Wild’s Loss to Predators Had Some Positives With the Negatives

The Minnesota Wild filled another hole in their lineup when they took on the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, Nov. 15. They were lucky enough to get a hard hitter in Brandon Duhaime back from injury just in time to throw some hits against the very physical Predators. Things didn’t start out well, however, as the Wild were thrown for a loop not once but twice and found themselves down 2-0 before the first period ended.

Thankfully, the Wild didn’t make things any worse in the second, but things didn’t get any better either. They remained down by two despite some decent chances that included power plays they couldn’t convert on and went into the third still trailing, but they found some hope under a minute into the period when Frédérick Gaudreau snuck a quick one by Predators goaltender Juuse Saros.

The Wild showed some life and had a number of chances throughout the period, but that lone goal was all they would get. Their offense hit a brick wall and they couldn’t mount a comeback so they fell for the second straight game. Things weren’t all bad though. Despite the loss, the Wild saw some very strong play from a select few players.

Wild Struggled Physically

The Wild have struggled this season when they’ve had to play big, physical teams and as the second highest-hitting team in the NHL, the Predators fall under that description. They were throwing hits and pushing the Wild around as soon as the game started and while Duhaime and Marcus Foligno were back in the lineup they struggled to get much done. They only had three hits combined while Joel Eriksson Ek and Jacob Middleton had three hits each.

Joel Eriksson-Ek Minnesota Wild
Joel Eriksson-Ek, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Predators outhit the Wild 43-22 and that was a major reason they were able to pull out the victory. Every time the Wild tried to move the puck, there was a Predators player either throwing a hit or pushing them around and they struggled to gain any traction. However, the Wild can’t just start hitting everything because that hasn’t worked out well for them in the past either, as they end up sitting in the penalty box because they take it too far.

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The Wild need to find a happy medium where they’re comfortable with hard hits but do not go overboard and end up in the penalty box. The biggest key may be getting Ryan Hartman and Jordan Greenway back in the lineup, but that may take longer than they have time for. They need to find a solution until those guys are able to come back.

Wild’s Shaw & Dewar Step Up

Despite their recent losses, the Wild have been lucky with the new faces in their lineup specifically Mason Shaw and Connor Dewar. Dewar is in his second season playing on the Wild and, so far, he’s looked like a seasoned veteran as he has rotated between the third and fourth lines. Surprisingly the same can be said about Shaw who’s had quite the journey to get to the NHL after tearing his ACL not once, but three times. This is the first time he’s played more than three games in a Wild jersey.

Shaw has two goals and three assists for five points in 11 games played, which has him tied for seventh in points among Wild players; he’s also tied for fourth in hits with 23. Dewar’s shown his physical side as well, as he sits two spots above Shaw in second place with 31 hits in 15 games. He’s also been equally successful in scoring points with five points but he has just one goal plus four assists.

Mason Shaw Iowa Wild
Mason Shaw, formerly Iowa Wild (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Dewar changed his number before the season started but Shaw was recently given the choice of choosing a more permanent number as sort of a welcome-to-the-team moment. He chose No. 15 before their game against the Predators and he was one of the few players who truly stepped up with five shots on goal, two hits, and a blocked shot. Hopefully, he can be the spark the Wild need when they play their next game.

Wild’s Power Play Slipping

The Wild’s power play was one of the best parts of their game even when they were losing, but lately, it’s been faltering. Nothing has really changed in terms of their special teams, as it’s still the same players on their top unit with their second unit sometimes rotating players in and out. They have great chemistry and make great passes but they have had a hard time finishing, especially in the last few games.

Their power play has struggled with making too many passes in the past, and that is somewhat of a problem this season but a big issue seems to be how long the main unit stays on the ice. A typical even-strength shift is about 30-45 seconds in length and a power play may be a bit longer if there are some great chances. However, with the Wild, their main unit has been spending nearly the whole two minutes on the ice and it’s starting to cause issues with fatigue. As a result, their second unit doesn’t get time to adjust before the power play is over.

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

The Wild need to figure out a way to get their first group to be more effective or have shorter shifts to give each unit ample time to have a chance to score. While it’s important to have their top scorers on the ice, they do get tired and are not effective at that rate so it’s equally important to rotate players.

Wild Face Penguins

The Wild will now head back home to try and get things back on track. They’ve struggled to win at Xcel Energy Center and now would be as great a time as ever to change that. Their first task will be getting by the Pittsburgh Penguins and that may be harder than it looks.

Related: Wild’s Poor Defensive Play Glaring in Shootout Loss to Sharks

With the Penguins everyone knows you have to take down Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Jake Guentzel but you also can’t forget about former Wild player Jason Zucker. The Wild’s defense will have trouble stopping them but their forwards will also have to find a way past either Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry.

The Wild really need to turn this around and while they were on the right track, they got knocked off it somehow. They’ve shown signs of success, but they really need to dig down deep and find ways to win or they’ll be in deep trouble very soon. Hopefully, they can start that with a win over the Penguins.

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