After a long week off that was spent in Sweden, the Minnesota Wild got back to hockey action against the Ottawa Senators at Avicii Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, for the NHL’s Global Series. This was the first of back-to-back games for the Wild as Sweden seemed like a home away from home with their five players from Sweden on the roster for this Series. They had plenty of friends and family show up, including family members that this was the first time they saw their loved one play in person.
The Wild didn’t start the game out flying, but as time passed, they started to show changes and improvements to their play that they’d been working on all week. There were no goals in the first period for either side, but the Wild did show some strong penalty kills that kept the Senators scoreless. Things got started in the second period; thankfully, it was for the Wild.
They had several chances early and finally capitalized on a shot by Brock Faber that fellow rookie Marco Rossi tipped for the Wild to take a 1-0 lead. They killed off another penalty to keep it 100 percent and proved they could improve their game. They kept the lead until the start of the third when the Senators found a way to respond and tie the game at one apiece.
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Both sides had great chances following that tying goal, but it came down to overtime and a shootout. Despite the Wild’s valiant efforts, the Senators got the final goal and the final save to win 2-1. Even though they lost their fourth straight, this was one of the better performances the Wild have had this season, and there were a couple of reasons why starting with their rookies.
Wild’s Rookie Impact
The Wild’s big-name players, Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy, and Mats Zuccarello, have been contributing on and off when they can, but the players who’ve been stepping up are their rookies. Rossi and Faber have been making waves since the beginning of the season, and other than a few hiccups, they’ve been steady.
They continued their excellent play against the Senators, with Faber taking quite a few shots, while Rossi played his gritty, non-stop style. Their ability to play smart hockey, especially Faber on defense, makes them both so good and dangerous. He’s always playing with his head up and making sure he’s making the right choice between passing and dumping the puck.
Rossi, on the other hand, as a forward, gets a little roughed up in board battles and just overall position in the offensive zone but keeps going. He’s also a whiz at drawing penalties; every game he plays in, it seems he’s drawing at least one penalty and giving his team plenty of power play opportunities. The Wild may have lost, but these two gave their team every chance to come out with a win.
Wild’s Penalty Kill Redeemed
Again, despite the loss, the Wild regained some hope in their game, starting with their penalty kill. They went 100 percent, killing off all four penalties they took, and didn’t give the Senators any room to score. They played with a new formation, in a diamond shape that limited the top middle, according to Bally Sports announcer Ryan Carter, who spent some time with the Wild in the past.
The new penalty kill worked, and the areas they’d struggled in were no longer an issue. They didn’t give up chances up high and watched the corners of the net closer. The Wild’s prominent Swedish players, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Jonas Brodin, are two of the best penalty killers on the team, and they continue to prove that.
They were getting their sticks in the way of numerous shots and dropping to block shot after shot. Brodin even blocked a shot with his face; luckily, he was okay and back out shortly after. They aren’t afraid to give it their all when it comes to blocking shots, and hopefully, they can continue to do so.
Wild Improve But Still Need Work
For the third time throughout this article, the Wild played much better than they have most of the season but still came up with a loss. They improved in nearly every aspect of their game except one that we’ll talk about at the end of this section, but first: the good things. They had more sticks on pucks from everyone, and they were overall more aggressive and forced mistakes from the Senators.
The Wild took time to slow down slightly and control the puck rather than making sloppy passes trying to force it out and turn it over. They controlled the play and made intelligent choices, including knowing where their passes went. Their board battles were much more decisive, and they didn’t appear to give up as quickly. They didn’t play with high energy, but as the game went on, they showed how much work they’d put in.
Their goaltending even improved slightly with Filip Gustavsson in the net. He played well throughout the game, but the Senators’ goal was one he wished he had back, as well as the lone shootout goal. The goal during regulation, Gustavsson was too high outside his crease, and the Senators found a way to get past him, but it wouldn’t have happened if the Wild had been faster at their line change and not left the opposing player alone. The same thing happened during the shootout: Gustavsson came out high again, and another goal went in.
However, their power play was the one area that needed improvement and had all season. While they went 100 percent on penalty kill, so did the Senators. They held the Wild off the scoreboard in all four power-play chances they had. Part of that was due to solid defense by the Senators and poor offense by the Wild. They refused to shoot the puck enough and consistently passed back into their zone instead of pushing the play forward and forcing chances. They have to get their power play back on track if they want to win more games.
Wild Face Maple Leafs
The Wild won’t have long to dwell on this loss, as they’ll play the second game of their back-to-back in less than 24 hours. They’ll face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 7 am Central Time for the second time this season, and they’ll be looking for redemption, but they’ll have to work hard to do so.
The Wild are hoping to have Ryan Hartman back in the lineup, who was out against the Senators due to illness, and they’ll also be looking to activate Frédérick Gaudreau off of injured reserve as well, which could give their lineup a nice morale boost. That, along with their players from overseas motivated by playing in front of friends and family, will hopefully improve their game.
They showed they had what it takes against the Senators, minus the power play, and they can do the same against the Maple Leafs. They’ll have to keep William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner off the scoreboard and find a way past Ilya Samsonov or Joseph Woll. If the Wild can play like they did against the Senators but succeed on the power play, they could come home with a win.