After the Game 6 loss to the St. Louis Blues, that knocked his team out of the playoffs and ends their historic 2021-22 campaign, Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason had a lot to think about. Among those topics, was the atrocious play of the special teams and the innate ability to not score on the power play.
“They have to be better — simple as that. I’d love to tell you why and all that,” Evason said after Thursday’s 5-1 loss. “They’re going to get better. They have to get better. They literally sucked all year. I mean, we had stretches, you can’t just not score. We, obviously, just got beat by a team where their special teams were way, way better than ours. They sucked — we have to get better from Day One next year.”
Through the six games of the series, the Wild had a total of 41 minutes and 34 seconds at 5-on-4, that is roughly three more minutes than their opponent had, but they scored half of the goals — netting four powerplay goals compared to the Blues’ eight. They also managed to have a lower number in essentially every offensive category; less shots on goal, less shot attempts, less expected goals, less high-danger scoring chances. It is just not a good look.
And on top of the disappointment and dismay about the powerplay and the lack of scoring some damn goals, Evason sprinkled a little bit of hope for next season. By him saying that it has to be better, are we going to be seeing changes behind the bench? I mean, that would be one way trying to address it and the most obvious way without changing up their player personnel too much.
It was clearly an issue from the start of the season, but it got slightly better as time went on. Joel Eriksson Ek was back on the top unit (deservingly) and they kept reverting to an fairly standard overload structure, when they found success using the space behind the goal line. I am by no means a tactics expert, but it would be kind of smart to at least try something different.
And speaking of something different, the roster might be completely changed by the time we see this powerplay again. Kevin Fiala is hanging by a thread in Minnesota after a disappointing series and upcoming restricted free agency status that will probably force him to spend his final year before unrestricted free agency playing somewhere else. And then you have Marco Rossi coming in with more prospects to try and fit their way into a full-time NHL role. There will be some changeover, whether it is just with the players, the coaches, or both.
We’ll see where this goes, I guess. Less than 12 hours after getting knocked out of the playoffs and we’re already rosterbating. It’s the off-season now.