It's no secret that the Wild have had difficult times finishing games. Just in the past week alone, the Wild have gotten off to good starts in three of its last five games, but have let the game get away from it. And when I say, "good starts," I mean a start in which they carry the play and own puck possession even if a goal isn't scored. To say that it's all an effort-level thing is a bit of a "lazy" (see what I did there?) narrative.
Don't tell a player that they're loafing around the ice. These guys are trying. Sometimes execution of passes, shots, and finishing checks can be lacking.
Here's are some shot attempt graphs from three games in the last week:
As you can see, the Wild control play, but in the second period the other team takes the game back. This is known on Twitter and in the Gamethreads as the Minnesota Wild turtle. And what's rough about this is that this graph is the perfect visualization of what us fans are seeing on the ice. But the reasoning for it can't always be effort.
If it is effort than the whole team should be blown up and rebuilt from scratch. What I tend to think it stems from is other teams adapting and adjusting in intermission. The Wild is no longer able to get away with the passing plays to exit the zone, or come through the neutral zone it got away with in the first. This is leading to fewer and fewer shots taken by Minnesota as the game progresses.
Minnesota ranks 13th in shot attempt percentage in the first period. With a 50.4 percent mark at 5v5 Close and a decent 53.9 CF60 mark, the Wild is getting its own in the first. But those numbers drop off quite drastically as games go on. Minnesota drops to 49.6 percent in shot attempts, and then to 44.7 percent in the third period. With a goal differential of just +4, the poor puck possession can't be attributed to score effects because the Wild aren't blowing anyone out.
The Wild allowed the Canucks, in a very winnable game, take that game over. The game against the Stars was a complete mess. To go into turtle-mode so early in the game against the best offense in the league, you just knew it was going to catch up with them. And finally against Toronto, while in winning fashion, the Wild allowed the game to hinge on a coach's challenge in its favor and a magnificent performance from the goaltender to win. The Maple Leafs lost 6-1 the night before and Minnesota shouldn't have allowed that game even be that close. However, when the team can't muster a shot on goal until the 9:16 mark of the period, its going to allow the opposition a chance to find its game.
All in all, if the Wild want to continue to have long- sustained success and not have another losing streak that incited the leadership of the team to outwardly show the negative tension to the media, then controlling the ebbs and flows in games is going to be important. Like HW's Jack van Thomme said in a recent article:
The best teams are those which play an evolving game, not just those who best weather the storm.
Stats Courtesy of War-On-Ice.com