TORONTO – The Minnesota Wild’s mid-season spiral continues.
Minnesota’s latest setback was a 4-1 loss in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night, a lacklustre defeat that capped a four-game road trip in which the Wild went 0-3-1 and scored just six goals.
Minnesota’s won just twice in its past 17 outings, going 2-11-4 and dropping it to ninth place and out of the playoff picture in the West.
“We need to snap out of it,” said veteran Wild defenceman Nick Schultz, who was clearly frustrated in the dressing room after the game. “We can’t wait for someone else to come in and save the day. Right now it’s not good enough.”
Part of Schultz’s and the team’s frustration might be due to the fact that Minnesota was good enough—and then some—in the opening two months of the season.
The Wild, who haven’t qualified for the post-season since 2008, was one of the NHL’s biggest surprises in winning 20 of its first 30 games (20-7-3) and sitting atop the highly competitive Western Conference.
Then the bottom fell out.
“The only ones who are going to (turn things around) are ourselves,” said Minnesota coach Mike Yeo, “and we do that by the way we go out and play. The things we’re doing right now are not helping us get confidence.
“The biggest thing we need right now is all of us—myself, the rest of the staff, the players—need to take a really good hard look at ourselves and figure out what we can do better and what more we can bring to the table.”
More goals would certainly help.
The Wild are last in the league in offence and have scored just 28 times during their 17-game free fall. In that span they have managed three or more goals just three times, and one or fewer goals 10 times. A big part of the problem is the fact that Minnesota has been hit hard by injuries with captain and top-line centre Mikko Koivu (shoulder), play-making centre Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and power forward Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) all on the sidelines.
“It’s where we’re at,” said centre Warren Peters, a 29-year-old undrafted journeyman who has been pressed into centring the top line between wingers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. “There’s only one way out.”
The good news is the Wild’s great start to the season has allowed the team to hang around the playoff race despite the prolonged slump.
The goaltending, led as always by Niklas Backstrom and backup Josh Harding, remains a strength.
If Minnesota can get back on track—the Wild hosts the Dallas Stars on Saturday and visits the Colorado Avalanche next Tuesday ahead of the all-star break—they’ll be in the thick of things once again.
In the meantime, Yeo said he’d search high and low for answers.
“I’m going to spend a lot of time thinking about it tonight and be ready to come to the rink tomorrow and start putting them into action,” said the coach. “We haven’t (tried) everything. There’s still more, I know, and we’ll be ready to do it tomorrow.”