Beating the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night would have been huge for a Minnesota Wild team desperately trying to crawl its way back into the playoff race. Unfortunately, despite a gutsy performance on home ice, Minnesota just couldn’t get the job done against perhaps the best team in the Western Conference.
The Wild are four points out of a playoff spot with 27 games remaining in the regular season, so they are still very much in the hunt. But beating Colorado wouldn’t have been just a solid victory on home ice.
It would have been a statement.
Not only would it have served as proof that the Wild can hang in there with one of the NHL’s elite teams, but it also would have given general manager Bill Guerin a better understanding of what to do (or not do) at the February 24 trade deadline. Now, we’re right back to the drawing board. Is this Wild team worthy of a playoff appearance? Or are wholesale changes necessary?
That’s still unclear. But if one thing’s for certain, it’s that the Wild almost certainly will not be trading Kevin Fiala anytime soon.
In what has recently become routine, Fiala once again wowed the crowd at Xcel Energy Center with a dazzling power-play goal that cut the Colorado lead in half in the second period. After putting a nice move on Matt Nieto along the half boards, Fiala weaved his way to the high slot and released a quick wrister past Pavel Francouz. Another exciting play from perhaps the most dynamic player on Minnesota’s roster.
This is just disgusting. What a player Kevin Fiala is becoming. pic.twitter.com/XpjxxyJK6I— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 10, 2020
Unfortunately, the goal from Fiala, along with a power-play strike from Jared Spurgeon earlier in the second period, wasn’t enough to get Minnesota in position to earn a valuable pair of points. Why?
Once again, the finger can be pointed toward goaltending.
After arguably his best performance of the season against the Dallas Stars on Friday, goaltender Devan Dubnyk got the starting nod again Sunday, but failed to play at the level displayed in Minnesota’s quick stop to Texas. Early in the second period, Dubnyk allowed an ugly shorthanded goal to Colorado forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Dubnyk got a chunk of it, but not enough. pic.twitter.com/vLfxzO9EuV— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 10, 2020
Not long after allowing the shorthanded goal, Dubnyk allowed a goal off a turnover in the defensive zone that also would have probably been a save on most nights. Gabriel Landeskog flubbed a shot on net that Dubnyk lost track of, resulting in Colorado’s third goal of the game (that was the game-winner).
Overall, it was just a rough night. The Wild lost 3-2 in what felt like a playoff game, and that hurts as the team frantically tries to get itself together in the homestretch.
The Wild will be back in action Tuesday against the Vegas Golden Knights at home.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Can Dubnyk replicate his performance from Thursday night?
No. Devan Dubnyk didn’t have a very good performance. In fact, he was one of the primary reasons for Minnesota losing the game. He did make a couple of big stops every now and then, but the goals he allowed, 99 percent of the time, would be saved. The struggles continue for Dubnyk.
2. How will Soucy look in his return?
Carson Soucy didn’t make too much of an impact, positive or negative. He only missed a couple games last week, but returning to full strength after an illness can be tricky. For the most part, Soucy looked like his normal self.
3. Will the penalty kill stand a chance?
The PK did a good job killing off a pair of Colorado penalties, but did allow a Nathan MacKinnon power-play goal in the second period. It was to be expected. The Avalanche have so many weapons on the top unit, so it was almost a given that they’d find the back of the net against the worst penalty kill in the NHL.