The Minnesota Wild are no longer undefeated as they were handed their first loss of the season by the Nashville Predators on Sunday evening. The Wild were not only dealt their first loss but also their first loss on home ice in front of a full house, their fans weren’t able to help secure a win this time.
The game was an uphill battle from the beginning and unfortunately for the Wild, it was a struggle all game. Of course, following a loss, there are things to learn from and fix but there were also some positives the Wild can focus on to get back in the winning circle.
Wild’s Power Play Problems Continue
Once again, the Wild’s power play proved to be a problem. They had five power-play opportunities and couldn’t find the net at all. It wasn’t for lack of trying, however, they had the puck in the offensive zone majority of the time. The real issue was their lack of shots, they passed the puck all around the zone but refused to take hardly any shots.
By the time the power-play unit was done passing the puck and was ready to take a shot, the goalie was already prepared and stopped every shot the Wild sent their way if it wasn’t blocked by the Predators’ defense. That was the other problem the Wild had on their power play, the Predators were blocking everything that came their way.
The Wild can’t continue on this path with their power play, they have to start taking more shots. Rather than looking for that perfect pass, they need to take the shot immediately and catch the goalie off guard. If the goalie would make the save, there’s also the chance for some nice rebounds as well, but they have to be willing to take that first shot. The Wild’s power play wasn’t the only issue in this game, and it definitely wasn’t the only issue on the special teams.
Wild’s Penalty Kill Going in Wrong Direction
Something the Wild have always been able to pride themselves on in the past was their penalty kill. In the last five seasons, the Wild’s penalty kill hadn’t dropped below 77.2 percent, so far in just five games played this season they’ve hit a low of 69.6 percent. They’ve had seven goals scored on them while being shorthanded, two of which were scored in their loss against the Predators.
This wouldn’t even be a problem if the Wild weren’t spending so much time in the penalty box. They had six penalties against the Predators. Surprisingly this wasn’t the most the Wild have had in a game this season and it’s not the only time they’ve been scored on while down a man either. The club will have to do some serious work in practice to get their penalty kill back to where everyone expects it, and they’ll have to learn to stay out of the penalty box because it’s too early in the season to start these bad habits.
Wild’s Silver Lining: Fourth Line and Fighting Back
The Wild did have a couple of positives out of this game, one of those would be the production of their fourth line. They scored two goals but both of those goals came from players on the fourth line, Nick Bjugstad and Nico Sturm. Every time the fourth line hit the ice, they had some success whether it was a breakaway out of the defensive zone or getting shots on net.
The other positive note was the Wild refused to give up even when the Predators jumped out to an early three-goal lead in the first period. They fought back and kept trying until the end of the game, it just wasn’t enough. Even their goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, despite the struggle in the net, didn’t give in. He may have let in five goals but he persevered and finished the game strong which is what they’ll need throughout the season.
Wild’s Fixes Moving Forward
The Wild can focus on how well their fourth line performed and use that as motivation for the rest of their lines going forward. They’ll have to work on their special teams as well both the power play and the penalty kill. Specifically, they need to take more shots on the net during their power plays and stay out of the penalty box so they stay off of the penalty kill.
The Wild are going on the road once again and they’ll be facing teams they have yet to face this season. That list includes the Vancouver Canucks, Seattle Kraken, and divisional opponent the Colorado Avalanche. They have to play better to beat these teams especially the Avalanche, who always play the Wild hard. The biggest thing is to not let this loss bother them, they need to learn from it and move on.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.