Minnesota Wild

You Never Get a Second Chance at a First Impression: The Minnesota Wild

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 29:  James Sheppard #51 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Philadelphia Flyers in preseason action at the Wachovia Center on September 29, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Blake BenzelCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2009

The night is young and you’re so beautiful.

 

A classic line from a song in the Mel Brooks movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights; a song that could easily be used to describe the first impressions of any number of NHL teams.

 

Unfortunately for Wild fans, the Minnesota Wild is not among these teams.

 

To say that the team has had a rocky start would be a fair statement.  They have struggled mightily in their first two games, but have also shown flashes of the team that they are capable of being.

 

That said, here is a quick rundown of the outlook for the team heading into their five-game road trip.

 

First of all, on a whole, the team needs to make better decisions with the puck.  Their decision making has been shaky, at best, and has caused the team quite a few headaches.  Drop passes at the blueline, no-look passes into traffic, all of this adds up to the fact that the team needs to stop trying for the fancy play and just make the right one.

 

The team is trying to push “the system” too much, as well.  Instead of playing hockey and trusting their instincts, they have tried to lock down into Head Coach Todd Richards’ system too much.  The team has been pounded with this system over the past month and it seems to be weighing heavily on them and affecting their mentality when the hit the ice.

 

The team’s new look defense has left Wild fans wanting as well.  Minnesota fans are used to a defensive unit capable of locking down the game and grinding out a victory and, while I think this unit has that potential, they haven’t gotten there yet.  Just as with the forwards, it will take time for this unit to gel but, just as with the forwards, they need to fall back on sound decision making, otherwise it will be a long season for the team.

 

Unfortunately, not too much good has stuck out about the team.

 

Niklas Backstrom continues to turn in solid performances in net – despite his 16-save performance on Tuesday and he is going to be key to the team’s success this season, much as in past seasons.

 

James Sheppard also looks to be growing and looks to be meshing with Richards’ system quite well.  He has been strong on the forecheck and has shown phenomenal strength on the puck and I think it’s only a matter of time before he starts contributing on the score sheet on a regular basis.

 

The Wild are now heading on a five-game road trip to the West Coast.

 

It is a trip that will see them play three teams that were in the playoffs last season – two of them defending division champions.

 

While there were some encouraging signs in the third period of Tuesday’s game, the Wild will still be experiencing growing pains on this trip.  Their players are still gelling and they’re still learning this new, up tempo system.

 

The third period of Tuesday’s game did have encouraging signs, though.  The utter dominance of the Wild in that period showed exactly what this team is capable of when they’re on.

 

They have too many good players on the team to stay down for long.  I stand by my assertion that they are playoff bound this season; however, right now they are a .500 hockey team and playing like it.  They’ll compete in these next five games and they’ll be in every one of them, but I just don’t see them coming back to Minnesota with any more than two victories on the trip.

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