No, that wasn’t a Hall & Oates concert airing on Fox Sports North on Tuesday evening. But you’re forgiven if you thought that was the case.
Four times during a fateful second period for the Wild, Toronto fans celebrated to pop rock duo’s 1980 hit, “You Make My Dreams,’’ the team’s goal song, as the Maple Leafs turned a 1-0 deficit into a three-goal lead on their way to a 4-2 victory. The loss dropped the Wild to 1-5 this season, negating any momentum Minnesota might have gained in its 2-0 breakthrough win over the Senators on Monday afternoon in Ottawa.
The Wild played what could be considered a solid road period in the first on Tuesday, taking a 1-0 lead on Luke Kunin’s goal and getting eight shots on goal to the Leafs’ nine. Then came the second, when Toronto’s star power took over and feasted on Minnesota’s mistakes.
John Tavares, a No. 1 overall draft pick (by the Islanders) who is making $11 million a year, beat goalie Devan Dubnyk through a screen to tie it 1-1. Mitch Marner, a No. 4 overall draft pick making $10.9 million, made it 2-1. After Andreas Johnsson batted in a puck that bounced off the glass and into the crease for a 3-1 Leafs lead, Auston Matthews, a No. 2 overall draft pick making $11.6 million, made it 4-1. Assisting on all four goals was Morgan Rielly, a No. 5 overall pick.
“We don’t have Auston Matthews, who’s going to score 50 or 60 goals,’’ Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.
See a theme here? The Leafs have been able to draft early, and their talent shows, while the Wild has picked in the top five only twice in its history. Marian Gaborik, No. 3 overall in 2000, was a big hit for Minnesota. Benoit Pouliot, No. 4 in 2005, was a big miss. Of course, drafting early is not a guarantee of success. Toronto hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004 and has been ousted in the first round for the past three seasons. But it’s not as if the Wild has overachieved lately when it’s made the playoffs. Minnesota’s last playoff series win was in 2015, and first-round exits in six, five and five games followed for the next three seasons before the 2018-19 squad missed the postseason.
By Boudreau’s admission, the Wild is a team that requires scoring by committee to succeed. Problem is, that committee hasn’t produced. Check out the stats of some of the team’s higher-profile players through six games: Zach Parise, two goals, minus-6 rating; Jason Zucker, two goals; Matt Dumba, one goal, one assist, minus-8 rating; Eric Staal, one assist, minus-9 rating. Then there’s Dubnyk, who’s off to a ghastly start with an 0-5 record, 4.41 goals-against average and .867 save percentage.
Many fans have been calling for the Wild to bottom out in the hopes of gaining a high draft pick next June. The draft lottery isn’t a guarantee, as evidenced by Colorado falling out of the No. 1 spot last spring and New Jersey moving up four spots to No. 1. However, to get the influx of talent and speed the Wild desperately needs, that might be the best route.
Though you won’t see the Wild brass, led by GM Bill Guerin, giving up on this season after only six games, a 1-5 record with eight of the next 12 games on the road isn’t a recipe for a turnaround. The calls to bottom out might be unnecessary. It just might be happening on its own.