Three years ago, coach Bruce Boudreau was at the helm of an Anaheim Ducks team that started the season 1-7-2.
Five of those losses were shutouts.
“We knew that if we continued to play really good defense, that we were going to starting scoring,” Boudreau said. “And we did.”
Not only did the Ducks start to put the puck in the net, they ended up surging to the top of the Pacific Division – a turnaround that Boudreau is reminded of as the Wild embarks on the four-day holiday break stuck in an offensive rut amid a four-game losing streak after a 2-1 loss to the Stars Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
“This is a very similar situation in that if you look at how many goals we’re giving up and how many chances we’re giving up and then if that can continue,” Boudreau said, “eventually the shots from [Eric] Staal in the slot and [Mikael] Granlund in the slot and [Zach] Parise in the slot, they’re going to start going in.”
Despite testing Dallas goalie Ben Bishop 31 times, the Wild scored just once for the second straight game and third time in its last four.
Its lone tally didn’t register until late in regulation when winger Jason Zucker finally solved Bishop, wiring in a loose puck just outside the crease.
“It was nice to finally break through and get one,” Zucker said. “Felt like Granny, Staal and I have been fighting it a little bit and battling.”
The goal doesn’t cure the scoring shortage, but it does stir optimism the team can potentially build off when it resumes playing.
“We gotta be able to replicate it and keep that going and do it earlier in games and not wait till the 58th minute,” Zucker said.
The power play also struggled to capitalize, going 0-for-3 – which included a four-minute advantage. Although the Wild had plenty of possession, it had a tough time translating that control into shots on net since it had just one during that extended power play.
“A lot of time it looks like shooting lanes are open, but they stand tight in a box and just stay there,” Zucker said. “Sometimes the easy passes are moving it on the outside, but you’re not getting too many scoring chances that way.”
What didn’t disappoint was the Wild’s penalty kill, as it snuffed out four Dallas chances to improve to 20-for-20 over the last nine games.
“We have some nice chemistry going with our pairings and ‘D’ pairings,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “It’s nice when you go out there you know what everybody’s doing.”
This was the fourth straight game the Wild has dropped, its longest rough patch of the season, but perhaps unplugging from hockey during this lull in the schedule is just what players need to snap out of this funk when they get back in action Thursday in Chicago against the Blackhawks.
“I’m not going to think about hockey for one second the next four days, and I’m excited about that,” Zucker said. “I’m sure every guy in this room will say the same thing. I’m going to spend time with my kids and my wife and just do nothing. We’re going to eat some good food, we’re going to have a few drinks and we’re going to relax and I think that’s going to be a great way to clear our mind and just come back and be ready to play hockey after the break.”
But Boudreau’s message to players when they reconvene will express the urgency the team needs to have the rest of the way to improve.
It’s the same concept he parlayed to the Ducks three seasons ago.
“You’d like to be like Tampa, 20 games over .500 right now where you’ve got that equity if you lose,” Boudreau said. “But we’re not going to have that luxury.”