There was a distinct theme with Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason’s media availability after practice on Monday: Pissed off. The team that was set to be the next projected dark horse Stanley Cup contender is suddenly in the middle of a slide against some of the other-best teams in the NHL. Three consecutive losses now, the most recent being a hurtful embarrassment against the Calgary Flames.
“We were embarrassed,” Evason said. “It’s the first time this year that we did not compete in a hockey game. … That’s not who we are, so the group knows that. We all know that. We got outcompeted in all areas, and not just players. We all did. We shouldn’t be a very happy hockey club, and we weren’t in practice today.”
Earlier in the season, it was easy to blame some brutal losses to key absences. Whether it was Jonas Brodin or Jared Spurgeon missing from the blue line, or someone like Mats Zuccarello or Jordan Greenway adding their different dynamics to the forward lines; there was just always something to talk about. And of course Matt Dumba is currently out with an injury, so we can always blame that if we want to, but there was just something completely different with the Wild visibly in Saturday’s loss.
Well, luckily for them, they get the chance to right their wrong and patch up those missteps, as they are hosting the same Flames team for a rematch on Tuesday. And it comes at a pivotal time in their season.
We are less than three weeks away from the trade deadline, and while GM Bill Guerin has previously mentioned that he doesn’t envision any big splash and only wanting to make a move it will directly improve the hockey club without sacrificing any substantial future pieces, the next stretch of games might just tell us what we should be expecting from the Wild’s next couple of months. If they go on a tear, torching the ultra-defensive Flames and taking advantage of some lesser teams like they have been, then maybe that trade to get immediately better becomes a little bit easier to pull. If they go the opposite way, and potentially lose their playoff home advantage in the standings, then it will certainly be a quiet March 21.
One thing that can make us all feel much better, is if they come out of the gate roaring on Tuesday and demonstrate some key physicality against the frustrating Flames. That was something certainly missing on Saturday and if they cannot pull that off in front of their own fans, against a team that certainly has enough instigators themselves, then what are we even doing here?
Evason certainly wants to see it from everyone.
“I don’t care if you’re a top scorer or you’re the middle scorer or you’re not a scorer, everybody’s supposed to do the same things,” he said. “There is a team concept. And our team concept and our identity is to be hard to play against. We’re physical. We grind. We play hard first, we play gritty first, and then we let our skill translate after that. And that has not been the case.”
Hopefully that physicality can be evident and provide some of that signature Wild pressure we have come to know and love.
Cam Talbot is getting the start tonight and Jacob Markstrom is projected to be the opposing netminder.
Can the Wild out-chance the Flames?
Calgary had a steep advantage in essentially every offensive category on Saturday. Will the Wild get a sniff and potentially see their offense grow comparatively?
Will the top-line players be back and productive?
Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello were almost invisible through massive stretches on Saturday. It is a worrying sign for a team that certainly relies on them to carry a substantial amount of the offensive load. Hopefully that changes tonight.