The Wild better figure out this home futility fast because it’s back in a playoff dogfight.
Eleven games left, six at home and the Wild’s again playing ordinary hockey at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild has lost four of six at home now (one regulation win in that stretch), the latest coming Thursday, 3-2, to Washington.
Remember, prior to a six-game home winning streak that preceded this 2-4 home stretch, the Wild lost eight of 10 at home (2-4-4).
The Wild, 12-1-2 on the road since Jan. 15 and winners of a franchise-record eight in a row on the road, is 19-11-5 at home. Pretty blah for a team that started 7-1 at home and has 20 road wins. I’m no math major, but that’s 12-10-5 in its past 27 home games.
Most damaging is when the Wild loses, and this only the sixth regulation loss since Jan. 15, the Wild always seems to lose by one goal. The Wild’s last seven losses since Jan. 19 (including one overtime, one shootout) have been by one goal.
The Wild is 18-11-7 in one-goal games. The Anaheim Ducks are 28-1-7.
And, frustratingly if you’re the Wild (and you, I’m certain) is the Wild often doesn’t tie these games up in the end to at least get the “loser point” everybody else seems to get nightly. Winnipeg and Los Angeles are the kings of that.
The Jets did it tonight, rallying from a goal down to beat St. Louis in a shootout. The Jets, now one point behind the Wild for the top wildcard spot, are 11-12 in overtime. The Wild is 7-7. The Kings did it last night against Anaheim, and as the norm lost but at least got a point. The Kings have lost FOURTEEN games in overtime and shootouts.
Again, the Wild is 7-7 in OT/shootouts. Other playoff contenders? Chicago is 12-6, Calgary 13-5, St. Louis 13-6, Anaheim 14-7, Nashville 13-8.
In a league that rewards losing, the Wild doesn’t lose well enough at home especially – or at least put itself in enough positions like the game in Nashville on Tuesday to get to overtime enough so it can pull out more W's.
Tonight, Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading goal scorer, scored his 46th and 47th goals – the last one off a set faceoff play 3:05 into the third for his eventual league-leading 11th winning goal.
“His shot’s lethal,” Chris Stewart said. “He has one of the best releases in the league. You lose that faceoff clean and it’s already in the back of the net. He has a cannon. He was the difference maker tonight.”
The Wild twice pulled two-goal deficits to one, the last coming on Jared Spurgeon’s power-play goal batting Thomas Vanek’s rebound out of mid-air from the side of the net with 5:56 left, but in the end, a last-minute flurry again wound up with no tying goal. The Wild attempted seven shots in that 1:23 with Devan Dubnyk on the bench.
Coach Mike Yeo said the similar trend at home in all these one-goal losses is the fact that the Wild’s making one big mistake or a couple breakdowns that it normally doesn’t do in its simplistic road style.
Last home game in a 2-1 loss to Anaheim, it was Matt Dumba’s turnover in front of the net on a 4-on-4 that led to the game-winning goal. Tonight on a 4-on-4, Ovechkin, going in the zone 1-on-3 and scoring off his own rebound on an awesome corral of the puck, and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 39 seconds apart on 4-on-4’s. Kuznetsov’s goal came when Jonas Brodin uncharacteristically skating in front of the net with the puck and was stripped.
The Wild has one 5-on-5 goal in the past two home games. On the road, the Wild drives the net more, creates scrums and Yeo said they need to do that more at home.
The Wild has allowed 10 4-on-4 goals this year and scored five (only one in non-overtime 4-on-4’s). In comparison, the dangerous Caps have outscored opponents 11-2 on 4-on-4s.
Tonight, fourth-liner Tom Wilson drew two 4-on-4s, which seemed to be a Colorado Avalanche tactic against the Wild in last year’s playoffs.
You can read more about all that in the gamer.
Still, this was another home game where Yeo said, “We’re not that far off. The game could have taken a much different turn many times.”
But it didn’t and St. Louis comes here Saturday.
We usually play pretty well here. For whatever reason, we just haven’t had a lot of success at home,” Zach Parise said.
Dubnyk said of the home issues, “We’re not going to start thinking that way. We’re always dangerous at home, overwhelming here. We’ll continue to work and tweak some things so this continues to be a tough place to play.”
Flames won tonight, so the Kings fell back to ninth again – three points behind the Wild with a game in hand.
The standings are getting tight. So no, Dubnyk will not be getting a rest anytime soon.
Talk to you after Friday’s practice.