The Minnesota Wild have held a reputation, for almost decades now, of being a very good defensive team that depends on their players to be responsible in their own end and will give more opportunity to a strong defensive player than anyone that only pays attention to scoring.
That is why we are just baffled as to why this team is suddenly just a completely disaster when it comes to trying to not let the other team score goals. After their overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon, they have given up a league-leading 19 goals after just five hockey games. A team like the Arizona Coyotes — who are trying to be bad on purpose — have allowed 13 in the four games they have played.
There is something wrong and we cannot put our finger on it. It is broken. Purely broken.
And we can sometimes blame individuals or combinations of players for their poor defensive performance...so that is exactly what we are going to do after watching this team stub their own toe over and over again in their own zone in Boston.
While three of the four forward lines played decently well — either staying even or getting the advantage in terms of shot attempts and all those underlying numbers — one specific one shit the bed so damn bad that they are forcing us to write an entire blog about it.
the Jost-Eriksson Ek-Foligno line got CRATERED this afternoon.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 22, 2022
in 6:24 TOI at 5-on-5:
15 shot attempts allowed
10 shots on goal allowed
2 goals allowed
1.08 expected goals allowed
13 scoring chances allowed
4 high-danger shot attempts allowed
For some reason, in Boston, the combination of Tyson Jost, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Marcus Foligno, produced some ungodly amount of offense for the Bruins, when they were on the ice. In just 6:24 TOI — not that much time! — they peppered shots, got over a dozen scoring chances, registered some insane number of expected goals, and actually scored two.
While this might just be normal for some other random line, and not worth pointing out after a tough loss in a bad start to the season, this is just so uncharacteristic of two of these players.
Eriksson Ek and Foligno were two of the very best defensive forwards in the entire NHL last season. They were both in the top-10 of Selke Trophy voting, and posted some outrageous numbers when Jordan Greenway was with them. And maybe that’s the key piece that’s missing.
Greenway returned from injury on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, but left in the middle of it after suffering a totally different injury from that which he just recovered from. He is now on the Wild’s injured reserve list and how long he will be out is still unknown. Just to pile on the bad news after saying how terrible the line played with Greenway’s replacement.
What’s the answer here? Honestly, we don’t know. Eriksson Ek and Foligno should be joined at the hip forever, so that means Jost should be playing somewhere else. In his place, there are multiple options that head coach Dean Evason could pursue. Brandon Duhaime is probably the most hard-nosed player outside of Foligno on the Wild’s roster, so he could replace Greenway’s size and physicality. Connor Dewar and Mason Shaw are two smaller-but-gritty forwards that can do half of what Greenway does. Or maybe it’s someone unexpected like Matt Boldy that goes up there to try and spark the two-way play and keep the offensive side of the game charged for that line.
Whatever the choice is, we all know that that line should not play together. Sometimes it just doesn’t work and it hasn’t worked so far, highlighted by the worst scenario in Boston.