While that comeback was exhilarating – and a truly exciting way to start off the season – I almost had a heart attack while watching, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Thursday night’s game was unbelievable, but the Wild certainly cannot play like that every game.
On Saturday, Minnesota will take on the St. Louis Blues for their first home game of the 2015-16 season at the Xcel Energy Center. Another crazy comeback would be fun to watch, but here are five goals for the Wild to ensure they don’t have to rely on a miracle against the Blues.
1. Don’t be a Third Period Team
Minnesota is awfully good at turning things around in the last period of the game. However, it doesn’t really matter if they’re good at third period comebacks or not; that’s still not a very wise game strategy.
If this team is going to win, these guys need to start playing solid hockey from the first drop of the puck. Minnesota is not going to be able to afford slow starts all the time. The Avalanche couldn’t hold onto their lead, but that’s not going to be the case with every team the Wild faces. Saturday night against St. Louis, Minnesota needs to come out strong and ready to dominate the game from the start. No third period miracle should be necessary.
2. Watch Your Temper
The Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche seem to have a little bit of a rivalry going on. That rivalry might have led to some anger, and that anger most likely led to the Wild taking some not-so-wise penalties. Those penalties resulted in Colorado goals. Both times.
Minnesota also seems to have a brewing rivalry with the St. Louis Blues after the playoffs last season. That means Saturday night’s game has the potential to bring out some hard feelings. In this case, the Wild have two options: learn to control their tempers and not take penalties, or get better on the penalty kill. Taking penalties happens no matter what, so it seems Minnesota’s best option is to work on their penalty kill.
Yes, the Wild have only played one game so far this season, but last year they were the top penalty killers in the league. They need to return to that form if they’re going to consistently win. Saturday night is the perfect opportunity to start working on that.
3. Keep an Eye on Tarasenko
Last season, Vladimir Tarasenko was a Wild killer. In six playoff games against Minnesota, Tarasenko
netted six goals and one assist. That’s almost half of the total number of goals St. Louis scored in the first round.
Tarasenko has the ability to put the Blues on the board early Saturday night, and that’s definitely not what the Wild wants. Now that coach Mike Yeo and his team realize Tarasenko is a threat, these guys need to be on high alert every time he steps on the ice. If the Wild can contain Tarasenko, their chances of a win Saturday night look a lot better.
4. Be Aggressive
Thursday night, the Avalanche came out aggressively from the start, and the Wild didn’t seem to know how to handle that. Minnesota is not a gritty team, but sometimes they’re going to need to be a little more physical.
St. Louis certainly didn’t have a problem pushing the Wild around last season, and I’m sure that won’t change Saturday night. If Minnesota is going to dominate in their home opener, that means they need to push back. I’m not suggesting they start dropping gloves, but a little bit of grit wouldn’t hurt.
5. Rely on the Veterans
Minnesota’s veterans stepped it up big time Thursday night. Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville were a huge reason this team was able to come back and win.
— Minnesota Wild PR (@mnwildPR) October 9, 2015
Parise and Vanek both contributed goals, while Pominville, Koivu and Suter contributed assists and solid play. There’s absolutely no way the Wild would have been able to turn Thursday’s game around without their veterans.
Minnesota has many young faces on the team this year, and that is far from a bad thing. However, this team needs to know if they’re falling behind, they can rely on the veterans like Parise, Suter and Koivu to step up and push the team to a win.
The Wild face off against the St. Louis Blues at 7 p.m. Saturday night. What’s your prediction?