After playing one of its worst games of the year Friday in Florida—and there have been some bad games this season—the Wild didn’t quite have the response that we would have hoped to see in opening this crucial five-game homestand. It wasn’t a terrible effort against the San Jose Sharks (a quick search at evolving-hockey.com argues that Minnesota actually had the better of the play in terms of basic possession metrics and expected goals overall), but the Sharks got more pucks through than the Wild did, and Martin Jones continued his confusing… but also not remotely confusing… dominance of the Green ‘n’ Wheats.
Fortunately, Arizona got spanked Monday by Chicago (though the Blackhawks are still in striking distance and have won three in a row, so keep your eye on those jerks), meaning Minnesota remains in the final playoff spot for now. There’s a high likelihood, though, that when the Wild resume play on Thursday, they will no longer be inside the playoff bubble.
Here’s what we learned from Minnesota’s damaging 3-0 loss on Monday.
Thing 1: Martin Jones Owns the Wild
As a goalie, I can tell you firsthand that there are some teams against whom you go in feeling confident, and then there are teams that rattle you. The Wild apparently do not rattle Martin Jones. In three games between these two teams this season, Jones went 3-0-0 with two shutouts, a save percentage of .961, and a 1.00 goals against average to help San Jose sweep the season series. This comes from a guy who—by all accounts and in pretty much all statistical categories—is not having a very good season, and on the larger sample size actually entered Monday’s game with a save percentage below .900.
There are buildings and there are teams that goalies just know they’re going to beat, and this season, Minnesota has been one of those teams.
What does that say about the Wild? Well, form your own conclusions, Wilderness.
Thing 2: You Can’t Challenge Offsides After a Penalty Shot Goal
Ok, so this one was pretty weird.
With the Wild already trailing 2-0 with ten minutes left in the third, Logan Couture caught an outlet pass while facing backward at the Wild blueline. He was in behind Minnesota’s defense, so Anthony Bitetto chased and did what pretty much any beaten defenseman would do in the situation, snaring Couture with a pretty obvious hook on the hands. The official correctly awarded a penalty shot to Couture, who scored between Devan Dubnyk’s wickets to put the game out of reach.
Bruce Boudreau tried to challenge that the play that led to the penalty shot was offside. He was absolutely right—Couture was well offside—and you could even notice it with the naked eye before slowing it down on replay. Couture had entered the zone with the puck behind him, and he didn’t yet have full control.
The refs gathered around the penalty box, talked on the phone to Toronto for… a while… and ultimately ruled that the play could not be reviewed, because Couture would have had to score on the initial play for it to be reviewable. The referees and Toronto were... I guess... correct on this, but it’s pretty ironic that if Bitetto and Dubnyk had just let Couture score the first time, Minnesota would have won the offside challenge. Oh, and it’s a pretty horses**t missed offside call, but that’s neither here nor there.
Bruce wasn’t thrilled with the ruling. Look at the fear on the fan’s face behind him.
Thing 3: The Wild Stink at Home This Year
Minnesota is now 14-14-6 at Xcel Energy Center, a building that has traditionally afforded this franchise one of the better home-ice advantages in hockey. All good things must end, I guess, but it really is curious to see a Wild team be better on the road (19-15-2) than in its own friendly confines.
Lest you forget, Minnesota was 27-6-8 at the X last season, and 18-20-3 away, taking 75.6% of possible standings points on #OurIce versus 47.6% on the road. This year, the team has only managed a measly 50% at home, while improving to 56% away.
It’s all very confusing. I blame the fans.