The Wild are in the midst of the biggest slump in coach Bruce Boudreau’s career as a NHL head coach. He, like the Wild and their fans, have to be incredibly frustrated. It seems like opponents are capitalizing on any mistake the Wild make whereas the Wild can’t seem to score even when they do everything right. Not that they are always doing everything right, but no use beating that particular herd of dead horses.
What can the Wild do to fix things in this critical stretch of games before the playoffs? Boudreau has shuffled all the lines and pairings. It’s past the trade deadline. Firing Boudreau is not only a terrible idea, but won’t happen as general manager Chuck Fletcher would be signing his own pink slip to do it. So what can the Wild do?
Well, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that based on the performances of some of the other NHL teams that have struggled with slumps this season, there is at least one clear way to break the slump. The Wild need Devan Dubnyk to steal a couple games. The bad news is that there isn’t much Boudreau can do to make it happen, and it seems like he’s been trying to do what he can anyhow.
Here’s the evidence:
The Tampa Bay Lightning went 3-10-2 from January 3 to February 2. In the next two games, Ben Bishop held the Ducks to two goals and shut out the Kings.
The Calgary Flames started the season 1-5 before Brian Elliott posted save percentages of 0.94 and 0.96 against the Blackhawks and the Blues respectively for a combined total of three goals against.
The Columbus Blue Jackets experienced a pretty big win streak hangover that was eventually cured by Joonas Korpisalo and Sergei Bobrovsky stealing the show with 0.94 and 0.97 save percentages against the Maple Leafs and the Penguins respectively.
The Capitals’ mini-slump in March came to a close when Braden Holtby held the Wild and the Predators to a combined four goals in two games.
In mid-February, Carey Price strung together four games in which his save percentage averaged over 0.93. The Canadiens actually went 2-2 in those games, but then won the next five games as well.
First off, I’m cherry picking some of the data. After all, it isn’t exactly clear what qualifies as a slump. Some teams experienced small slumps and climbed their way out of them with high goal scoring instead of stellar goaltending. Even so, there are plenty of cases where the goaltender(s) stepped up and carried their teams for at least two consecutive games.
Some of the persuasiveness of this argument for Wild fans might come from past experience when the Wild were suffering through slumps and key trades were made to acquire relief in the form of a new goaltender. Dubnyk’s was the shining example, shutting out the Sabres and allowing only one goal to the Coyotes in his first two games with the Wild to start that incredible run to make the playoffs.
Placing salvation squarely in the hands of Dubnyk isn’t to claim he is responsible for the slump. Clearly many things are going wrong for the Wild. Last night, the penalty kill units left him out to dry multiple times. What all this does seem to indicate is that Dubnyk has to find a way to rise above his teammates and carry them out of slump.