Sunday, October 6, 2013

What Hath Wild Wrought: After one week...

After one week,of the regular season, we know this about the 2013-2014 Wild:

1. They start slow. The Wild definitely need to pick up the pace, before the opponent does. Both LA and Anaheim found that by getting the first goal (or, goals), they could put the Wild behind the proverbial '8-ball' for the rest of the evening. The first ten minutes of the game are as important as the last 10 minutes of the game. Wish some on the roster would remember this.

2. Haven't we seen this before? Two seasons ago, the Wild started the season with a great power play offense, scoring nearly at will when given the man advantage. Of course, the flip side of the coin that season turned out to be a dearth of goals on the power play later in that season. The Wild have scored power play goals in both games played so far (two vs. Anaheim, one vs. LA). They have shown they can score at 5-on-4; now, can they score more at even strength, 5-on-5?

3. OT/Shootout: new season, same old problems. As we have all witnessed the last three days, the same old bugaboos for the Wild that have plagued them since the departure of Jacques Lemaire have reared their ugly heads once again; namely, the inability of this team to figure out how to win in extra time. Thursday, the fact that the game went to a shootout played right into the hands of the LA Kings, as the entire NHL knows that Niklas Backstrom is the NHL's worst goalie in extra time. On Saturday night, the Ducks' Mathieu Perrault made Backstrom look like a midget goalie, floating a backhander thru Backstrom's five-hole as time ran out. Now, maybe that was a blessing in disguise, as now maybe Josh Harding will start in Nashville on Tuesday night, as the Wild play the new divisional rival Preds for the first time under the new divisional format. And speaking of which...

4. You really don't have time to straighten it out. Six of your next 11 games (including the next 3 in a row) are against divisional opponents. If the Wild continue to falter as they have, they definitely will be on the outside, looking in towards those teams they let slip away from them in October as the season progresses. You can work as hard as hell in practice, but it's in the games where you need to improve. You need to start winning. In regulation time.

Yes, I realize that this is a long season, and that it's only 2 games in. But, with the compressed schedule due to the Sochi Olympics, you really don't have the time to stop and rework what is, in order to reclaim points lost due to inattentiveness, and a goaltender who is a world-beater for 60 minutes, then becomes Egg Beaters for the extra 5. I know that this goes against the grain for goalies; 'You're shattering their confidence', and so on, but at some point, you have to try something different, if the rest of your team cannot get the job done in regulation time. The inattentiveness? You need Sigmund Freud himself to explain why the last 10 seconds of OT becomes a tropical vacation for some guys. And, as for the goaltending in OT/SO?

Put in the other guy when OT starts. For the good of all your goalies. Don't let the team waste 60 minutes (or somewhat less) of effort, by staying with a goalie that can't stop a beach ball in extra time.

Fix what you can. Now. Before the snowball starts downhill and you can't stop it. For another last week of the season looms larger every day as this season unfolds.

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