Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

After getting back on the winning path with a win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, Oct 24, the Minnesota Wild went on the road to the eastern side of the United States. Their first game of a three-game trip was against the Philadelphia Flyers. Again, the Wild started things quite slowly and let the Flyers take control early. 

Just over six minutes into the game, the Wild allowed the Flyers to skate right in, shoot, and score the game’s first goal. The first ended 1-0 in favor of the Flyers, and the Wild still had hope. The second period started with some momentum for the Wild, but they couldn’t convert; instead, the Flyers scored consecutive goals, extended their lead to three goals, and held it through the period. 

The Wild came out on fire for the third period and scored consecutive goals to climb back within one. However, following some turnovers, the Flyers scored two more goals to extend their lead back to three, and they weren’t done. They added another goal to ensure the Wild were defeated and took the 6-2 win. 

Wild Start Slow

Every game the Wild have played this season has started very slow and sluggish, but the last four games have been particularly difficult because they’ve started behind. To make matters worse, out of those last four games, the Wild have found the ability to come back and win in just one against the Oilers. They were able to force overtime against the Columbus Blue Jackets, only to fall once again. 

Dean Evason, Head Coach of the Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Wild can’t continue to play like this, or they will continue to struggle. They must find a way to dig deep and come out energized, even on the road. They won’t always have the home crowd to back them, and they must bring the momentum themselves. That begins with whichever line starts the game getting a jumpstart to their skating. The faster they skate, the more they make things happen. 

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Watching these last few games, it’s clear the Wild are not a team that can play slowly; they must have a quick start. However, they can’t figure out how to get that going. Of course, the injuries to Jared Spurgeon, Matt Boldy, Alex Goligoski, and now Frédérick Gaudreau are taking their toll, but they must overcome them. Every team faces injury issues, and finding ways to adapt is essential; the Wild can start to do that by getting faster starts and efforts from the entire team. 

Wild Need to Manage Turnovers

Besides their slow starts, the Wild must find a way to manage their turnovers. They gave up the puck 13 times compared to the Flyers’ nine turnovers. Both teams had a lot of giveaways, but the Flyers capitalized, while the Wild didn’t. Those 13 giveaways were the highest of the season for the Wild; they’ve been very up and down regarding turnovers, but haven’t gotten below five all season. 

They have plenty of time to turn things around, and they can do that by converting on the opposition’s turnovers. Also, it may be easier said than done, but they can stop turning the puck over. Every game is different, but against the Flyers, the Wild were too eager to get rid of the puck in their zone and were slap-passing it to each other. Those passes rarely make it to their intended target, and that’s how the Flyers skated away with the puck so often. 

Related: Wild Check-In: Eriksson Ek Leads & Defense Continues to Struggle

In their zone, the Wild need to take a breath and hold the puck slightly longer to make accurate passes and break out of the zone cleanly. If they can do that, they’ll lessen their turnovers defensively. Offensively, it was nearly the opposite problem; they held the puck too long and gave the Flyer defenders time to cover them. If they flip-flop their play styles between offense and defense, they may be able to correct some of their turnover issues. 

Unfortunately, Brock Faber had a rough night when it came to turnovers, which should be expected once in a while as he is still a rookie. He will make mistakes, and it’s partially his linemate’s job to help recover from those. He had four of the Wild’s 13 turnovers and partially bounced back toward the night’s end. Hopefully, this was a one-game mishap, and he’ll return to his great play soon. 

Wild’s Repeated Areas to Fix

It has to be mentioned until the Wild can fix it, but apart from their high number of turnovers, they’re still struggling in the faceoff circle and their special teams. They won only 47.2 percent of the faceoffs compared to the Flyers’ 52.8 percent. If the Wild want to score more goals, they must start winning more faceoffs. Vinni Lettieri showed some promise; he only took five faceoffs but won four for 80 percent. It may not be a lot, but it’s a start, and if the rest of the Wild’s centers can do that, they’ll be in much better shape. 

Foligno on the thwarted comeback: “We got what we deserve. Karma.”

Maroon: “Six goals a night’s not gonna win in this league, I’ll tell you that right now. That’s not on the goalies. It’s on the players.”

— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 27, 2023

Outside of faceoffs, they have to fix up their special teams, both the power play and penalty kill. The Wild only had two man advantage opportunities but couldn’t score on either. On the other hand, they gave the Flyers three chances on the power play, and they converted on two of the three because the Wild’s penalty kill was out of position and couldn’t stop the Flyers.

They must find a way to score on their power play and stop the opposition on the penalty kill. It’s still very early in the season, but it’ll worsen if they don’t stop this now. 

Wild’s Back-to-Back

The Wild did have some bright spots in Dakota Mermis, who scored his second goal of the season, and Patrick Maroon registered his fifth assist. Jujhar Khaira also made his Wild debut with one shot on goal and eight minutes of ice time. They did find some success when they mixed up the lines, and hopefully, if the Wild get stuck in a rut again, head coach Dean Evason will be willing to do that again. 

The Wild won’t have long to dwell on this loss as they’ll take on the Washington Capitals in the second game on Friday night, Oct. 27, of their first back-to-back this season. Hopefully, they can get a jump at the beginning of the game and build off the momentum they left behind against the Flyers. It would be great for them to bounce back with a win and get on the right track again.

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