WINNIPEG – More than a week into the season and with three games crossed off its schedule, the Wild finds itself in a position only a few NHL teams can relate to: still seeking its first win.
After getting tripped up 5-2 by the Jets Thursday at Bell MTS Place, the Wild is one of four squads that remains winless (New Jersey, Ottawa and Chicago are the others) and this status is providing the first real bout of adversity for the 2019-20 group.
“Enough is enough on the positives,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “We certainly have to keep doing what we're doing that way, but we just got to start finding ways to win hockey games however that may be. All we can do is get ready for Saturday. And we did a lot of good things tonight. We’re just going to have to find a way to win a game.”
This start to the season looked rigorous on paper, and it lived up to that hype.
Not only was the team on the road for its first three, but all came against Central Division foes.
But the Wild will get a reprieve Saturday when it finally gets its turn to be the host, taking on the Penguins in its home opener at Xcel Energy Center.
“They’ve been three road games against three tough teams,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Granted, we would have liked to have won one or two of them. But now we get to go home. No excuses. Now we got a home game. So you’re not giving up after three games. ... We’ll get it together.”
For that to happen, the Wild still has some areas to address.
-- Execution remains an issue, with the team limited to two goals for the third time out.
Had the team grew its lead in the first period, or capitalized on the momentum from defenseman Brad Hunt’s game-tying goal in the third period, the Wild could be returning home 1-2.
“Just right now it's not comfortable as far as offensive confidence,” center Eric Staal said. “But you've gotta put in the work and the time, and it was better. But obviously some nice plays by a couple of their guys and it cost us."
-- Mistakes at inopportune times continue to derail the Wild.
With action at 4-on-4 in the third, the Wild spoiled its comeback bid by giving up two goals in 28 seconds.
“It’s such an easy thing to play,” Boudreau said. “We tell them. We talk to them, ‘Forwards you’ve got the defense. Defense you’ve got the forwards.’ It’s a man-on-man situation. A, you don’t dump the puck in. You hold onto it almost like overtime 3-on-3. On the second [goal], [Jared Spurgeon] goes in and both forwards stay in there and go in without thinking. The first one, [Jordan] Greenway just gets beat and then [Joel Eriksson] Ek is sort of in nowhere’s land.”
-- While the Wild has looked in control for spurts of games, the team has yet to assemble a complete effort.
“Anything short of 60 minutes isn’t good enough in this league,” winger Ryan Hartman said. “It’s something that we’ve been stressing. It’s been like that the last couple games. I think we need to look back and just put the foot on the gas pedal. When we have a team on their heels, keep going. I think we let off too much. I think we need to get better at that.”