Well, that was a tough pill to swallow.
You know the phrase, “A two goal lead in hockey is the worst lead in hockey”, well apparently any lead is a bad lead for the Minnesota Wild. On Friday night, the Minnesota Wild hosted the New Jersey Devils in St. Paul for the final season meeting between the two squads. The Wild flew out to a commanding 4-1 lead in the second period, only to let a THREE-GOAL lead slip away from them. Letting a three-goal lead slip away against the second worst team in the NHL prior to last nights contest left Wild fans parading boos’ down on the team for a second straight home game after Nico Hischier potted the overtime winner leaving the fans and the team shell-shocked.
The Wild are making it pretty easy decision for general manager Paul Fenton — who has the “green light” from ownership to basically enter a rebuild — before next Monday’s trade deadline on whether to buy or sell. Letting a three-goal lead slip away away against the second worst team in the league, at home and during a playoff chase isn’t exactly the best look for the team.
So Wilderness, what did we learn about the Wild during the horrendous 5-4 overtime loss against the New Jersey Devils?
Thing 1: The Wild cannot hold a lead.
I understand now that there is a good reason the Wild have only scored the first goal in a third of their games this season. They seem to not know how to play with a lead. On Tuesday the Wild blew a two-goal lead and a one-goal, third period lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. Last night, the Wild yet again blew a lead. Only this time, they one upped Tuesday’s performance and let a three-goal lead slip away.
Devan Dubnyk did not have a great night between the pipes, contributing to the lackadaisical effort after the Wild claimed a 4-1 lead in the second. The Wild net minder faced 28 shots and let in five. Not a strong night to say the least for number 40. Three of the five goals were soft and should have been stopped.
Thing 2: Granlund can shoot?!
Well, one good thing that came out of Friday nights game was Mikael Granlund actually shot the puck. He had a team high five shots on goal — doubling his season average of 2.36 shots per game prior to Friday — and scored his 14th goal of the season on a slapshot from the left dot. Typically, Granlund would be looking for anyone to pass to, rather than putting a shot on net, but his mindset was visibly different against the Devils. Granlund seemed to have more of a shoot first mentality than his typical pass-first. It could have been a Bruce Boudreau sit down or the out-cry from fans, but it seems Granlund has received the message to put the puck on the net. All seems to be on the up-and-up for Mikael Granlund when he shoots the puck more often.
Thing 3: Brad Hunt, the forward?!...
It’s official. Brad Hunt is a better forward than Victor Rask. Victor Rask has played 10 games in a Wild sweater and has a goal and an assist compared to Hunt playing one game at forward, already scoring a goal and an assist. On Friday night, Hunt was dressed as the 7th defenseman, but was rotated in with the fourth line, playing forward as Rask, Pontus Aberg, and Matt Hendricks were all out due to injury. In only 6:36 of ice time — almost two minutes of power-play time — he looked better than Rask has in every single game since arriving in Minnesota. Rask has been a slow, out of place, and a turnover machine. Hunt held his own playing forward on the fourth line, pushing play in a positive manner when on the the ice. Even though it was his first game playing forward since his junior days, Hunt seemed to be comfortable. It wouldn’t surprise me if Boudreau dressed him as the “7th defenseman” and rotates him in with the fourth line going forward. It cannot hurt to have a power-play specialist in the lineup when the power-play has been struggling since Matt Dumba was sidelined.