The Minnesota Wild got themselves into a bit of trouble when they took on the St. Louis Blues in their fifth of seven preseason games Tuesday night. The Wild elected to go with a younger group once again while the Blues had mostly veterans who’ll play during the regular season.
It didn’t take the Blues long to find a way past the Wild’s Filip Gustavsson as they scored their first goal just over a minute into the game. The Wild couldn’t respond and the Blues answered again halfway through the period, this time on the power play. Going into the second period they still could not find their scoring touch but the Blues continued their run, adding a third goal halfway through the second to make it 3-0.
The Wild wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, as they finally found the scoreboard in the third period and seemed to have found the spark they needed. The Blues answered back to quiet the Wild a little bit and made it 4-1. The Wild weren’t done just yet as they added a goal to make it 4-2 but that’s all they could muster as they were handed their first loss of the preseason.
Wild’s Bad Habit of Early Goals
Last season the Wild had a nasty habit of getting down early in games and having to find a way to climb back in. It did make for some very entertaining finishes as they became known as the “comeback kids” but sometimes they cut it too close. This last game against the Blues happened to be a game they waited too long and couldn’t climb out of their scoring deficit.
In the past, the Wild were usually able to climb within one goal or even tie the game, but not this time. They were only able to get within two goals and that was in the last minute of the game. However, this is still only preseason so thankfully this loss isn’t a big deal, but the Wild can’t let this become a habit again in 2022-23.
Wild’s Special Teams Issues Creep Up
Another issue the Wild faced last season was problems with their special teams; both their power play and penalty kill. At the beginning of this preseason, their power play seemed to have turned a corner, especially the top unit with their two stars Kirill Kaprizov and Marco Rossi playing together. Plus they found a new combination of Tyson Jost, Sam Steel, and Matt Boldy who had great success on the power play as well.
However, neither of those lines were in play against the Blues and it clearly showed as they had four opportunities and didn’t convert on any of them. While they didn’t score on the power play, they also didn’t prevent goals on the penalty kill either. The Wild were tasked with killing off six penalties against the Blues and they killed off five.
That may seem pretty decent but that single goal secured the Blues’ first two-goal lead and deflated the Wild’s mood until the third period. Even though it’s the preseason, these struggles are something to take note of but it’s also important to remember this lineup was full of prospects and not the veterans that will take the ice in just over a week.
Wild’s Notable Items
Even though the Wild lost, there were some good things that happened throughout the game. The first item was the chemistry Rossi continues to find with different players in the lineup; this time it was Mason Shaw and Tyson Jost. Rossi’s ability to adapt is a great asset for the Wild as it gives them numerous line combinations to use this season without having to worry about chemistry.
The next item that was very promising for the Wild was their blocked shots. They were laying their bodies on the line throughout the entire game and ended up with 22 blocks to the Blues’ nine. Roster hopeful Calen Addison and newcomer Andrej Sustr tied for the team lead with three blocked shots each. It’s great news on the defensive end that the Wild have an entire roster that is willing to drop to the ice and block a shot when needed.
Wild Face Blackhawks
The Wild’s next game will be back at home against the Chicago Blackhawks, Thursday, Oct. 6 and it’ll be their second meeting in just under a week. The Wild came out on top with a 3-0 win in their first meeting with a mostly veteran lineup including their goaltender Marc-André Fleury who earned the shutout. With this next meeting being the second to last preseason game, the Wild will have their big guns in the lineup to work out any last-minute problems before games start to count in the regular season.
The start of the season is just days away now and things are starting to heat up. If the Wild can fix these minor issues like shutting the other team down early and blocking shots consistently, they’ll be successful this season.
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.