Last night Minnesota beat Nashville 2-0, in a game which was closer than the score suggests- thanks to a Jason Pominville empty net goal, which capped off a sequence started by a scrum around the net that was thwarted by a Jared Spurgeon goal line save. The gnashing of teeth continues as The Wild outshot The Preds 29-16 (70-46 in shot attempts; Minnesota had 41 shots get blocked or missed the net!) and yet only one goal came of it.
The Other day I read a tremendous post by Nick Henry over at Hitting The Post, which details that in the three years of Mike Yeo's tenure that the team has started off roughly the same way after nine games. It was so simple; but the stark difference between this year's team and the two previous is how they are manhandling other teams in the puck possession game. The Preds were limited to just 16 shots on goal in a terrific collaborative effort that made Josh Harding refuse to take the credit for the shutout. This has been the case so far; Minnesota simply has the puck more than the other team.
Is it all kittens and rainbows? Of course not; when the puck isn't finding the twine, you end up on the wrong side of one goal games. However, playing tight games isn't the worse thing in the world right now considering the scoring woes- the emphasis on playing an airtight and clean defensive game to keep the other team off of the scoresheet will pay dividends down the road when the season starts to get down to nut cuttin' time, and points are at a premium (moreso than they are now.) The fear is that this high effort/low result drought is going to create havoc on the possession mentality Minnesota has going on right now; the juggling of lines, gripping of sticks, and the desire to pass up shots for cute passes are by-products of the increasing pressure to score.The last thing this team needs to do is get away from what it has done beautifully in every game it has played this season.
The Wild went into the same kind of slump last season until a puck hit Torrey Mitchell's skate and went in late in a game in Detroit. It wasn't a precise odd man rush, it wasn't a breakaway, it wasn't a dangle that broke the goalie down; it was a fluke goal, one that got Minnesota the win and kicked off a great stretch where the team pumped in goals left and right for the next 6 weeks.
It's going to be something janky like that- a puck going off someone's ass, or skate, or whatever to get the levee to break. This team is simply shooting the puck too much to only score one goal a game for the rest of the season.
The message in the locker room should be simple- get the puck from the other team and...