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Despite the Slump, the Wild are Fine

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild have lost three straight, leaving fans and the team looking for answers. How could a team that was so dominant on the road over a seven-game stretch lose to the Coyotes?

Not to worry, Wild faithful. While it’s not great to lose three straight, the Wild are not in trouble... yet.

Through the three losses against the Coyotes, Blue Jackets, and Maple Leafs, the Wild played well. They controlled the majority of the shots against the Coyotes and Maple Leafs, and were only two shots under .500 against the Jackets. Yes, there are some score effects in there (winning teams tend to invite more shots than teams that are tied or losing) but it is encouraging nonetheless. Against the Leafs, special teams were the difference maker, as the teams were tied at 5 on 5.

Scoring Chances were even more lopsided. On average, the Wild controlled nearly 60% of the scoring chances across the 3 games, never falling below 50%. In other words, the Wild were controlling play and getting shots in all three games, and shot just over 8% in all three games; the Wild have not hit a scoring slump.

In short, the Wild goaltenders simply gave away the games. Against the Coyotes, the Wild saved only 63% of the shots taken on net at 5v5. That isn’t good enough. Matters improved only marginally against the Leafs and Jackets, where the Wild saved 83 and 88% of the shots taken at 5v5 respectively. Not good enough again.

There should be a caveat against the Leafs, where a weird goal for Tyler Ennis deflected off a Wild defender. Still, not good enough.

The good news is the Wild net minders have been fairly good this season, and a three-game fluke shouldn’t continue barring some underlying reason we don’t know about (an injury, for instance).

The other reason is also simple, but perhaps more concerning.

Throughout the season thus far, the Wild have been very good at shutting down teams in front of the net, forcing shots to the outside and away from the crease.

This is a normal-looking shot chart for the Wild, defensively speaking. While the Leafs did get some attempts from the front of the net, there were not more than from the point, the high slot, etc. Against the Leafs, the Wild simply had some bad luck and some bad goaltending.

Here are the same charts against the Coyotes and the Blue Jackets.

The big red area in front of the net for the Blue Jackets and the blue area for the Coyotes at the goalmouth is concerning. The Wild have been very good about keeping the crease clear. If that goes away, the Wild will struggle. Perhaps not as much as they did against these three opponents, but certainly not up to the level of seven game away trip.

Two games does not a trend make, but it could be a sign that teams are figuring out the Wild’s defense, or that the Wild’s defense is getting tired from having such demand placed on them.