The Minnesota Wild’s five-game road trip didn’t exactly start on the right foot. Sure, they made it to overtime against the Boston Bruins, but their play was still sloppy. But the Wild have a chance to make a statement with these next four road games. That statement could be that they’re ready to clean up their play and go back to playing exciting hockey. Or they could continue to be a poor defensive team and produce meager results.
After having a 31-8-2 record at home last year, the Wild are off to a 1-3 record at the Xcel Energy Center this year. They went 22-19 on the road last season, but they’ll have to win on the road early in the season because they floundered in St. Paul at the start of the season.
The Wild managed to get a standings point in Boston, but they lost in a penalty-filled overtime. Minnesota needs to take seven of the next eight points up for grabs to make the most of this road trip and make something of themselves.
Tuesday’s game against the struggling Montreal Canadiens will be the benchmark. The Habs have offensive weapons, but the Wild should be able to expose their inexperienced defense. Montreal’s goaltending has not been great either, and Minnesota needs to capitalize on that. This year’s first overall pick, Juraj Slafkovsky, most likely won’t play for the Habs, as he is dealing with an injury. The Canadiens appear to be a team that should be easy to beat. Their record is 3-3, with wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Arizona Coyotes. The Wild went 2-0 against Montreal last year, including tying a franchise-record eight goals in one game.
The Wild play the Ottawa Senators Thursday. The Sens were busy over the offseason. One of their signature moves was grabbing Alex DeBrincat, no stranger to scoring against Minnesota. They also added Claude Giroux. Like the Habs, Ottawa’s defense is relatively inexperienced, and their goaltending needs improvement. The Wild could have been facing off against Cam Talbot, who was traded to Ottawa over the summer for Filip Gustavsson. However, Talbot is currently on injured reserve, and Minnesota will have to wait until the next game against Ottawa on Dec. 18th to see their old friend again. The Wild went 1-1 against the Senators last season.
They will return to America to play the Detroit Red Wings, one of the few teams unbeaten in regulation, after playing in Canada’s capital. Detroit’s core is still relatively young, but the Wild have enough vets on the team to take care of business in Motown. Minnesota easily went 2-0 against Detroit last season.
Finally, the Wild will play the Chicago Blackhawks before returning to St. Paul. Everyone thought the Hawks were going to be awful again this year. However, they currently have a winning record (3-2). They have not played as poorly as everyone thought, but they don’t have the offensive weapons they used to.
Minnesota’s games against the Blackhawks are always entertaining, and the Wild really should take advantage of the Chicago team in the midst of a rebuild. Minnesota also swept the season series against Chicago last season, going 4-0.
The Wild went 9-1 against the four teams they’ll play on this road trip last year. If the Wild can take care of business on the road and earn at least seven of eight points, they can get their season back on track.
The Wild probably got a little unlucky with the first few games of the season. They lost to Stanley Cup favorites like the New York Rangers and the Colorado Avalanche. The Los Angeles Kings always play the Wild tough, and it’s always hard to lay Boston on the road.
The Wild have the opportunity to get back to their game on the road. These are games that the Wild can and should win. However, it’s possible that things could go awry, and if the Wild’s defense and goaltending continue to be subpar, it will definitely be concerning. If they struggle on the road, they may have to revamp the goaltending, and the defense might need a shake-up. Their play will determine whether or not we see some big trades down the road.
Looking at last season, it’s definitely possible that the Wild just overperformed. Many players also had career years. This year could just be a regression, and this road trip should be able to tell us that.
Sure it’s still very early in the season, but the Wild went 7-3 to start their season last year, so watching the team start out with a 1-3-1 record is not what we expected. This road trip is the Wild’s chance to get back on track.