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Our Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Tuesday (Wild), every other Thursday (Twins), and Friday (Timberwolves). Content of off-season teams released as news breaks.
In this edition: three bad losses, a decent win, playoff talk, and ranking what the current roster is best and worst at. Wild analyst Peter Ripka, along with new contributor Jeff Hartfiel, answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
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Since we last left our heroes, the Wild have gone an abysmal 1-3, losing to the Oilers (4-1), Islanders (2-1), and Flyers (5-4).
Which game did they show the most effort during?
Peter: Is none of them an option? All three were pitiful efforts by almost the whole line up. If you were to put a gun to my head and make me choose, I'd go with the loss to Islanders. They came out slow and sluggish to start the game, but they did regain their composure and made it competitive. The Islanders are among the top teams in the East, so that might have had to do with the effort they showed late in the game.
Jeff: Of the losses, the Islanders game was their best showing. It still wasn't good, though: their six penalties show how undisciplined they were.
They still held one the hottest teams in NHL to two goals and were in the game until it was over. Aside from the penalties, all three parts of the team played well, they just happened to run into a hot goaltender. They won the majority face-offs, which is a good way for puck control and to get offense rolling. They just couldn't find the back of the net to pull out the win.
Rank these from best to worst for the Wild right now: offense, defense, and goaltending.
3. Offense. Even though they haven't been scoring they have still been creating plenty of opportunities…for the most part.
2. Goaltending. It hasn't been Dubnyk's fault they have lost, but he has given up some questionable goals, including some that are badly timed.
1. Defense. The worst by any measure. They've been as leaky as the Vikings offensive line was this past season. Suter looks like he is back to being slow and lazy like he was at the beginning of the season, and Brodin is very lack luster. His play has taken a significant hit since being moved to his off side. He's even having bad line changes.
Jeff: Honestly, all three phases of the game are to blame for their current struggles. What the Wild need is a leader on the ice and in locker room. They need someone to step up and take charge.
Would I be going out on a limb to say that the Flyers game was the most disappointing? If not, which was?
Peter: The Flyers game wasn't the most disappointing. The team did play slow and lazy at times, but if the Flyers had gotten any kind of goaltending early in the year they would be among the top teams in the east. The most disappointing was the effort put forth during the Oilers game on home ice. The Oilers were reeling, and that team has looked disjointed all season long.
Jeff: The argument could be made that the Oilers loss was worse. They have had inconsistency in net, which is something the Wild should have take advantage of. But they also have one of the best, if not the best, player in hockey in Connor McDavid.
The Flyers game has to be the worse loss of the three though. The Wild came out firing on all cylinders to take a 3-1 lead. Yeah, they lost two forwards in the game, but that's no excuse to lose a 3-1 lead. If you know you are down two forwards you need to step up even more, not sit back and think you have the game in hand.
The Wild did squeak out a win in this stretch, and a rather impressive one, against New Jersey (4-2). What went right in that game? Why doesn't it translate to other games?
Peter: They didn't play down to the level of their competition. They played a good, solid team game, in addition to getting some scoring from their depth players. It doesn't translate because sometimes they just go through the motions against lesser teams thinking that they'll have the win handed to them.
Jeff: The Devils game is exactly what you want to see out of the Wild consistenly. Every one came to play offensively, defensively, and behind the net. They took the lead, held it, and played a full 60 minutes. That is what the Wild need to bring to every game to start streaking in the right direction. They need consistency and execution: get a lead, step on their throats, and don't relinquish it.
Despite the skid, the Wild are still in the playoff hunt. What percentage chance do you think they make the playoffs?
Peter: Despite what the head coach said today guaranteeing a playoff berth, I haven't seen anything that would suggest they could make the playoffs. However, the teams around them in the standings haven't shown the ability to do that either. I would put their playoff probability around 60%. The next week and change will tell us a lot about this team starting Friday night against the Devils.
Jeff: This has been one of the most frustrating season's I've seen from the Wild in awhile. The lack of consistency and execution is astounding. You can usually at least rely on the Wild to at least win home games, but even that isn't happening. They love to say "This Is Our Ice," but with the way they are playing, it's everyone's ice.
I've been a Wild fan since their inception, and this season has been one of my least favorites by far. I don't know what to believe at times. But I do still believe in them, even when they make it hard to.
That said, I'm giving the Wild a 52% chance of making the playoffs as of right now. This could change depending upon how they play; I'm hoping that percentage goes up. But if the current play of the team is any indication, it might make it's way down.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.
Jeff Hartfiel is a Minnesota sports analyst specializing in the Wild and Vikings. He's been a part of Rambling On since 2018.