The past three weeks have been much more productive for the Wild than the first three, a grim 1-6 start that culminated in a closed-door, heart-to-heart among the players Oct. 17 in Montreal.
Since then, the Wild has played better — even if it doesn’t look that way in the standings.
After fading 3-1 to the Kings on Tuesday in Los Angeles, the Wild sat 30th overall and tied for the fewest points in the NHL at 13 from a 6-11-1 record.
One reason why the team hasn’t started to climb is its stop-and-go rhythm, up-and-down results like how the Wild performed on its recent four-game road swing through California and Arizona.
“Like I was just telling [General Manager] Bill [Guerin],” coach Bruce Boudreau said after Tuesday’s game, “I said, ‘We’re playing OK. But when you dig yourself a hole like we’ve done, you can’t win one, lose one.’ You’ve got to put a little run together, and so far we haven’t done that.”
Closing out the trip with a win instead of a loss wouldn’t have propelled the Wild into a brand-new ZIP code in the NHL’s pecking order.
But a 3-1 finish would have been a boost, shipping momentum back to the Twin Cities with the Wild before its next test Thursday at Xcel Energy Center vs. the Coyotes.
Instead, a more pedestrian 2-2 output highlights the trials just as much as the triumphs.
“If we don’t look at the positives and some of the good stuff we did in the games, we can’t grow,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “[But] we have to look at the parts where we were bad as well, learn from those and just try to keep building. It’s so close. That’s the frustrating part. We really are that close.”
Over the past 10 days, the Wild’s offense has been reignited.
Although it came up short Tuesday, the team still put 28 shots on net and had another 30 attempts that missed the net or were blocked.
In the end, the Wild scored 14 goals in the four games from 11 different players.
“We’ve been scoring a lot of goals, and we’ve been doing it by committee and that’s good,” Guerin said ahead of the trip finale.
This resurgence by the offense has been timely because the Wild has needed it to overcome early-game deficits.
At all four stops on this trek, the Wild gave up the first two goals of the game.
While the team started to improve after falling behind, it didn’t always have enough to rally — as evidenced by Tuesday’s final score and the 6-5 defeat in San Jose on Nov. 7.
Against Anaheim (4-2 on Nov. 5) and Arizona (4-3 last Saturday) the Wild was able to persevere, but the mixed bag of outcomes only seems to reinforce how unreliable comeback mode is.
“Sometimes you get lucky,” Boudreau said. “Sometimes you come back. But overall, if you’re playing from behind, you’re not going to win.”
And that’s exactly what the Wild requires right now to change its station in the NHL: Consistent success.
A .500 stint on the road, after previous struggles, was progress, and the effort to stage another come-from-behind victory was there Tuesday. But those pluses don’t count where the Wild is graded the most, and that’s how it stacks up against its peers.
“That was a pretty hard-fought game by us for the end of a long road trip,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “That doesn’t help. It doesn’t make anyone feel better with where we are right now. If that’s a game in the middle of a normal season, you can take something and build off. But it’s a little tougher to do with where we are.”