The Wild knows its power play stinks like rotten fish in an unmonitored landfill. And it doesn’t deny that its paying customers have every right to boo lustily when players put forth a convoluted display like they did during a five-minute major Wednesday against Montreal.
But, Zach Parise said Thursday, “It doesn’t help.”
The Wild winger is not ripping the fans.
“Sometimes we feel like booing ourselves, it’s that bad, so I can’t disagree with them,” Parise said, laughing.
But the Wild is trying hard to repair the one thing coach Mike Yeo says is keeping it from becoming an elite team.
But with players already confused, flustered and lacking confidence on the power play, trying to make a play with 18,000 fans booing in a game the Wild led 2-0 wasn’t easy.
Players seemed paralyzed, quickly tossing the puck to teammates as if to say, “Here, it’s your problem.”
So Parise and the rest of the Wild are just asking for a little latitude.
“They’re frustrated, and I understand that,” Parise said of the fans. “And they have a right to be frustrated. We’re frustrated, and then when we get booed, we get more frustrated, and then it snowballs.”
All teams go through tough power-play stretches. Friday’s opponent, the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks, stopped an 0-for-19 drought Wednesday. Central Division-leading Nashville is 1-for-41 at home; at least the Wild’s clicking at 16.7 percent at home and saves its really, really lousy power plays for the road.
The Wild is 7-2-1 in its past 10 games and has actually outscored teams on power plays 5-2 in that stretch, but power-play problems have been a season-long issue. The focus during a long session in Tuesday’s practice was more movement, more shots on net and one minor personnel tweak with Mikael Granlund moving to the first unit and Thomas Vanek to the second.
The laundry list of things to remedy though seems overwhelming.
“We don’t shoot,” said Parise, who had 14 power-play goals last season and has just one this season. “We’ve got to take some shots, and we need a guy in front of the net. It feels like when we do finally get a shot, there’s no one in front of the net. It’s an easy save. It’s not just one thing. It’s a lot of things that are happening. It’s hard to just pinpoint, ‘This is what we’re doing wrong,’ because there’s a lot of things that we do wrong that just accumulate and doesn’t work.
“We’re not moving it around crisp, we’re not setting each other up, so a lot of times when we do have an opening, we don’t put it in a guy’s wheelhouse. We throw it in the skates, we throw it behind them. … It’s a lot of things. And then the frustration creeps in and then you end up where you are right now.”
And that frustration has led to a lack of confidence that doesn’t improve with jeers.
“There’s a lot of things you have to overcome, there’s a lot of difficulties that are faced that don’t involve X’s and O’s, that don’t involve things that you can just draw up on a board,” Yeo said. “You’re talking about confidence, you’re talking about even anxiety, things that can get in your way and inhibit the things that make you successful.”
The good news is the Wild, thanks to quality 5-on-5 play and the league’s second-best penalty kill, has so far survived the crummy power play.
“If we were playing terrible hockey and losing games, but we had a good power play, what’s the good in that?” Parise said. “Once we get the power play going, which we will, then we’re going to be really dangerous. But right now it’s not working. It hasn’t worked. But it’s fixable. That’s the good thing. It’s very fixable.”