The Minnesota Wild were setting records last season. As in, a historically terrible ability to convert on the powerplay that eventually caused them to lose games they should have won and tumble down the standings and fail to move on to the second round of the postseason. It’s really not too far of a stretch to point at their powerplay for the major reason why they weren’t a better team.
Anyway, moving on.
This season, Wild head coach Dean Evason wants to really avoid any stretch of the season where the main chances to get their goals from, ends up being fruitless. It’s so clear that he began working on the formation and tactics almost immediately at the team’s training camp and is having a full day of focusing just on the power play with his regular players.
“It was great for stretches,” Evason said on Friday. “But yeah, a real sour point for sure. You’ve seen already, Day 1 we started working on our structure, getting it in our heads, and you know, not everybody is going to be here, with everybody that’s going to get called-up, blah, blah, blah, everybody is going to know what we’re doing.
“There’s no question that it was an area of concern last year. We don’t want it to be this year.”
As Evason mentions, the inclusion of some high-end offensive prospects like Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy, and Calen Addison can help down the road. But until they are officially in the NHL lineup, the power play will have the familiar same faces as last year.
#mnwild PP units in today’s practice— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) September 25, 2021
Brodin is being worked in for Goligoski at times on unit 2
With the small inclusion of Frederick Gaudreau and Alex Goligoski on the second unit, this should be the same personnel compared to potential units last season, but there will be some movement around the ice compared to where players were before.
“We’ve got some new pieces to work with this year, some different people,” Evason said. “As we’ve talked about on our 5-on-5, we’re going to throw some different people in different spots. Not maybe, but we will move Kirill over to the wall, just to see him there. He’s so good in the middle, but we might be able to get some more out of him scoring wise on the flank. We’ve got some right-shots now too that we can put in the middle. We’ve got a bunch of thought processes and we’ll work through them here at training camp.”
The biggest thing, in my opinion, is that they will finally try Kaprizov in a different spot on the power play. Even if he was essentially the most consistent contributor in that area of the game through the entire Wild season, he will have much more space to create scoring chance on the flanks of the offensive zone compared to trying to set up in a bumper role in the clogged middle section of the ice.
Eight of Kaprizov’s 27 goals last season came on the man advantage and the majority of those goals or even the shot attempts, came from right in front of the goalie with little distraction for the opposing netminder — essentially a drawing of the ice surface’s spine. Moving him over to the side can certainly have him see his teammates more clearly and distribute the puck in his usual exceptional fashion. We’ll honestly just have to see if it works, but if the early signs are a game-breaking top power play unit because Kirill can do whatever he wants with the extra inches of space, then the Wild will be more successful than the general consensus is currently.
Even if some where clamoring for any change on the power play during the shortened campaign earlier this year, it’s generally good to see Evason talk in such depth about how he’s trying to really target one of the biggest problems the Wild had throughout every single damn game.
Perhaps it will just nudge them to a couple wins — and of course those units would look better with a couple rookies on them.