It’s safe to say the Minnesota Wild have had a rough go so far this season, with wins few and far between and plenty of disappointing losses. Their most recent loss to the Dallas Stars at home showcased their unsuccessful penalty kill. Also somewhat concerning has been their lack of offense from their most influential players.
That’s where their trip to Sweden comes in, and this could be a crucial turning point in their season. It is still very early; they’re currently 15 games into an 82-game schedule, but their postseason dreams will be out the door if they don’t start to win games soon. Sometimes, a team needs a slight change in routine, such as this trip, to jumpstart things.
It may seem far-fetched for the Wild, but they’ve shown they are a strong team sometimes and need to find that motivation again. We’ll explore how this trip could be the pivotal point in their season to bounce back and what needs to happen.
Wild Need to be Better
With a record of 5-8-2, it’s obvious something, or in this case multiple things must change in the Wild’s play. Everyone knows the penalty kill is an issue and can’t continue on the path it’s on. The power play has improved but could be way better, especially with the players who play on the top power-play unit.
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Outside the penalty kill, the biggest issue with the Wild is their lack of consistency. They’ve shown some streaks of great play, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. They haven’t found a way to keep a lead or their opponent off the scoreboard regularly. The Wild have yet to find that top level of play everyone knows they can reach, and that’s what this trip will hopefully help them find.
Wild Need this Trip to Succeed
How can a trip overseas help a struggling team like the Wild, especially when they only play two games? There are multiple ways, but the main one is a change of routine and scenery; it can be as simple as that. The Wild will be in Sweden for about a week before they return to the regular NHL game routine.
During that week, they’ll, of course, be practicing, but they’ll also be sightseeing with their Swedish teammates, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Johansson, Jonas Brodin, Filip Gustavsson and Jesper Wallstedt as tour guides for some of the trip. Wallstedt will only play if there’s an emergency, but they did make room to bring him along for the trip.
This trip will be an excellent chance for the team to bond even more and possibly uncover why they haven’t played consistently and why their penalty kill is struggling. Sometimes, a team needs a break from the routine grind of an NHL schedule to get back to basics and have a reset.
They have to be careful not to become too relaxed and allow this trip to become a distraction. They must remain focused on what must be done while allowing themselves a little slack to have fun. Playing in a new place in front of a new crowd could motivate them.
Wild’s Swedes Have Opportunity
The Wild have their leaders in Jared Spurgeon, Marcus Foligno, and Kirill Kaprizov, but this trip will also give others a chance to step up and lead. Those players are the Swedish-born players: Eriksson Ek, Johansson, Brodin, Gustavsson, and Wallstedt. Again, Wallstedt may get little opportunity here, but the others will. Some of these players will be playing in front of their friends and family for the first time because some of their loved ones haven’t been able to travel to North America for various reasons.
Eriksson Ek and Brodin have been playing quite strongly and have improved their minor errors as the season continues, but Johansson and Gustavsson could use this as a chance to step up. Gustavsson has had a lot of trouble this season getting into the groove he had last year, and having a visit home could help him find success. He’s supposed to take over the number one goaltending spot, and they need him to step up.
Johansson is another one they expected more from, and while he’s shown some strong skating skills, he has little to show for it, with one goal in 15 games. However, he has set up seven other goals, so that’s a start. They need him to continue breaking into the zone with the speed he has but find a way to hold onto the puck as he crosses the blue line.
Brodin and Eriksson Ek have been leaders already and will need to continue that to help their team succeed. They’ll also need Gustavsson and Johansson to find some motivation while playing in their home country to jumpstart their game, which could boost their teammates’ motivation.
Wild Have a Chance
The Wild still have a chance to turn their season around for the better, but they must be willing to put the work in. They must dig deep, fix issues stuck in their play from the previous 15 games, and be ready to change. When things are continuously not working, change has to happen by line changes and every single player improving their game in whatever way possible.
However, it’s not only the physical game but also the mental game. If a player is stuck in the “my game is struggling” mentality, it’ll be near impossible for them to do better. They have to find a way to focus on playing strong, and results will come. Sometimes, a team can get stuck in the same old “losing” routine, and that’s what the Wild seem to be doing.
It’s been said numerous times, but this trip to Sweden could be the slight change the Wild need to restart their season. The past 15 games don’t matter; they have to move forward with one win at a time, and they need strong play from everyone on their roster.