The Minnesota Wild were off to a great start when they took on the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, Oct.29 but unfortunately, it didn’t last. They did get on the board first with a very nice goal within the first two minutes of the game and had great momentum, but the Red Wings found a way toward the end of the period to tie things up at one.
In the second period, things mellowed out and the Wild slacked as the Red Wings scored again for their first lead of the game. They held onto it for the rest of the second, and even as the Wild threw an onslaught of shots in the third, they couldn’t tie it up and lost 2-1.
Wild Had Good Chemistry
The Wild didn’t get the result they wanted, but they had the best effort of the season so far with the exception of the second period. Head coach Dean Evason made the decision to change up the lines big time when they took on the Montréal Canadiens a few days ago and it worked. They continued with those lines when they faced the very physical Ottawa Senators and it worked again. Of course, they had to keep it going against the Red Wings and it didn’t fail.
A loss can be considered a failure but their lines were clicking very well and looked strong. Even switching Ryan Hartman off the top line has done well, he’s had great chemistry with both Joel Eriksson Ek and Brandon Duhaime plus he’s been able to add more grit to his game compared to when he was on the first line.
It’s also been obvious that Frédérick Gaudreau has been fitting in well on the top line. His speed and agility work with the dynamic duo of Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, which makes him a great option for that line. He’s even started to show the benefits of playing alongside those two when he tallied an assist in their loss to the Red Wings.
Wild Show Confidence in Gustavsson
It’s the Wild’s first back-to-back of the season and that meant Filip Gustavsson would be starting in his second game of the season. They elected to put him in the first of their back-to-back against the Red Wings instead of the second game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Both teams have nearly identical records with the Red Wings having a one-point advantage after their win over the Wild.
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Putting Gustavsson against the Red Wings with their talented scorers showed they have confidence in him and while they did lose, he was not the reason. He did make some mistakes that most veteran goalies wouldn’t, but he’s still learning and will get better with each game he plays. He played very assertively and held his composure even when his team was down and he’ll definitely get more chances in the net after that performance.
Wild Need to Get More Physical
The Wild struggled physically in two ways against the Red Wings and the first was they need to get more physical when it comes to their defense. They need to push people away from their goalie and hit along the boards more. They don’t have to go overboard but more physicality is needed.
The other half of the hitting comes from the lack of blocked shots. Not only do the Wild let opponents in too closely, but they also don’t help block any shots. They should be helping out their goaltenders and blocking as many shots as they can. If the shots don’t make it to the net, then there aren’t any goals. The Red Wings blocked 19 shots, while the Wild blocked only 13 and they also gave up the puck eight times. When they give up the puck, they have to be willing to go the extra mile to get it back and that means throwing a hit or two or even a block.
Wild Take on Blackhawks
The Wild are on their first back-to-back and of course, they’re on their first road trip as well. It’s been an up-and-down road trip and they haven’t started their back-to-back the greatest either. However, the greatest thing about playing games on consecutive days means they don’t have a lot of time to wallow in mistakes made.
They’ll have to be ready when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Oct. 30. Similar to the Canadiens, the Blackhawks weren’t expected to have a great season but they’ve actually done pretty well. The Wild will have to be on the lookout for Patrick Kane, Max Domi, Jonathan Toews, and Sean Lafferty, but it’ll be back to Fleury in the net, so he should be well prepared.
The Wild’s offense on the other hand will have to be ready for one of two possible goaltenders Alex Stalock or Arvid Soderblom. The Blackhawks may have some wins under their belt already but the Wild’s scorers should be able to find a way past the goaltending and finish their road trip with a win plus get them a winning record on the road.
Mariah Stark (Holland) is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.