While they might have a little fun, the Minnesota Wild know they’re actually on a business trip. They arrived in Sweden on Tuesday afternoon and had their first practice on Wednesday morning. The team has an off day on Thursday, followed by another practice on Friday. Then, the Wild will play a back-to-back against the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. So what can fans expect?
(If anyone needs a little fun, stick around until the end of the article. Her Wild Side Hockey Podcast is a great way to mix Wild hockey and a little bit of fun to look on the positive side of Minnesota Hockey.)
All Four Teams Are Looking for a Reset
The Wild aren’t the only team hoping that this trip will be a reset. The Senators, the Maple Leafs, and the Detroit Red Wings are all coming into this trip on a bit of a slump. The Red Wings started the season off well, but have since cooled down along with the rest of the teams on this Sweden trip. Each team will play two games and each is hoping to come home with 4 points from the weekend.
Out of the teams who are playing in Sweden, the Red Wings have the best record at 8-5-2. However, they’ve lost six of the last ten games that they’ve played. The Leafs also have a record of 8-5-2. In the last six games they’ve played, they’ve won three, but two of those were taken all the way to overtime for one and a shootout for the other.
The Ottawa Senators have a 6-7-0 record and are the closest to the Wild in the standings. They are 25th in the league, while the Wild are 27th. The Senators have lost three of the last five games that they’ve played. The Wild are 5-8-2 on the season.
How are the Wild Coming Into This Trip?
The Wild have lost the last 3 games after a two-game win streak that was supposed to signal a turn-around. Their two biggest superstars, Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy, are mostly being held to assists instead of goals. The Wild power play is 23rd in the league at 17.5%. The penalty kill is dead last in the league at 63.5%.
Are the Wild Doing Anything Right?
Looking at stats? Not really. But there are some non-number things that are positive. While the top players aren’t scoring like they should, there has been plenty of depth scoring. The bottom six players have been putting up points and making moves into the offensive zone at a much better clip than the top six.
The players that the Wild have called up from Iowa lately have been doing well. Dakota Mermis, who has played in a career-high 13 NHL games this season, has fit in seamlessly. While there have been a few bad plays, Mermis seems like he’ll stick around for a while. Daemon Hunt also got to play a few games and is along on the Sweden trip. While he hasn’t played big minutes, he’s also seemed to fit in well with the defensive core. Vinni Lettieri was shoehorned in on the fourth line, along with Brandon Duhaime and Connor Dewar. He’s since scored two goals in the ten games he’s played.
Marco Rossi has finally been playing to his full potential, and as a reward, he’s been playing on the top line more often. He’s played 15 games this season and has 8 points. He also has a +/- of 0 which, considering how the Wild have been playing, is almost a miracle. Rossi is also showing that he is confident enough to play in the NHL. He isn’t afraid of pushing play into the offensive zones and battling for the puck along the wall.
What Do the Wild Need to Count it as a Successful Trip?
Well, the best thing they can do is come away with four points, or at least two. But even if they come away with less, are there other things to look for? Here are the three best ways to show improvement, even if the Wild don’t win.
- Goaltending: Fans don’t need to be told how badly the goaltending has started the year. Assuming each goalie will take one game, it would be nice to see both Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson have a good game, no matter how the defense is playing. Fewer goals against and more high-danger saves would be the best stats to watch.
- Special teams: The problem with the special teams aren’t going to get better overnight, but there have been some games when they were great. When the Wild played against the Buffalo Sabres last week, they were 100% on the penalty kill, not allowing anything on the Sabres’s four powerplays. They also were 40% on their own powerplay, scoring on two out of their five. Can whatever clicked for the special teams in Buffalo click again on this trip? Let’s hope.
- Superstars: Boldy and Kaprizov have to start scoring! Last year, they seemed to alternate when they were in a scoring drought. This year, they’ve both been in one all season. If they’re being paid the big bucks, they need to produce every game. And not just on the powerplay.
Wake Up With the Wild
Make sure to set those alarms because both of the Wild’s games in Sweden are early. On Saturday, they play the Senators at 10 am CT. On Sunday, they play the Maple Leafs at the early hour of 7 am CT. Both games are being broadcast on Bally Sports North.