The Minnesota Wild skated into the Belle Centre last night to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on in what could be called a dominate performance from start to finish. The Wild shook off the monkey of two straight home losses off their backs and started their three game road trip on a very high note. Somehow when you say it though it seems strange that you’d have to be explaining how the Wild are shaking off two straight home losses. After all this is a Wild team that went 22-13-6 last season at the Xcel Energy Center.
No matter how you slice it the Wild have been spectacular on the road since and average at home since John Torchetti took over the team on February 15th. In the span since mid-February the Wild are 6-2-0 on the road and 3-3-0 at home. Many are left scratching their heads wondering why the Wild can’t perform better for a constantly sold out barn? What is so different about this team on the road versus at home?
The Team Scores More on the Road
Maybe it’s the white uniforms, but this Wild team as of late has a much more of a scoring touch on the road than they do at home. As of today they are boasting an +11 goal differential (28 for/17 against) on the road compared to only +4 at home (19 for/15 against) since Torchetti took over the reins. The Wild have been so good at scoring on the road in this stretch only the Tampa Bay Lighting have been better on the road since mid-February with a differential of +13.
Additionally, the +4 goal differential includes the Stadium Series game at TCF Bank Stadium, so if you were to take those numbers out the Wild are -1 in goal differential at the Xcel Center. So it’s obvious the Wild are putting the puck in the net more often in places that are not called Xcel Energy Center. Devan Dubnyk explains it best before the game in Montreal when he explains “we play simple on the road” and it that has led to more scoring chances and pucks on net.
The Power Play is Better on the Road
One of the largest improvements under Torchetti has been the production in the power play. The Wild are finding their stride and converting more on the man-advantage. The “simple game” they play on the road is paying off in one of the most important aspects of the scoring game, on the power play.
Under Torchetti the Wild are currently 12/46 on the power play for a 26% conversion rate. Of those 12 power play goals 10 of them are on the road compared to 2 only at home. In addition to those numbers, Michael Russo of the Star Tribune reported that the Wild have 15 power play goals in 13 straight road games which is a franchise record. Not to bad at all.
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 13, 2016
Pressure to Preform in St. Paul
When the Wild players and coaches are describing their game on the road as “simple” that says there is something that makes playing at home more complicated right now. The Wild fans have huge expectations of this team and it has most certainly translated to a poorer than expected record at home. More than a few occasions the team has been booed coming off the ice and there seems to be a lot of negative and pessimistic things written about the team in the press because of their struggles. All these things have made an environment that isn’t necessarily friendly for the home team, and I think this Wild team feels a tremendous amount of pressure to perform at home.
No doubt to make the playoffs the Wild need to balance their road game with their home game. None the less this stretch of road performances has been impressive. Still the numbers are simple with 7 of the remaining 13 games to be played at home, the Wild need to take their road warrior mentality into the confines of the Xcell Energy Center if they want to make their run to the playoffs a successful one.
* Featured image provided by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers
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Danny Lambert has been covering the Minnesota Wild for some time now, and is back again as contributor to THW staff. A native Minnesotan he’s always had his eye on the State of Hockey and is proud to write and represent such a great market and fans. Follow him on Twitter at @dannylambert17