The Wild’s 0 for 19 power play is taking on a life of its own. At least the players have a sense of humor about it.
When the room opened up to reporters today, the guys were laughing. The reason? The inside joke in the room was when anybody asked about the power play, they were going to say, “This is what happens” when the beat writers design it.
In practice today, coach Mike Yeo worked the power play with no penalty kill defending it.
Ryan Suter said the No. 1 unit was a good 20 percent. Darcy Kuemper, the dude who became only the second goalie since 1943-44 to shut out three opponents in his first four starts of a season, quickly corrected him that it was actually 10 percent.
Yeo said, “The second group was even better [than the first]. They didn’t have a goalie.”
The best power plays in the league are 20 percent. That means, Yeo reminded, that they don’t score 80 percent of the time.
“But if we don’t score right now every time, it’s just another one lumped on,” Yeo said. So Yeo said the challenge to his frustrated players is that if you don’t score on one, don’t let it ruin the next shift or the rest of the period or game.
In all seriousness, the Wild knows it needs to start scoring on the power play if for no other reason than to relieve the internal and external pressure. The power play leads the NHL in shots, so the 0-for is not because of a lack of chances or zone entries or good breakouts.
Wild hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night before heading out east for two games in two nights at the Rangers and Boston on Monday and Tuesday.
The Lightning plays Friday night in Winnipeg. Seven of the Lightning’s 21 goals have come on the power play and it has been stingy defensively, too.
Luckily for the Wild during this power-play drought is its penalty kill is third-best in the NHL at 93.3 percent.
In its three wins, the Wild has outscored opponents 10-0. In its two losses, it has been outscored 4-2.
So in five games, the Wild has surrendered only four goals and has allowed a league-low 22.8 shots per game. It has fired the second-most shots per game at 36.
So, the Wild needs to get its power play in order and it should be a pretty dangerous team, as Yeo said after Thursday’s 2-0 win over Arizona.
Yeo said of Tampa Bay, which stars Steven Stamkos and budding star Jonathan Drouin, “I know that they’ll be ready. That’s a team that plays fast, that’s a team that counters very quickly. They’re coming at you with every line, they attack aggressively.”
In Games 3-7 in the first round against Colorado, the Wild had Erik Haula pretty much shadow 18-year-old stud Nathan MacKinnon, who lit the Wild up in Games 1 and 2. In Games 3-7, MacKinnon scored one goal and was minus-6 in Games 6 and 7. In Minnesota, where Yeo controlled last change and could get Haula and Suter and Jared Spurgeon out against him, MacKinnon was shut down.
So expect Haula to be on the ice a lot with Stamkos on Saturday.
“I did grab Haulzy on the ice and let him know to make sure he’s ready,” Yeo said. “Whether he gets a full dose of it or a partial dose of it, with his speed against a fast, dangerous offensive line, he’ll see some action.”
Yeo is just excited to get games in now. The Wild theoretically could be 5-0 right now if it just took advantage of its power play in Anaheim and L.A. But Yeo feels “other teams are ahead of us” in terms of game speed and pace of play because they have played more games.
Yeo said, “The good news is that we still look like a pretty good team, but these games are going to make us better if we use them the right way.”
Keith Ballard and Christian Folin are still under the weather, so they didn’t practice today. So Yeo expects to go with Thursday’s lineup again Saturday.
Lightning backup Evgeni Nabakov, 16-8-3 all-time vs. the Wild with a 2.09 goals-against average, is expected to start for Tampa Bay.
That’s it for me. Have to write my Sunday Insider now, and be sure to check out Saturday’s paper for a crazy article you won’t even believe.
I’ll be on KFAN at 4:30 p.m.