The Minnesota Wild came up short with their attempted comeback from a 3-0 deficit, finishing with a 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. Here’s 4 Things from that game:
1 — Just one of those nights where nothing settles offensively.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Wild had most likely their worst period of hockey in the first 20 minutes in Vegas, but throughout the entire hour of action, nothing felt concrete and a solid scoring chance. Even the two goals seemingly came out of nowhere — in typical Wild attempted comeback fashion — off of bounces or odd-man rushes that were not results of sustained pressure.
The ice was certainly an issue, and the broadcast kept on making reference to the last few minutes of every period essentially being a hockey game in the middle of a pile of slush, but it went beyond that factor. In that terrible first period, the Wild had 10 shot attempts at 5-on-5 and only four of those hit the net — in the second it was better with 12 attempts and six on goal, and in the final frame it was astoundingly bad with 13 attempts and only three of those actually hitting the net. And for some insane hockey-ass reason, two of those third-period shots resulted in goals.
It’s not often that they’re able to get so few attempts actually hitting the net, but maybe that’s just the Knights knowing they have been poor defensively and creating a five-man wall in front of their net.
2 — It’s not always the same, but they’re always in it.
Just 24 hours after dominating the Arizona Coyotes in just about every category, the Wild had to scratch and claw their way to somehow getting within just one goal and had an actual opportunity to force overtime. It’s kind of common enough around the league, but with the Wild they just always find a way to stay competitive, even if it means not really deserving the chance to earn one point in the standings. Whether it’s just complete domination and always controlling the play, or having to comeback from a multi-goal deficit, they just always find time to make it entertaining and keep us glued to the screen; knowing that this team can do it any night.
That’s at least a positive note to learn from that depressing game.
3 — The power play was completely useless.
Now back to being negative. While they did technically go 0-for-6, they only had 6:16 on the man advantage with 5-on-3 chances and some overlapping penalties for Vegas. During that time, they Wild were only able to manage five total shots on goal—but the real kicker is that while shorthanded, the Golden Knights had four shots on goal. Hell, they even had more expected goals than the Wild did during that 6:16 of Minnesota power play. It was just a completely wasted opportunity and they ended up giving Vegas the more prime scoring chances while they were on the power play, something that just doesn’t and shouldn’t happen.
Luckily, it has been an overall improvement compared to last season, as the Wild are ranked 16th in scoring rate in the league. Average is better than historically terrible.
The good sign from Thursday is that Kaprizov was able to manage two shots on goal (not great but did lead the team) which means he’s getting better shooting opportunities than his meager chances to start the year.
4 — Lines worked well enough to keep.
The new top-six is working, so please don’t change them Dean. As tempting as it is to shake things up in a disappointing loss, Evason didn’t pull out the line blender; which should be a good sign that he won’t go ahead and change things ahead of Saturday against the Seattle Kraken.
The line of Eriksson Ek, Foligno, and Fiala were the only forward line that finished with an on-ice shot attempt share over 50 percent (70.59 to be exact), but the other line of Kaprizov, Zuccarello, and Gaudreau certainly had their chances as well. It helps playing over two minutes more at 5-on-5 than any other team, but they managed the most expected goals for and actually managed to score a goal at that state.
All they need to do is keep things for a little bit longer and see how it works over a sustained period. After Seattle, the Wild are playing the San Jose Sharks, the Dallas Stars, and then head down to Florida to play those two powerhouse clubs. It might be a mixed bag of expectation, but we know that this team can play against anyone and if they are able to keep these lines together, building up more chemistry with each other, then we can at least know what to expect and not be lost in the line limbo where we are on standby for every morning practice to see what combination Evason has come up with. We just want stability and I think they’ve found it for at least the next little while (until Matt Boldy returns from injury, and other prospects are bored in Iowa, hopefully).
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