On Wednesday, the Minnesota Wild played their final home game against the Vancouver Canucks before starting a four game road trip. With games coming against St. Louis, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago it was important to get two points against a Vancouver team that had been imploding over the last couple months.
Instead Minnesota played one of their worst games of the season, losing 5-2 at home to the Canucks. In watching the game you would have thought the Wild were the ones imploding instead of Vancouver.
With very little time to dwell on that loss, Minnesota headed to St. Louis the following night to face the Blues who are the best team in the NHL. Unfortunately it was more of the same from the previous night.
U.S. Olympic Hockey star TJ Oshie scored his first hat trick in the NHL and Ryan Miller had 27 saves to help lead St. Louis to a 5-1 win over the Wild.
Special teams were the key in the win for the Blues as they were 2-for-5 with the man advantage. Minnesota was 0-for-6 on the power play and gave up a short-handed goal late in the first period when Jared Spurgeon turned the puck over at center ice. Spurgeon’s pass was intercepted by Oshie who beat goaltender Darcy Kuemper, giving the Blues a 2-0 lead.
Head coach Mike Yeo was pleased with the start of the game by the Wild saying “We came out and had a great start. I thought we really looked good and really fast. We were drawing penalties and then that second goal by St. Louis was a critical part of the hockey game.”
When asked about the play of his special teams Yeo responded “We all know how important special teams are this time of year. When you are minus one on the power play and are drawing that many power plays, having a night like tonight is extremely difficult.”
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter offered the same thoughts as well saying “I thought we came out flying. We had a couple good shifts and some power plays and then they get one that deflects off me. That’s how it’s been going.”
When asked about Minnesota’s special teams Suter responded “Our special teams have been terrible and costing us games. We have to figure that out.”
The next stop on the road trip is to Phoenix to face the Coyotes who are currently one point behind Minnesota in the wild card race. If the season ended today both teams would make playoffs with the Wild playing San Jose and Phoenix playing St. Louis. After watching last night game I don’t think any Wild fan wants to see the Blues in the first round. That’s why tomorrow nights game is very important. Something that isn’t lost on Suter.
“It’s a huge four point game.” Suter said. “If we show up and play like we did against St. Louis we won’t be around too long. We better figure it out fast and come ready to play.”
Coach Yeo offered the same sentiment saying “It’s going to have an awful lot of importance not only in the standing but for us to get our game going here, to get some wins and to get us feeling good about ourselves. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
A lot of Wild fans right now are expecting the worst case scenario to play out with Minnesota missing the playoffs. With the way things have gone in this sports market with Minnesota teams the last few years I can see why fans feel this way.
However I still believe that the Wild will be a playoff team once the NHL season ends. Minnesota currently has 85 points on the season with eight games to play. The first team on the outside of the playoff picture looking in is Dallas. The Stars have 79 points with ten games to play.
Yes, a spot in the post-season isn’t guaranteed but a lot of things have to happen for that to occur. Right now the Wild are on the right side of the playoff picture and a six point lead should be enough to keep the teams on the outside from overtaking them.
As long as Minnesota is in a playoff spot there is no point in panicking. The Wild control their own destiny and that is what every team wants at this time of year. The best thing Minnesota can do right now is to go out, play their game and find a way to beat a good team on the road.
Getting two points tomorrow night in Phoenix is a great place to start.