Wild Still Have Issues Despite Win Over Oilers

The Minnesota Wild were back at home on Monday, Dec. 12 to take on the Edmonton Oilers for the third and final time in the regular season. They’d already seen each other two times in the past two weeks and the series was split evenly 1-1. The Wild played a strong game and took down the Oilers to take both the game and the season series, 2-1.

Things started a little rough with an early penalty to the Wild, but they held on and scored the first goal of the game about halfway through the first period. However, the Oilers responded almost immediately to tie things up and the game went back and forth for the rest of the period. The Wild then took control in the second and not only scored the go-ahead goal but also outshot the Oilers 16-6.

The Wild kept up the good play throughout the third as the Oilers tried everything they could to get back into the game. They were able to outlast the Oilers despite some close calls in the final minutes and secured their second straight win.

Wild’s Puck Confidence

Something the Wild have struggled with most of the season is being confident when they have possession of the puck. When they get the puck, they’ve been guilty of either passing it too quickly or too often; sometimes they even held onto it too long looking for that perfect pass. However, against the Oilers none of that seemed to exist, as the Wild were very poised and controlled when they had the puck.

Minnesota Wild Goal Celebration Matt Boldy
Matt Boldy & the Minnesota Wild celebrate a goal (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

They made crisp, clean passes and had just two giveaways the whole game, which is pretty impressive considering they were up against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, some of the most lethal sticks in the NHL. They didn’t let the Oilers get any speed going and played with an aggressive but composed style that put them on their heels. If the Wild can continue to play this way as the season goes on they’ll definitely get more wins.

Wild’s Walker Earns his Spot

Sammy Walker may be a rookie who just played the second NHL game of his career, but he certainly didn’t act like it. Similar to the Wild’s composure with the puck, he showed a level of professionalism you don’t see in many new players. He even recorded his first NHL point when he sent the puck up the ice to a streaking Matt Boldy who later passed it to Frédérick Gaudreau. However, the assist was later taken away not once but twice when the scoring officials eventually figured out who touched the puck. So he’ll have to wait a little longer before he’s able to join the scoresheet, but his play was still incredible.

Related: Wild’s Special Teams Lead Way in Win Over Canucks

Latest News & Highlights

Walker was able to win quite a few puck battles and inserted himself into every play with little to no hesitation. While the Wild have had issues finding a winger to fill the hole Kevin Fiala left behind opposite Boldy, Walker appears to be a good fit. He has great chemistry with Gaudreau and Boldy and he plays with a similar hustle and grind that his linemates do. After these last two games, it seems Walker may be here to stay for at least one more game and it’ll be interesting to see if it turns into more.

Wild’s Issues to Fix

The Wild do have a couple of things to adjust and the first item that desperately needs attention is their inability to stay out of the penalty box for even one game. They opened the game with a penalty and made the mistake of giving the Oilers’ power play – which is number one in the league – five chances on the man advantage. Luckily for the Wild, their penalty kill came to play and only let in one goal while shorthanded. Regardless, they need to figure out how to stay out of the penalty box because their penalty kill can only do so much.

Dean Evason Minnesota Wild
Dean Evason, head coach of the Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The other issue in this game was their faceoff percentage (FO%), which was one of their weakest performances of the season with just 39 percent of faceoffs won. It’s no secret the Wild have struggled when it comes to the center position, more importantly, the faceoff circle, as this season they are once again towards the bottom of the pack. While they struggled to win faceoffs against the Oilers, they were able to make up for it in other areas of their game like shots on goal and blocked shots. But if they can find a way to improve their faceoff percentage, they’ll increase their chances of winning games.

Wild Take on Red Wings

The Wild will take on the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, Dec. 14 for the second time this season. Their first meeting was on the road in Detroit and the Wild lost 2-1. This time around they’ll be at home and the Red Wings will be on the second night of a back-to-back. The Wild will have to take advantage of the Red Wings’ fatigue and wear them down as the game goes on.

The Wild will have to be on the lookout for the Red Wings’ offensive powers of Dylan Larkin, Dominik Kubalik, Filip Hronek, and David Perron and keep them off the scoreboard. They’ll also have to find a way to score some goals on either Ville Husso or Alex Nedeljkovic. Hopefully, the Wild can keep this composed play going and get their third straight win to keep crawling up the standings.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120