It wasn’t pretty. Nothing is right now. In fact, my wife was watching Dr. Pimple Popper on TLC last night, and my daughter, who was grossed out by the show asked why I wasn’t watching it with them. Clearly, I was watching hockey, but both were particularly disgusting. Minnesota is in full swoon mode, and there doesn’t appear to be any way out soon. Here are the 3 things we learned from the 5-2 loss at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Just when you think things might be back on track...
Devan Dubnyk had a horrendous month of November, but in his last 5-6 games, looked markedly improved, relatively speaking. The story for the last few games was that Dubnyk showed signs of being back, but the team couldn’t provide any offense to win games. Just when you let yourself think that things could be getting back on track, at least with Dubnyk, he gives up three goals on 10 shots, and is summarily chased from the net.
I’ll give him the first goal by Patrick Kane. He was interfered with by his own teammate in his crease that didn’t allow him to side laterally across the blue paint to stop the shot. It was a truly putrid display of defense by the Wild as they were caught running around the defensive zone with not a body, nor stick, taking away Kane.
That said, Kane’s power play goal beat him short side from the back rim of the right faceoff circle because he was late in getting over. The Brandon Saad goal that beat him just 23 seconds into the second period was another one he didn’t seem to track well. “I can’t worry about confidence, I have to worry about the team,” Bruce Boudreau said post-game. That’s a pretty clear shot to his netminder about the head games Dubnyk is having fits with. Basically, be better. You’re a big boy and have been through this. Figure it out. Could there be turmoil brewing inside that locker room between Dubnyk and Boudreau?
Two-on-one chances galore, still struggling to score
Minnesota has to be one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to converting odd-man rushes. It’s been that way since 2012, at least. That’s not to say that every 2v1 opportunity will be scored upon because goalies nowadays are too good, too big, and defensemen play the chances differently to make it harder. That said, according to Michael Russo of The Athletic, the Wild had something close to 7 odd-man rushes in the game, and all resulted with not a single shot on goal. The scoring woes for the Wild are real, but to not come away with a shot on goal in odd-numbered situations, that’s, plainly put, inexcusable. Over-passing, simply not making good passes, or shooting wide can not happen on those types of plays in this league.
Collin Delia may be a rookie sensation filling in net for the Blackhawks, but not testing him on high-danger scoring chances is completely letting him off the hook.
At least Kyle Brodziak got the puck on net.
Looking for help? There’s no guarantee
Chuck Fletcher may have had some faults during his tenure in Minnesota. One thing he did do was make a trade to shake things up that allowed the Wild to find their way back into the playoffs. He was not afraid to pull the trigger on a mid-season trade to attempt to help the team.
Granted the trade market may be way different than they were when they made the trade for Dubnyk in January of 2015, but he made moves to help the team make the post-season. Paul Fenton is not Chuck Fletcher. While Fenton’s job title is the same, he may have a different approach to fixing a swoon. He may just let it keep free falling. He may not be willing to pull the trigger on a move that Fletcher would have in the past. He may not be able to find the right players to bring in at the right price that Fletcher would have in the past. Fenton is a different guy, so this idea that making a move to save the season is no guarantee.
This swoon may be it. The team may be looking for reinforcements to help change the vibe in the room, but like the cutoff platoon in the film ‘We Were Soldiers’ they’re the ones that will have to survive the dark of night with the enemy closing in. Fenton may be looking for this team to bottom out in order to make meaningful change.