There’s been a lot of talk about what went wrong with the Minnesota Wild that led to their elimination from the postseason by the Dallas Stars in six games. They didn’t stay out of the penalty box, their penalty kill didn’t step up, their power play didn’t capitalize, their stars such as Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy didn’t step up; the list goes on and on. However, there are a number of things the Wild can learn from the team that knocked them out.
The Stars obviously had a very strong power play, they didn’t waste time, and they shot every chance they had. Those are just a few of the things that the Stars utilized to move on to Round 2 and things the Wild could add to their game to be a better team.
Wild’s Lack of Shots
Part of what made the Stars so strong against the Wild was their ability to shoot and make it count. They made sure not to waste chances by passing the puck too many times. They lined up immediately and took the shot before the Wild’s goaltenders could even get in position. They also shot from every possible spot they could instead of trying to find the perfect sweet spot. They threw everything they had at the net and it worked.
If the Wild want to be successful next season they need to pay attention to how the Stars did everything to take as many shots as possible. They didn’t choose to pass instead of shoot and they didn’t waste time setting up the pretty play. They played the gritty style that caused a lot of chaos in front of the net and the Wild weren’t ready for it. The Wild have to get better at moving opposing forwards away from their goaltenders if they hope to win next season.
Wild’s Struggling Special Teams & Faceoffs
Something the Stars found a way to exploit was the Wild’s poor special teams. The Stars’ power play is clearly something the Wild need to take note of, as the key to its success was their ability to win the faceoff back to the point and get shots on goal. The Wild need to learn to win faceoffs in any situation but especially on their power play.
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The Wild could also use this to simplify their power play similar to the Stars who make essentially two moves between winning the faceoff back to the point, and the defenseman/forward taking the shot. It wasn’t just the power play that threw the Wild for a loop, their own penalty kill couldn’t step up either.
It wasn’t a lack of simplicity that hurt the Wild on their penalty kill but their inability to be aggressive and force turnovers. The Stars on the other hand did this repeatedly and made the Wild turn over the puck on their own power play. However, on their penalty kill, the Wild allowed the Stars to take shots and didn’t block nearly as many as they should have.
If the Wild hope to get further in the postseason next year, they’ll have to win faceoffs, simplify their power play, and be more aggressive on the penalty kill. All of these things were key in the Stars defeating the Wild and making it to Round 2.
Wild Need to be Smarter
The Stars found it pretty easy to get by the Wild once they figured out how to draw penalties against them, especially Marcus Foligno. They antagonized the Wild endlessly and got them to fall into the trap of retaliating and then they unleashed their lethal power play before the Wild knew what hit them. They have to get better at staying disciplined and composed when being pushed to the limit. If they can do that, they’re likely to get the other team to take a penalty. The actual penalties weren’t the only problem either as the Wild became severely distracted with the officiating in the series.
While there were questionable calls in the series, the Wild needed to focus and not allow that to interfere with their game. They played distracted and it affected their game. If they plan to improve next season, that’s another step they have to make. If they can prevent things outside of their control from affecting their play, they’ll be able to stick with their game plan.
Wild’s Defensive Efforts
Finally, the last thing the Wild need to take notes on is the Stars’ skills with their sticks. When the Wild had control of the puck, the Stars’ sticks were in every path possible and it seemed like the Wild couldn’t move anywhere without a stick in their path. However, when the Stars had the puck they had plenty of room to move around and take shots.
Before next season the Wild have to adjust their defense to collapse on opposing players and get their sticks in the way of everything. If they’d been able to do that against the Stars this season, chances are they could’ve made it to Round 2.
After a loss, there’s always something to learn from and for the Wild, there were plenty of lessons to take away. Hopefully, they made both mental and physical notes and will work to apply those things to their game during the offseason. However, they have to be willing to put in the extra work and make the changes or it’s all for nothing. If they can do that, they’ll be an overall better hockey team and hopefully not be a Round 1 and done team anymore. It also wouldn’t hurt if Kaprizov and Boldy can find their scoring strides.