With the first full week of March hockey now behind us, the best we Wild fans can hope for is to look back once April arrives and apply the completely foolproof adage of “in like a lamb, out like a lion” to how they’ve played the past month.
The Wild’s march through March is currently at two wins and four losses. The grind continues this week with four more road games against some very physical opponents. This Sunday, the road trip culminates against our division rival, the Winnipeg Jets, who treat us like they’re the tenderizer and we’re the veal chop. They’ve outhit us at a two-to-one rate the last two times we’ve played.
The Wild garnered only one victory last week, which was against the lowly Florida Panthers. This Panthers team is one of the lowest scoring in the league and the Wild still allowed four goals. Luckily, the Wild’s offense was characteristically well-balanced in that game. Seven players had multiple points and that made up for the discombobulation in goal and on the defensive side of the puck. They avoided a three-game losing streak, which would have only been their second this season. That is impressive. In the NHL, teams that avoid the big losing streak make the playoffs.
Unfortunately, we’re not going to be satisfied with “just” a playoff berth this season. The window to win a cup is open now. We’re supposed to be basking in the sun, but last week we had 50 mph winds, thunder and lightning and a winter storm that dropped several inches of snow on us.
The three losses last week were against only one playoff team: that being the aforementioned Chicago Blackhawks, who are no longer the car tailgating us, but the NASCAR equivalent of bump drafting, pretty much affixed to our back bumper. Yes, that was a NASCAR reference. You’re welcome. #DaleButNotForgotten.
Anywell. This stretch of losing demonstrates a recurring theme that’s not unique to the Wild. How important is the first goal of a game? Teams that score first:
• Are 6-0 in Wild games played this March
• Won an average of 69 percent of their games last season (hockeycentral.co.uk)
Look no further than the Blackhawks’ first five minutes last Sunday. They scored on their first two shots of the game. The Wild were the superior team for the final 55 minutes. No matter. The better team doesn’t always win.
If one were to bottle up Corey Crawford’s goalie pad sweat though, I bet there’d be a bidding war amongst nations who need anti-missile defense systems upgrades. Regardless of one’s preferred hockey scent, Bruce Boudreau’s coaching strategy should be pretty simple going forward, “OK boys, listen up. Go score first.”