The Wild’s slump is being caused by a combination of many things.
According to many of the slumping players themselves, they’re playing too much on the perimeter. They’re losing pucks on the half wall and corners, not holding onto pucks long enough down low in the offensive zone and becoming too predictable at throwing pucks up to the point. They’re not getting to the net enough or creating traffic nearly enough.
They’re over-passing or making that one extra play that destroys an entire scoring chance.
“We’re not being creative,” said Zach Parise, the Wild’s leading goal scorer with 16.
Other than all of that … everything’s hunky-dory.
Still, despite three goals in the past four games and the fact it’s carrying a scoreless streak of 120 minutes, 52 seconds in back-to-back games at Anaheim and Los Angeles (the Ducks rank fourth in the West defensively, the Kings first), the Wild’s not panicking.
“It’ll come,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We have guys that have scored a lot of goals in there. It’ll start to come.”
The Wild plays six of its next seven games on the road starting Wednesday, so it’ll have to come the hard way.
As the Wild showed Saturday while being shut out in Nashville despite arguably having the better of the scoring chances, breaking out won’t be easy. The Wild will have to grind its way out of this.
“Keep battling. We’ve got to win puck battles,” said Jason Zucker, who has six goals and no assists in the past 30 games. “We’ve got to get the puck to the net. We’re going to get a dirty goal. That’s the way it’s going to start.
“It’s not going to be a fancy toe drag, backdoor tap-in. When you’re struggling, those goals just don’t go in. It’s going to be a dirty one and … then you start feeling better from there.”
Most frustrating lately is how often the Wild has made that one extra play instead of simply shooting the puck.
Veteran Thomas Vanek, who has no shots in the past two games, has been one of the biggest culprits. He has overhandled the puck for turnovers and Saturday passed up a point-blank shot in an attempt to set up a charging Zucker for a backdoor tap-in. It was a good play … if Zucker had scored. But he got handcuffed and flubbed the puck.
Remember, Vanek’s the 300-goal scorer in his career.
“That’s the tendency. We’ve got a lot of guys that are pressing right now,” coach Mike Yeo said. “The tendency is to try to find a prettier play or a nicer play or a sure play for the goal. When the puck is going in, it’s easy to fire the puck and try to create off that.
“But right now obviously we’re trying to make the extra play to guarantee the goal and in the meantime we’re losing out on opportunities.”
Parise said the Wild has to do a better job of holding onto pucks in the offensive zone or being “more excited to jump through the middle and get inside the check and get to the net. It’s been tough. I feel like we haven’t been spending any time in the offensive zone, and it’s tough to score in this league.”
He added with a chuckle, “It’s tough to get shots from the defensive zone, it’s tough to get shots from the neutral zone. We just have to do a better job coming up the ice together and supporting each other because sometimes the plays are there, but then we put it in a guy’s skates or just not putting the next guy in a good position with a good pass.”
Yeo clearly is looking for more from the reunited Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line, which has been reunited the past few games. Pominville has no points in 12 games since Dec. 22. Granlund has one empty-net goal in 26 games since Nov. 21 and three assists since Dec. 22.
“When we put that line together, I can’t count how many times where their first period was good and then things just kind of erode,” Yeo, before they played a decent game against Nashville, said of the line. “They’re a group that’s turning the puck over a lot. Man, they should be a tough [line] to play against with their quickness, with their offensive-zone play, with their speed on the rush. And I just feel like they don’t have the puck much right now.”