difference is shooting percentage. It was a lot higher earlier in the year. Some of that could be a little misfortune, but I don’t like to refer to that. Certainly confidence, not pulling the trigger as quickly, but I would say net front has been a big issue as well."
So, after all that, then it was very clear to me there was some kind of meeting during the break that Yeo had with the Wild's recently-named fulltime analytics gurus.
(If you didn't see, this was a section of my Sunday Insider here:
The co-founders of war-on-ice.com, hockey’s premier analytics site and Wild consultants since last summer, were officially hired full-time by the team this week.
Andrew Thomas received a Ph.D. in statistics from Harvard in 2009 and a bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT in 2004. Alexandra Mandrycky graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 2013.
They’ll work with Ben Resnick, who got his master’s in economics at Penn in 2007 and has been the Wild’s advanced stats guru the past four years.
“A lot of brain power there,” assistant GM Brent Flahr said, laughing. “You go into the office and walk in the boardroom, and they’ve got secret codes and it’s like they’re splitting the atom in there sometimes.”)
There was a meeting. Yeo said there was a presentation made.
"They analyze to see where our game is at and what’s been lacking," Yeo said. "It was interesting. When we charted the scoring chances, it’s not like there’s a huge drop off, it’s not like we’re not getting chances. There was a little stretch there where we weren’t creating as much, but lately we’ve been creating and just haven’t been finishing. Their stats spoke to that as well. But we’re not going to just sit around and hope that the break was the cure for us. There were some things that we have to be better at. We pointed to some positives and some negatives and some areas we have to be a lot better. Now is our first chance to start working toward that."
Yeo said, "It’s execution certain times, we’ve got opportunities to either generate or create an opportunity and we’re not capitalizing on that or we’re getting an opportunity and we’re not finishing. Some of that can be mental for sure, but we have to get past that. It’s not just going to come to us, it’s not just going to all the sudden bounce our way. I think if we look at the big picture too much and try to make up for what has gone on in the last month in one game tonight, then you’re going to be disappointed. But if you do it in short little periods and look at this next little stretch of games and try to build off of that, then that is something you can try to build off a little more easily."
I was a little stunned Yeo didn't change any of the lines in yesterday's practice. After all, this is a team has lost seven of eight and 10 of its past 13.
Asked if all this is why he didn't change the lines, Yeo said, "Up until the last minute, 25 (Devan Dubnyk's gaffe that led to the tying goal against the Coyotes), I think we would’ve been pretty pleased with the game that we played last game. We were pretty dominant for most of the game, we just didn’t close it out. We’ve been doing a lot of bouncing around. It’d be nice to get to a place where we could keep some consistency with our lines. But at the same time, we can’t afford to keep going with something that’s not working. We’ll give it a chance tonight.
I'm writing a bit about Nino Niederreiter in tomorrow's paper. The former Islander has two goals in his past 33 games.
He talked to me a bit about his struggles today and an All-Star game break he took to Cancun with teammates Marco Scandella, Matt Dumba and Darcy Kuemper. You can see a little taste on his Twitter account.
Dubnyk said he had a blast at the All-Star Game. He talked a lot about the time he had with his kids, his wife and family and also about the John Scott story, which I'll probably write about in this Sunday's column.
As I've written multiple times, Dubnyk is part of the committee of a handful of goalies that are providing feedback for the decreased chest protectors, jerseys and pants that will surely come into existence next season.
Dubnyk got to take a look at some of the ideas during the weekend.
"It’s nothing really drastic, so it was good," he said. "We all kind of had the same idea behind it. As long as we’re protected and we can move OK, that’s all that matters."
Dubnyk said, "They’re looking at pants and chest protectors and doing different things, so they just had some makeshift stuff to give us an idea of what they're going to do and jerseys and stuff like that, and they just wanted to get our feedback on it as well.
"It was a good. It’s fair. They’re great about it. The stuff they’re looking to change is fair. They want to round out the contour of the arms a little bit on the chest pad," but they're not taking any padding away, he said.
He said they're also looking to round out "the leg channel of the pants and up here (pointing at his waist) as much as they can, and my biggest concern with that was restricting movement. I said, 'You can make the pants as absolutely small as you want to, but as soon as it starts to restrict the movement, it [stinks].' It’s like if you put on pant shells. If you put on a pair of pant shells and go out and practice, it’s three times harder to do the exact same stuff. It’s like you go to work out and you put rubber bands around your legs, that’s what it’s like. Every push is that much worse. I said, 'I’m fine with you guys doing whatever you need to do as long as we can move still,' and they're going to make sure we can. It’ll be good. Same thing with the jerseys. I said you can make the jerseys a little tighter, but as soon as you restrict it, ... it becomes a problem."
Frankly, and this is me talking, not Dubnyk, I bet this time next year, we'll barely notice a difference. Until they figure out a way to lessen defensive systems or make the ice bigger or the nets, dare we say, bigger or the guys smaller and slower, scoring will continue to decrease.
Talk to ya tonight.