ST. PAUL -- Maybe the scariest part about this version of the Minnesota Wild — at least from the rest of the league’s perspective — is that they are far from a finished product.
Not only have the Wild consistently fallen behind in games this season, they have struggled mightily on the power play. As of Monday, the Wild were tied for No. 18 in the league in that realm with a 18.2% success rate.
Yet somehow the Wild currently sit atop the Central Division with 20 points and a 10-4-0 record. They host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center with hopes of continuing their recent success.
Though coach Dean Evason certainly won’t argue with the results so far, he knows the Wild have room for improvement across the board. Maybe most pressing is they need their power play to come through when given a chance to change the game.
A perfect example came over the weekend as the Wild went 0-for-6 on the power play in a frustrating 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Had they converted even once with the man advantage, it would’ve been a completely different ballgame.
What needs to change in order for the Wild to have success on the power play moving forward?
“Score,” Evason said with a smile. “That’s it. We’ve liked our structure. We’ve done a lot of good things. We just haven’t scored.”
It’s not a coincidence that the Wild worked on the power play for roughly 20 minutes Monday during an intense practice at Xcel Energy Center. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if they are getting good looks in games if they aren’t cashing in.
Whether it’s from the No. 1 unit of Joel Eriksson Ek, Mats Zuccarello, Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Jared Spurgeon, or the No. 2 unit of Freddy Gaudreau, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba, the Wild need more.
“We just have to stick with what’s working,” Spurgeon said. “Sometimes we try to make plays through some people when it’s just being simple that works. Just getting shots and moving the puck quick around the pressure.”
Asked about the struggles on the power play, Eriksson Ek echoed a similar notion. He noted how the Wild have been looking for the flashy play a little too much when the simple play is often the better option.
“It’s about shooting the puck and getting their penalty kill scrambling a little bit,” Eriksson Ek said. “Just shoot the puck and take it back and try to put it in the back of the net. We try to improve every day. We work a lot on it and try to get a feel for each other out there. Just shooting the puck is what we’re going to need to score.”
There’s reason to believe the tide will turn for the Wild at some point. Just look at the amount of skill on the No. 1 unit in particular.
“It’s a process,” Evason said. “We need to capitalize on some opportunities. The guys that are on the power play are there for a reason. They need to score.”