The Wild is aware it needs to repair its road record to remain in pursuit of a playoff spot.
But after its latest setback, a grim 6-1 rout courtesy the Stars Saturday at American Airlines Center, it’s clear the team is having trouble making the necessary adjustments.
Fixing what went wrong against the Stars, however, might be just the place to start in trying to spark sustainable improvement.
Dallas earned only two power-play opportunities but capitalized on both, continuing a tough stretch for the Wild’s penalty killers on the road.
In the team’s last three games away from Xcel Energy Center, it’s surrendered five power-play goals. Over the past six, it’s given up nine.
At 74.1 percent, the unit ranks 28th in the NHL on the road. But on home ice, it’s second (88.9 percent) – another confusing disparity for the Wild.
“Maybe it’s confidence with them, but it’s disappointing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s disappointing to everybody. When you kill penalties, it allows you to be free to do things you’re capable of. If you think you’re going to get scored on all the time, then you become a little leery about how to play and you don’t play as physical, as in your face type thing.
“When that happens, you’re in trouble a little bit.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s loss to the Stars.
- The fatigue that undoubtedly stems from traveling to play the second half of a back-to-back on the road didn’t explain the Wild’s drop off midgame against the Stars in Boudreau’s mind.
“If you use the product of back-to-back, then you’re making an excuse and allowing your guys to get off because it’s tired or you’re emotionally drained,” Boudreau said. “I don’t believe in that at all.”
- Not only was this the team’s 15 regulation loss on the road, which is tied for most in the league, but it was the third straight road loss by a wide margin. Before falling to the Stars, the Wild was upended 6-3 by the Penguins Jan. 25 and overwhelmed 7-2 by the Avalanche Jan. 6.
A lack of confidence away from home is likely affecting the team, as that seemed to be at play when it fell behind to the Stars.
Instead of pushing back, the Wild crumbled.
“Between the second and third, I said, ‘If this was at home, you guys would have dug deep and gone after them,’” Boudreau said. “But on the road – granted they quickened their pace. They were just a lot faster than us overall tonight I thought. But it’s still no reason to lose games 6-1 in the NHL.”
- What made this loss sting even more was that it was against a division rival in the Stars, who the Wild could have leapfrogged in the standings with a win.
“We talked about that before the game, how this could be a springboard for us,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We had a good first then just quit playing.”