Every time the Wild goes on the penalty kill these days, it’s not only fans who are holding their breath. The team’s dreadful penalty kill stretch is firmly inside the heads of the Wild’s killers as well.
Interim coach John Torchetti is hoping it doesn’t become a “mind-set.” The Wild has fallen to 28th in the NHL on the penalty kill (75.9 percent).
That’s shocking for a team that had the NHL’s best penalty kill a season ago, although it did lose solid killers Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke. The Wild has given up eight power-play goals on 14 chances over the past eight games and 16 power-play goals on 47 chances over the past 16 games.
It’s one reason veteran Jarret Stoll, claimed off waivers to help the penalty kill in December, was scratched Sunday and Torchetti started using Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle on the kill.
“We just need different looks,” Torchetti said. “We didn’t have the success, so the top guys have to do some kills. … The guys are going to have to pull the rope a little bit harder, and tighten up. We’ll get it straightened out.”
Stoll has been on the ice for 16 power-play goals against, tied with Ryan Carter for most among forwards, but in 37 games. In his past 15 games, Stoll has been on the ice for 10 power-play goals against. Defenseman Marco Scandella had been on the ice for a team-high 20 power-play goals against.
“We’ve all talked about it. We all want to be better,” said goalie Devan Dubnyk, whose .831 save percentage on the penalty kill is third-worst in the NHL for goalies who have played at least 30 games. “I think we just need to get back to trusting each other.
“It’s not a secret. We certainly have the skill and the bodies and the willingness to do it. It’s like anything. When things pile up, you start to think a little bit too much and not trust what’s going on. You just need to start somewhere and get it rolling a bit. We understand it needs to be better going forward.”
Carter, a winger, played center instead of Stoll on Sunday.
Shortening the OT shifts
With Saturday’s shootout victory in Buffalo, the Wild improved to 2-10 in overtime and shootouts this season.
One big reason why the Wild is 1-8 in the 3-on-3 portion this season, though, is because its line changes have been abysmal. Players have constantly overextended shifts in overtime.
Wild players were more disciplined with their changes Saturday, but Torchetti still wants shorter shifts.
“To me, it’s something you’ve got to develop with your team,” he said. “I think we can even do a better job on our changes moving forward. We want to be at 25, 30 seconds. Don’t try to stay in for that extra attack because then it leads to an odd-man rush the other side.”
In the five minutes, Torchetti said the Wild had seven or eight reps. He thinks it could be nine or 10 if the Wild is changing quicker.
“It’s fun. I have a good time with it,” Torchetti said of his first OT with the Wild.
Grease is the word
Overshadowed in Saturday’s victory was the fact David Jones scored his first goal with the Wild 2 minutes, 16 seconds in. Jones took a shot that hit the side of the net, then ricocheted off a Sabres defenseman and in.
“It’s nice to get one like that,” Jones said. “A little bit of a greasy one. Sometimes you need those things to get you going.”