After an awful performance in their home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Minnesota Wild embarked on their second three-game road trip of the young season. Their first contest of the expedition took place in Canadian Tire Centre against the Ottawa Senators, which resulted in Minnesota’s first victory of the 2019-20 season. Hooray! Unfortunately, the Wild were tasked with facing a rested Toronto Maple Leafs team less than 24 hours later and, to the surprise of basically no one, Toronto beat Minnesota handily 4-2.
The Wild now cap off their road trip against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. The Habs are 2-2-2 through six contests, coming off a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning (in which Montreal failed to sell out its own arena for the first time since 2004). Still, Montreal will serve as a tough test for the Wild. Despite their “just okay” record, the Canadiens have been competitive in each of their first six games, and star forwards Max Domi, Brendan Gallagher, Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar have all been hot to start the season.
1. Can the Wild score more than twice?
The Wild have mightily struggled to score through the early portion of the season. Through six games, Minnesota is averaging just 2.33 goals per game, which is pretty horrific. In fact, the Wild have scored exactly two goals in five of their first six contests.
It’s never a good thing when Brad Hunt (!) is tied for the team lead in scoring. Ten of the 21 skaters who have appeared in at least one game thus far either remain without a point entirely or have just one point to their credit. Those players include Ryan Donato, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek and Ryan Hartman, among others.
Perhaps this will finally be the night Minnesota gets the scoring going. Unfortunately, Carey Price will likely be in net for the Canadiens, which certainly won’t make things easy for the Wild.
2. Goalie controversy?
After giving up four goals against the Maple Leafs, goalie Devan Dubnyk is getting the night off, per Michael Russo of The Athletic. Taking his place as Minnesota’s backstop will be Alex Stalock, who, in his only appearance of the regular season, recorded a shutout against the Senators. Granted, it’s the Senators, but still.
Even aside from Dubnyk’s poor performance against the Maple Leafs, he’s been lackluster. In five starts, the 33-year-old has a .867 save percentage and averages 4.44 goals against. He still has yet to record his first win of the season.
The Wild have been bad in just about every describable way in the season’s early going, so Dubnyk’s job hasn’t exactly been easy. Still, he certainly hasn’t been good. Maybe watching Stalock from afar will be enough to get him back on track — or this will just be the beginning of a goalie carousel.
3. Will the power play produce?
Minnesota desperately needs to get its power play going. Since their October 10 contest against the Winnipeg Jets, the Wild have gone 1-for-13 on the man advantage. Overall, they’re 3-for-20 while up a skater and have the 23rd-ranked power play in the NHL.
Luckily for the Wild, the Canadiens have the 29th-ranked penalty kill in the NHL. Through six games, the Habs have allowed seven goals while shorthanded — good for a terrible 61.1 PK%. Only one other team (the New Jersey Devils) has allowed more power-play goals than Montreal’s seven. If the Wild can find a way to beat Price on the man advantage, they could have a very real shot at returning to Minnesota with a new pair of points.