The Minnesota Wild may have gotten the loser point against Ottawa last night, but they squandered an opportunity to put more distance between them and Colorado for the second Wild Card spot in the West. And it wasn't just the last-second goal to force overtime that prevented them from getting the two points. It was the overtime period itself, which has been the bane of the Wild's existence all season.
The Wild have a dreadful 1-9 record in the extra period, with only Nashville having done worse. With the Wild in such a tight race with Colorado, these missed opportunities at points are crucial. Even having gone 4-6 in the extra frame would have put the Wild up 4 points on the Avs- a significant (if not comfortable) distance.
Given that this is the first season that the NHL has used the 3-on-3 overtime format, it's worth trying to figure out why the Wild have been struggling in the extra frame. Does it have to do with luck? Skill? Being ill-suited to the format? Are there any strengths the team can accentuate to get better?
To answer these questions, I decided to watch every minute of 3-on-3 overtime for the Wild this year, and tell you my findings.
Yes. Every minute. Every single minute of a format that the Wild have been overwhelmingly bad at. This wasn't easy to stomach. But here we go:
October 16th: Minnesota @ Los Angeles
The Result: Loss. Anze Kopitar got a hold of an errant pass that just missed Matt Dumba's stick and dished the puck to Tanner Pearson for the carry-in. Thomas Vanek failed to break up a pass between Pearson and Kopitar, which led to Kopitar getting the space to beat Dubnyk with 2:41 remaining.
What the Wild did well: Buzz. I'm sure most fans will remember Vanek's lackluster defense coming back, but Vanek had a good scoring chance earlier in that shift, and then created another Grade A chance for Dumba that should've ended the game. At least in the offensive zone, Vanek looked surprisingly at home in 3v3 OT.
What the Wild did poorly: Finish. I'm not going to rag on the Wild's (or Vanek's) defense here because 1) Kopitar's goal came on the end of a long shift, and 2) Dumba probably should've finished off that game once or twice before Kopitar could get a chance to counter-attack. The Wild deserved better here.
October 31st: Minnesota @ St. Louis
The Result: Loss. David Backes found Ty Rattie streaking out of the defensive zone. Upon gaining the Wild's zone, he trailed the puck back to the blueline to find a pinching Backes. With plenty of time and space, Backes was able to knock the puck off the crossbar and behind Dubnyk with 34 seconds remaining.
What the Wild did well: Get to the net (when they had the puck, anyway). Nino Niederreiter had a great shift where he stickhandled and muscled his way around the offensive zone to get a great scoring chance right in Jake Allen's grill.
Later, right before the GWG, Parise got in position to take a couple whacks at a loose puck by the net that could've ended the game.
What the Wild did poorly: Keep the puck. From the opening faceoff, the Blues dominated the extra frame. They had long stretches where they were able to move the puck at will in the Wild's zone, and the Wild only had one instance where they were able to get any sustained pressure.
November 12th: Minnesota @ Carolina
The Result: Win. After a big penalty kill, the trio of Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, and Ryan Suter took it to the Hurricanes, having good possession and chances before Zucker finally broke through with a deflection of a Ryan Suter shot.
What the Wild did well: Defend. Ryan Suter was beastly in the first minute of the game, tying up forwards and keeping play to the outside.
Even his hooking penalty on Jeff Skinner prevented Skinner from getting a clean shot in the crease. But it wasn't just The Ryan Suter Show, the Penalty Kill was as phenomenal as you can be at 3-on-4 (No, really!), blocking shots left and right and preventing good chances. With one exception, of course.
What the Wild did poorly: Contain a star. I know they defended well generally, but Skinner was the only Hurricane to give the Wild fits on that power play, getting open in scoring areas. Luckily for Dubnyk and the Wild, Skinner caught a severe case of Pommeritis.
November 14th: Minnesota @ Dallas
The Result: Loss. John Klingberg did John Klingberg things after a period that saw the Stars' Stars run roughshod over the Wild.
What the Wild did well: Um... Use their size? But just barely. The only OK stretch of play from the Wild came when Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, and Marco Scandella were on the ice, and they protected the puck well. But even then, it came without Klingberg, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin on the ice.
What the Wild did poorly: Hang on to the puck. There were turnovers from Zucker, Suter, Jason Pominville, and Jared Spurgeon, most of those resulting in chances the other way. Here's one such chance with Spurgeon.
November 28th: Minnesota vs. Dallas
The Result: Loss. Parise laid a hit on Seguin, which caused Benn to pick up a loose puck. From there he charged the net, and Darcy Kuemper played aggressively to his left, expecting a shot. The shot never came, and with Kuemper out of position, Benn wrapped around the net and found Seguin for the easy tap-in.
What the Wild did well: Hang on to the puck. Perhaps gunshy after the many turnovers that plagued them in the last Wild-Stars matchup, the Wild were very careful to keep the puck within their control.
What the Wild did poorly: Control the middle. The Wild were conservative to a fault, keeping play almost solely on the perimeter for the duration of the period. There was one point where Mikael Granlund had a clean look near the slot, but instead of shooting or fighting for a better position, he waited and spun back to the outside. It resulted in a lot of possession where the Wild were almost no threat to actually score.
Meanwhile, where did Seguin score his goal? Right between the faceoff dots.
We'll continue our breakdown of 3v3 overtime tomorrow.