Not to preach, but whatever you think of defensive systems and “structure” and the besieged coach of this once-again stumbling, bumbling, tumbling Minnesota Wild team, … tonight was a prime example of what happens when you don’t play defense well in the NHL.
That’s just a fact.
I say this to the folks who have tweeted me a lot lately saying it’s time to unfasten the chains and just let the Wild go.
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way in this league. That’s just a fact, too.
On top of that, as I’ve stated often on radio and the podcast, when you’re a team with the Wild talent base and try to go toe to toe with a team with the talent base of the Islanders, more often than not,you’re probably not going to come out on top.
Sorry, that’s just reality. The Isles have superstar John Tavares and Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson and up-and-comer Anders Lee and … Nick Leddy and a terrific two-way guy Frans Nielsen and other top forwards and most times if you try to run and gun with them, you’re not going to be able to match that.
So, here the Wild is tonight, being outplayed dramatically in the second period after outplaying the Islanders in the first period, the Wild’s down 2-1, and suddenly Jason Pominville of all players, the king of all the Wild’s slumping guys, gets the tying goal with 1:24 left in the second.
It was absolutely imperative to get out of this period tied 2-2 … especially when you’re a team that has managed 23 goals (2 empty-netters included there) in 13 January games.
But no, the Wild got greedy and for the sake of playing good defense went recklessly for the go-ahead goal in the final minute of the second. Just not the time to lose your marbles.
Marco Scandella cut to the net, Thomas Vanek tried to hit him backdoor, Nelson, the pride of Warroad, picked it off and now it was an absolute cluster you know what coming back down the ice toward the Wild zone.
Scandella’s caught, Vanek didn’t know who to pick up, Mikael Granlund was covering for Scandella and looked lost and Nelson took advantage by cutting to the net for a point-blank dagger.
So, after putting itself in a position to escape the second tied 2-2, the Wild manages to give up the go-ahead goal in 42 seconds with 41.5 seconds left in the second.
To Vanek’s credit, he took a swan dive onto the knife, said the third goal was on him (was actually a collective effort) and said it can’t happen. Coach Mike Yeo said it’s fine to try to score, but you have to understand the importance of the time in that situation and cannot give up another back-breaking goal at the end of a period. That’s been a common theme lately against the Wild.
Zach Parise then took a penalty early in the third, and on the ensuing power play, Jonas Brodin didn’t even put a finger on Lee in front of the net and he screened Devan Dubnyk en route to Nielsen’s eventual winner. Then, Tavares made it 5-2 with a soft goal that resulted in Dubnyk being pulled for the first time this season.
“We had a pretty good opportunity to go into the third in a good spot, the third goal was a pretty good example of things that we need to not let happen going forward here in order to put ourselves in good situations to win games,” Dubnyk said. “We scored a big goal late in the period. I think priority one should be making sure it stays that way.”
The locker room is beyond dejected. No clue how the Wild’s going to pull itself out of this. This is 11 losses in the past 14 games, eight in the past nine.
The Wild’s top players have to be top players now.
Parise is wearing his frustration all over his face and is out of sorts on the ice. Vanek isn’t scoring. Mikko Koivu isn’t scoring. Ryan Suter isn’t scoring. Pominville, etc.
“Listen I’m not going to try to sugarcoat anything,” Yeo said. “We’re all in this together, but I would say that those guys are the guys definitely that are going to pull us out of it. That’s the group that’s done it in the past, so it’s not like there’s not any belief on our part that they can do it. And it’s not like we’re finger pointing at them that they’re the reason why we’re in this, but I just know that when you come out of this, it’s usually those guys that drag ya out of it. They’re going to have to drag awful hard because we’re in this pretty deep right now. It’s tough to fight the negative feelings, the negative emotions. Obviously we can be mad, but we have to make sure we put our heads in the right place.”
Just another wasted effort after a solid first period that included Charlie Coyle’s fourth goal in four games and a season-high 20 shots.
Yeo: “Much of the second period, we put ourselves in some very tough spots.”
On how absolutely soft the Wild was in wall battles, in front of the net, etc., Yeo said, “That was disappointing. Unfortunately during this whole stretch, we’ve seen glimpses and parts of our games that are there and what happens when we do it, and then we’re just not strong enough to stay with it and do it and continue to do it. The result is unpleasant.”
“The losses keep piling up. What’s concerning is we’re finding different ways to lose hockey games, games that are there for us. We’ve got a great start, we grab the lead, that should be a game we are real tough to get it back from us. Every game has been something different. You look at the ways that we have lost games, there’s a number of plays that happen through a course of a hockey game that add up to the difference. The little winning plays, we’re not making them right now.
“This doesn’t even feel necessarily like other situations. I mean, we’re losing the games right now. It’s not like we’re playing really well and just getting unlucky. For the most part, we’ve had games and we’ve lost them, and that’s what we have to fix.”
Parise, who is out of answers, said, “They're all frustrating, it’s all tough. ... We need to start winning some games. We’re making it pretty tough on ourselves. Losing another one again makes it even tougher for us.”
Vanek said, “The first 20, we played great. We had lots of energy. In between periods we talked that they were going to have a push and we had to keep on going and it wasn’t good enough.
“We had a ton of energy, we looked great and then all of a sudden we lost it.”
This team is just a mess and off the tracks. We’ll see what happens in practice Wednesday and Thursday against the Rangers.
Couple of tidbits:
2 assists for Matt Dumba snapping a 14-game point drought
1 assist for Jason Zucker snapping a 35-game drought
1 goal, 1 assist and 8 shots for Nino Niederreiter. Niederreiter had two goals in the past 33 games.
Granlund and Brodin minus-3, Scandella, Parise, Dumba, Vanek minus-2.
That’s it for moi. Please don’t shoot the messenger.
Talk to ya Wednesday.