A hockey team can have all the shots and scoring chances in the world, but if they don’t have that execution and tidiness in the area of the ice where they need it, they will probably lose the game. The Minnesota Wild proved that right against the Nashville Predators tonight with their 2-1 loss.
Old friend Nino Niederreiter and Matt Duchene got the two goals for the home team, while Frederick Gaudreau scored in the third to attempt a comeback that immediately deflated. Marc-Andre Fleury was good — saving 23 of the 25 shots he faced — but Juuse Saros was even better, allowing just one goal on the 33 shots the Wild threw at him.
There was hope coming into this game that the Wild would at least look better and play decent after seeing a stretch of inconsistency. Whatever they’re doing, they keep dragging me back in with hope. Anyways, the first period basically killed the hope almost immediately.
It was a little bit of a scrappy, back-and-forth game in the first several minutes, but with a sneaky little backhand shot that would be impossible for even a robotic netminder to stop, our familiar friend Nino Niederreiter opens the scoring against his former club.
And just to push the dagger in our hearts even further, the Predators quickly followed Nino’s goal with another one to double their lead.
After this goal, the Wild seemed to turn it on for just a little bit, despite the game slipping away from them. Some sustained pressure scattered throughout the next several minutes, still left them without a goal but had a little bit of more hope carried with each shot.
Despite that shed of dignity, Minnesota continued to trip and fall on its face through the second period. The Predators clearly wanted to play heavy against the Wild and they kept on doing that, laying the body no matter what and getting in the way of every significant pass attempt the visiting team had.
The middle frame featured no scoring from either team, and despite the Wild leading both periods in shots on goal and having a 27-18 advantage after two periods, it didn’t feel that they could score their way out of this. If looking at some numbers is comforting for you, then this is the perfect game to just bury your head in the stat sheet and feel better about this team, and just chalk these first two periods up to not getting clear-cut chances and running into a hard-playing team. Sometimes the puck doesn’t go in the net, and that’s fine, but also, the Wild just looked not there and ready to play.
We will continue to try and find the positives, like how well the third line of Connor Dewar, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Mason Shaw looked as a two-way monster of a line to punish any attempted offense by the opposition. This trio was certainly the silver lining through the first 40 minutes.
And almost like some sort of deity read how doom-and-gloom we were about this team, the Wild scored just 32 seconds into the third period to cut the lead in half.
Kirill Kaprizov connects with Frederick Gaudreau to give him a goal against his former team. A wired shot that snuck through Juuse Saros and instilled a little more confidence that this team can make this game work for them.
They tried to create that same magic for the remainder of the game. Getting scoring chances on the power play, pushing and pushing into the offensive zone in an attempt to break the Preds’ blue line; but just nothing was enough to put the puck into the back of the net for the rest of the game. A deflating offense that was pushing hard to get through a strong defensive game from the home team was just unable to hit their marker.
The Wild fall short, but it all came down to execution and maybe they just don’t have the talent to overcome that obstacle at times. Anyways, next up is the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Thursday.
Coach’s Challenge: Will the Wild follow Dean’s instruction to play more simple?
I mean, they did end up playing decently well enough and getting the underlying results that we want from the every single game. At 5-on-5, the Wild finished with 62.67 percent of the shot attempts, 56 percent of the scoring chances, but just fell short elsewhere. Whether those numbers are due to the Wild playing more simple and straight forward, we have no clue.
It might end up not being the case anyways, because the team could not make a single key forward pass to save their lives in this game, which is pretty simple.
Will this game be one for the special teams?
Yes, very much so. Each team had five power play opportunities, if that makes it any clearer. Unfortunately, Minnesota didn’t make any of their time on the man advantage worth a damn and in the crucial moment, like in the second and third period where they had four minutes of power play time, they blew it by attempting just four damn shots. Only one of those four ended up hitting the net.
The game wasn’t solely decided on special teams, but a big reason why the Wild ended up losing was not being able to take advantage of the opportunities given.
Mason Shaw’s here to stay! How will he perform?
He looked so damn good, I swear. It might just be more visual, but he looks like he is trying so damn hard on every shift and we just have to appreciate that. But beyond the perceptible effort, Shaw actually did pretty well on the score sheet. He didn’t earn any points, but at 5-on-5, he got five shots on goal, only Calen Addison attempted more shots, and he led the team with three scoring chances. Pretty damn good for the new No. 15.