The Minnesota Wild faced the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche in the third of their four-game homestand on Monday, Oct. 17. It was a game filled with odd bounces for both sides but the majority of those bounces went the Avalanche’s way. However, the Wild started out much better than their previous two games and at times they looked like a completely different team in a good way.
Despite the Avalanche getting on the board first with a very odd bounce, the Wild answered right back with a very nice setup to tie the game. That goal was the earliest they’ve scored so far this season and gave everyone hope this game would have a different result. A few minutes later, the Avalanche snuck one by goaltender Filip Gustavsson who was a little late with his pad for them to go ahead 2-1 and frustrate many Wild fans.
The second period started out with a goal by the Wild to tie it up again at two but of course, the Avalanche responded on a poor move by Gustavsson and took the lead for the third time. The third period was when the Avs started to pull away a bit after they scored again to secure a two-goal lead. The Wild scored on the power play to try to mount a comeback but the Avalanche added two more goals and took the win 6-3.
Wild’s Disappointing Goaltending
If the Wild want to start winning games, their goaltending has to improve. Both Marc-André Fleury and Gustavsson have to figure out why they’re struggling so badly and fix it. Against the Avalanche, Gustavsson had some of the most unlucky bounces against him but he also made some pretty big mistakes that an NHL goalie should not make.
It made sense for the Wild to want to use their backup goaltender after their first two blowout losses, but it didn’t make sense to put Gustavsson in against a team such as the Avalanche. Despite Fleury’s start to the season, he is the veteran goaltender and maybe would’ve been able to rise to the occasion.
While things seem bad with the goaltending now, especially with Gustavsson, it’s only the third game and it was his first start of the season. He’s still a very young goaltender at 24 years old who has not had a lot of NHL experience yet, and he has the potential to get better. The Wild’s front office along with Gustavsson himself said during the offseason that he’s aware there are areas of his game he needs to improve on.
Aside from the mistakes, Gustavsson did make some big saves at some very crucial moments but the mistakes, unfortunately, overshadowed them. Hopefully, he can start making improvements now and come out better in his next start.
Wild Pull Rossi From the Lineup
The Wild made probably the most controversial decision of their entire season when they pulled Marco Rossi from the lineup. He had played in their first two games, with minimal ice time and very few mistakes plus he had a stellar preseason that led to his current roster spot. It left many confused and rather frustrated, especially after their first two losses they needed all the scoring they could get and Rossi could’ve provided that.
There was a very minimal explanation given by head coach Dean Evason on why Rossi was pulled and it was, “It’s an opportunity for him (Rossi) to react and probably get more than anything a little breather. He’s played a lot of hockey and a lot of intense (hockey) here in training camp and (was) very good.” (from ‘Wild looking at lineup changes after 0-2 start: Rossi could come out, Zuccarello questionable, Fleury to sit, new lines’, The Athletic, Oct. 17, 2022).
It’s hard to believe a player as physically fit as Rossi would need a breather; he only played a handful of minutes between his first two games and he had no trouble when he played 63 games for the Iowa Wild last season. However, “an opportunity to react” could mean they intend to play him in their next game against the Vancouver Canucks and only had him sit out to see if it would somehow light a fire under him to play even better.
While that would’ve been a decent idea if it were 20 games into the season and he was at the bottom of the lineup in terms of production, right now it was completely unnecessary. He has done just fine for a rookie in the NHL who’s played a total of four games over two seasons with the Wild. Hopefully, this was just some odd tactic they decided to try and he’ll be back on the ice against the Canucks on Oct. 20.
Wild’s Few Good Things
It’s hard to believe there was anything good that could’ve come after their third consecutive blowout loss, but the Wild did have some bright spots. Overall, the team as a whole looked better than they did in their previous two games, as everyone was hustling and trying to make the extra effort. There were a number of players who had solid performances but the goaltending mistakes and some other odd issues made it so they couldn’t score goals.
Their lack of production wasn’t for lack of trying; they threw 39 shots at Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and he stopped all but three of them. Plus, there were a number of shots that looked promising but never made it to the goaltender after being blocked or deflected. In addition to their shot total, they had a number of players who stepped up.
Kirill Kaprizov was one of those players as he continued his scoring streak with two of the Wild’s three goals including one on the power play. His linemate on the man advantage, Calen Addison, also played out of his mind the entire game, especially when he was on the point on the power play. He looked like a veteran player of 10 seasons as the go-to guy and the Wild should be very excited about his potential, specifically when it comes to his ability to read the ice, as it was clear he has a very strong hockey IQ.
Obviously, it’s disappointing that Rossi was pulled but the player that filled in, Mason Shaw really stood out. He played very confidently and had some great chances with two shots on goal plus a takeaway. Defenseman Jake Middleton also continued to show his strong skating and shooting ability and almost added his second goal of the season.
Finally, the last two items that went well for the Wild were their power play and Matt Boldy’s ability to lead by example once again. They scored on the power play for the third straight game and thankfully for the Wild, it has been a very promising part of their game this season. While Boldy has been an important member of that power play unit, he’s also been a great leader during even strength play. He’s been playing at a higher level than anyone expected and hopefully, he can keep that up as the season progresses.
Wild Face Canucks
The Wild were anticipated to be a better team this season but they’ve also faced some of the most talented teams in the NHL. Everyone knew the New York Rangers would not be easy to beat and the same can be said for the Avalanche, while the Los Angeles Kings are an up-and-coming team that has continued to get better over the last few seasons. The problem is the Wild are supposed to be on that list of talented teams and they haven’t done much to show that so far.
Related: Wild Have Too Many Good Prospects & Not Enough Roster Slots
The important thing to remember is that despite all the bad, it’s only the third game of an 82-game season. The Wild have a lot of time to fix things but they have to start immediately and can’t waste time especially since it’ll take a little bit to get everything figured out. Fortunately for them their next opponent, the Canucks have been struggling to keep leads and that could play into the hands of the Wild who’ve been scoring late in games.
Hopefully, the Wild can find a way to win over the Canucks and get that first victory of the season to prove to themselves that not all is lost. It’ll be interesting to see which goaltender they choose and if Rossi will be back in the lineup, even though Shaw would be the odd man out. Despite the Wild not having a win yet, there will be a lot to see when they host the Canucks to end their homestand this Thursday, Oct. 20.