The Minnesota Wild didn’t play their best game — or even a good game — against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. They got out-shot, out-chanced, and eventually lost by a single goal and succumbed to the 1-0 defeat.
But the actual play on the ice for the Wild is just one reason why they lost. According to head coach Dean Evason, the team just didn’t get the opportunities they deserved to get on the man advantage and put their best players on the ice, despite some noteworthy non-calls.
“Power plays. How about a couple of power plays for our team?” Evason said, when asked what can change offensively for the team. “I mean, one power play. Are you kidding me? And it was a token power play. It’s unbelievable. We don’t want to whine. But it’s a joke that we have one power play, and it’s for their guy holding our guy at the penalty box. So, thank you. We got mauled at the end. We’re trying to score. We’re trying to get in and the whistle is gone. There’s no more calls.
“We’re trying to go through the neutral zone at the end and we’re just getting grabbed and held and bear-hugged. It’s ridiculous. Like, come on, we’ve got to have some balance to what we’re doing. You can’t go through a game like that and have one power play. There’s no way. No way.”
Evason continued to say that the team had their chances at 5-on-5, but the power play is where they can kickstart their offense, and they didn’t get that opportunity. For reference, the Kings got four power play opportunities (including a five-minute major, which we will talk about later) and the Wild just had the one single one Dean was talking about.
The head coach isn’t totally wrong here. The Kings played a tight-checking game and, as Evason mentioned, there was a lot of grabbing and extra efforts to try to win possession back.
Maybe this is thinking about it too much and diving deep into something that wasn’t apparent, but the Kings registered a total of 15 giveaways on Tuesday and the Wild had just four. The visitors were staunch and able to keep possession skillfully, while the home team was a little more careless. Perhaps if the Wild dramatically gave the puck away more during those clutch-and-grab efforts, the calls would be more obvious — but that could be a step too far to think.
This was obviously frustrating enough and one particular play involving Drew Doughty and Kirill Kaprizov encapsulated the whole problem.
Of course, Kaprizov maybe shouldn’t have retaliated in the manner that he did, but it is clear that Doughty was just bugging him, poking and prodding and probably deserved a call — but not after he got whacked in the face by Kirill.
Evason made it clear that he doesn’t blame Kaprizov for the play, because the entire team was feeling it.
“He’s getting cross-checked and mauled — he’s frustrated, right?” Evason said. “We’re all frustrated because it’s not taken care of. There’s rules and obviously we feel that there should be more penalties called on a player of his stature who has the puck all the time. It’s not happening.”
Just last season, Kaprizov ranked fifth among all skaters in penalties drawn with 43, and it’s obvious why. As Evason said, he has the puck most of the time, and is an incredibly agile player that is hard to get control of for any defense. It makes sense. Well, this season, Kaprizov has drawn just five penalties. It is just below the rate of last season, but there have certainly been some missed calls, especially considering his average ice-time has gone up by almost two whole minutes. More opportunity to get calls, but just nothing has happened so far.
It is a miniscule difference, technically, but the calls just aren’t there, and the whistle has not been there for the Wild as of late. Maybe the referees know how dangerous Minnesota’s power play has been early in the season, so they don’t want the game to get out of hand as soon as they make a call. That’s just our working theory.
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