Last week, it was time to see what was on a Minnesota Wild fan’s Christmas list. With the 2018 year wrapped up, now we’ll see what should be on the list of New Year’s resolutions for the Wild (18-17-3), a team that has lost six of its last seven games and sits on the outside looking in of the playoff picture.
Start scoring 3-plus goals on a consistent basis
Sure, the Wild defeated Winnipeg over the weekend with a 3-1 win, but an empty-netter pushed the score over the edge. The Wild still only scored two goals with a goaltender minding the cage. Even though the win stopped the bleeding of a five-game losing streak, it was just a small step for a team that can’t seem to find a way to bury chances and score goals.
How many years has that been on the list of Wild resolutions?
And the problems came right back with a 3-2 home loss to Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve.
The last offensive outbursts for the Wild came against a couple of marginal teams in 7-1 and 5-1 victories in mid-December over Montreal and Florida. That was the last time the Wild scored 3-plus goals -- Winnipeg notwithstanding. After all, the Wild went three games in the losing skid with just two goals -- both from the same player, Jordan Greenway.
Bury your chances
This is the broken record for the franchise for years now. For whatever reason, the players just can’t seem to finish off scoring chances more often than not. You’re not up against a Hall of Fame goaltender every night. Find a way to score. Charlie Coyle hitting the post in tight against Pittsburgh in the second period was a textbook play for a goal that should have been.
Score on odd-man rushes
The list is pretty long in looking at the amount of odd-man rushes the Wild have gotten, especially recently, where they didn’t score. Whether it’s entering the zone offside, making one too many passes, missing the net or just getting a bad shot off, the Wild just can’t seem to deliver with such an opportune scoring chance. Seeing it develop during a game is more likely to make fans cringe and wait for the flub-up rather than get excited about a scoring chance.
But first, actually get a shot off on odd-man rushes
Yes, putting a shot on net would even be quite the improvement off the rush. There was a play against Chicago where Mikko Koivu actually sent a pass way behind Zach Parise. Sometimes it’s a good defensive play, but often it’s just the Wild trying to get too cute, making an ill-advised pass in an effort to not be selfish or waiting too long to release the puck.
Maybe score the first goal once in a while
The Wild have scored first in just 13 of 38 games this season, going 7-5-1 in those games. They’re 11-12-2 when they go down 1-0. It’s a theme that’s been around throughout the season because, well, the Wild keep allowing the first goal so often. It’s a small thing that might not always matter, but playing from behind every single game doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence on each side of the ice. Then again, the Wild came into New Year's Eve tied for second in the NHL with six wins and a .500 winning percentage when they are behind after the first period. They also scored first against the Penguins and still lost.
If you’re going to lose, at least get that extra point
The Western Conference and the Wild’s Central Division have both been very competitive areas the past few years. Only three teams in a division plus two others in the conference get a shot at the playoffs. With the margin of points so close together in the standings all season long, it really helps a team if it’s able to lose games in overtime. Yes, the goal is to get two points – and also not give a divisional opponent extra points – but staying tied at the end of regulation has benefits. The Wild are 2-3 in overtime this season -- 0-1 in shootouts -- to earn three “loser points.”
Comparing that to the rest of the teams in the league gets interesting.
The Wild could certainly have an improved place in the standings with just a couple more points. Colorado, third place in the division, has seven extra overtime-loss points and 45 total points. Chicago is just three points behind the Wild with 36 but with six OTL points. The top five teams in the Pacific Division all have at least four OTL points.
In the Eastern Conference, the top two teams in each division have two or three OTL points, which makes sense because they’re winning games. But the rest of the teams in the East all have four, five, six or even seven. It’s not a drastic margin by any means, but the points add up. Finding a way to at least get to overtime rather than take the regulation loss would help – no matter what your opinion on the overall points format.
Get back to winning at home
The Wild are 10-7-3 at home this season, with a four-game losing streak (0-3-1). The home fans were perhaps spoiled last season when the Wild played so outstandingly well at home, but a little something in between wouldn’t hurt. Losing 2-1 in overtime to Dallas just before Christmas was the latest in tough losses on “our ice.”
Stop having winter swoons
For some fans, just reverse the list
With the recent string of losses and low offensive production, there’s been talk of just tanking the season, missing the playoffs, making trades, get a good draft pick and starting over. For those fans, this list of resolutions would likely be the opposite in order to accomplish some of these goals. But from the perspective of still wanting to see success this season, follow the list above.
Happy New Year!