With Boudreau concerned, Wild look to pick up pieces of their shattered game
The Wild woke up Nov. 24 riding a galvanizing high after rallying from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Winnipeg at the Xcel Energy Center, a victory punctuated by the brawl in which Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno rescued Nick Seeler from getting pummeled on the Jets bench.
They were 14-7-2 with 30 points and perched in the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference. That cushion and confidence have swirled down the drain of an awful two weeks in which Minnesota has lost five of six and tumbled out of the final wild-card position.
Such is the fickle nature of an airtight playoff chase and the first third of the 2018-19 season, which still has plenty of meat on the bone. The Wild are not panicking. Not yet, anyway. But they are sinking like a boulder because they have been unable to forge leads, score goals and prevent opponents from opening a shooting gallery.
Plenty of blame falls on goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has not been the same since being pulled Nov. 21 with seven minutes remaining in a 4-4 tie against Ottawa after yielding three quick goals in a game the Wild eventually won. Over his past seven starts, Dubnyk is 1-4 with a 4.36 goals-against average and .837 save percentage — statistics warped when he allowed three goals on seven shots in Friday night’s 7-2 blowout loss to Edmonton.
But the Wild have turned the puck over too much, yielded too many odd-man rushes and failed to jump on teams in the first period. They are scrambling from behind too often. And there is plenty of blame to pin on forwards who aren’t producing and are careless with the puck, defensemen who are allowing way too much open space and coaches who are not motivating the Wild to start and finish strong.
“I’m concerned about every aspect of our game,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s up to us, as a coaching staff and as a team, to right this ship, get them back to learning how to play great defense again. That’s what’s going to win you the games. Not trying to score five goals a night.”
Minnesota has been forced to abandon its disciplined style because it constantly is playing catch-up. The Wild are 10-9-1 when their opponent scores first. They were 6-2-1 at one point, revealing a knack for coming back and seizing games in the third period.
“We’ve got to find a way to score goals and score them earlier so the games don’t get like this,” said defenseman Ryan Suter.
Friday was an ugly night for most of the lineup.
Mikael Granlund was minus-5 and has one goal in his past 12 games. Nino Niederreiter has three goals this season. Charlie Coyle is scoreless in his past five and was minus-3 along with Zach Parise, Eric Staal
Adding to the anxiety is the uncertainty surrounding captain and top center Mikko Koivu, who appeared to injure his left leg Thursday night in Calgary after Flames defenseman Giordano kneed him along the boards. Giordano was suspended two games for the hit. Before the Oilers game, Koivu was sent back to Minnesota to be evaluated by team doctors.
“Mikko’s obviously a huge part of our team,” said Dubnyk. “He’s irreplaceable, but that’s a good opportunity for people to fill some different roles and get some more ice time. When we’re winning, we’re winning because we’re deep and everyone’s chipping in. That doesn’t change when somebody goes down.”
The good news is that Wild are off the road and will open a four-game homestand Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens followed by the Florida Panthers, a rematch with the Flames and the San Jose Sharks.
The reckoning has begun.
“We gotta be sure that we’re coming out with a better effort and redeem ourselves on the homestand,” said winger Marcus Foligno.