Wild Struggle Without Big Guns in Loss to Kraken

The Minnesota Wild took on the Seattle Kraken for the first time this season in their final home game before heading out west. This Kraken team was quite a bit speedier and steadier than the first-year team the Wild saw last season. They struggled to get a shot on net with the Kraken forcing everything into the Wild’s defensive zone and they didn’t get a single shot on net until over halfway through the period.

The teams couldn’t get past either goaltender and the score remained 0-0 going into the second. The Kraken found a way to beat Marc-André Fleury early in the second to record the first goal of the game. That goal put the Wild on their heels and gave the Kraken the room they needed to extend their lead, which they did a few minutes later to 2-0. They weren’t done either; they added another goal to take a daunting 3-0 lead in the last five minutes of the period.

The Wild threw everything they could at Kraken goaltender Martin Jones and despite all the rebounds, they couldn’t force anything past him as time started to run out. The Kraken continued to make the Wild’s hole deeper as they scored their fourth goal of the game just over halfway through the third. That goal would seal things, and despite the Wild’s efforts to try and get just one goal, they failed and were shut out 4-0.

Wild Miss Big Guns

At first, it seemed like the Wild wouldn’t be horribly bothered by being without Jordan Greenway, Marcus Foligno, Brandon Duhaime, and Ryan Hartman, especially after their win over the Montréal Canadiens just days before this Kraken loss. However, the game against the Canadiens wasn’t quite as physical and that could’ve put things in the Wild’s favor.

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While the Wild outhit the Kraken, it didn’t help them score any goals partially because there wasn’t that extra level of energy that comes with a Foligno or Greenway-style hit. That kind of hit isn’t typically the key to the game, but it helps lift the energy when they’re down a goal or two and can create momentum, which they really missed.

There was one Wild player that tried to carry the weight of all four of the Wild’s missing forwards and that was Mason Shaw. Fresh off of scoring his second goal of the season, he had a fire under him that allowed him to throw the team-leading four hits; he also had two shots on goal, a blocked shot, and a takeaway in just over 15 minutes of ice time. The Wild could use three more Shaws if they have to continue playing without their other big forwards.

Wild Need Stronger Neutral Zone

One of the biggest problems the Wild faced against the Kraken was struggling to get the puck through the neutral zone. They’d try to make a cross-ice pass and it’d be immediately picked off or they tried to weave their way through and the same thing happened. They have gotten too comfortable with making too many passes or trying to make the cute play.

They need to carry the puck through the zone but not slowly; they need to hustle their way through and not give the other team a chance to stop them. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but they’ve made it pretty easy to pluck the puck off their sticks and they need to put a stop to that if they want to score goals. The same can be said for their pretty passing plays. While it’s great to make that perfect pass, the pretty play doesn’t always work especially on an aggressive team like the Kraken.

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

The Wild couldn’t seem to figure that out the entire night against the Kraken, and if they did, they weren’t in the right place to catch the big rebounds that Jones let go. They need to focus on the one or two crisp passes up ice that can get them through the neutral zone and stop trying to make the four or five cute passes right along the blue line. If they can do that, they’ll see more success.

Kraken Look Strong

The inaugural season for any team is going to have its struggles, and it’s safe to say the Kraken had their fair share of struggles last season. Their expectations weren’t much higher this season, but it’s easy to say they’ve exceeded what most people would’ve expected this early on. They’ve beat teams like the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and most recently the Calgary Flames. It hasn’t been all wins — they’ve lost games, too — but they’ve been playing much stronger hockey.

The Kraken’s head coach Dave Hakstol has coached in the NHL since 2015 and has been with the Kraken since Day 1. Prior to the NHL, he had a very successful coaching stint with the University of North Dakota (UND). As everyone who’s watched UND hockey in the past knows what kind of team Hakstol had: big and fast. Even the Wild’s broadcast team stated that the current Kraken roster is starting to resemble that style.

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Whatever Hakstol is doing seems to be working and his team cruised past the Wild pretty easily. His team is big, fast, and knows how to carry the puck. If they can keep up this style of play, they will be a difficult team to get past as the season continues and someone the Wild will face again in just over a week’s time.

Wild Head Out West

The Wild will have four days off in between games before they play next Tuesday, Nov. 8 against the Kings. That’s right, the Wild will see Kevin Fiala for the second time in just under a month but, hopefully, the Wild can avenge their blowout loss from the start of the season. It’s hard to tell what lineup they’re going to bring but Jordan Greenway may be back with the team while the rest are likely to wait longer.

The Wild had no problem being physical in their last meeting against the Kings, but it didn’t get them the come-from-behind win they needed. They’ll need to take a different approach this time around and they’ll have to, once again, try to stop Fiala, Anže Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, and Gabriel Vilardi. Meanwhile, the Wild’s forwards will need to find a way to get back on the offensive and get past Jonathan Quick or Cal Petersen.

The Wild will have to get past the Kings to get their road trip started on the right foot and find their way back to winning games. They need to treat their game against the Kraken as a bump in the road they can learn from and move on. Hopefully, they’ll have Greenway back in the lineup and he can help provide the spark they need to get by the Kings.

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