The All-Star break is here, and it gives teams and players a chance to rest up and think about how they are going to function in the second half of the season. Sometimes teams come out of the break slumping, but often there are always teams benefiting greatly from the break in the season.
The NHL season has been exhilarating so far. The Lightning can’t stop scoring and are playing some of the best hockey of the decade so far. The Golden Knights have come out of nowhere as an expansion team and currently are first place in the entire Western Conference. Out in the Metropolitan, the third-place division team and last place are only separated by five points.
This NHL season is proving that in hockey, any team can win if they play together. It is making for an entertaining season so far. As we go down the final leg of the season, a team’s final adjustments will either make or break its season. I have a feeling that the Wild will use this as a chance to enhance their level of play.
The Wild are one year removed from one of the best seasons in franchise history. Currently, they sit at sixth place in the Central Division with 57 points. So far this season, the Wild just haven’t been able to find the “It” factor. Forward Zach Parise has been sidelined with an injury the entire year, but that is not the issue for this team.
Minnesota is a team that has struggled on defense this season. They have been getting pucks in the net, but they just haven’t been able to stop them from getting into theirs. This break is good for this team because it will give coach Bruce Boudreau a chance to come up with a defensive scheme that fits his team.
As stated earlier, the Wild’s issue is not on the offensive end. So far this year, the Wild have scored 142 goals, which has them right up there with teams like Washington, Nashville, Philadelphia and San Jose. The struggles come on the defensive side as they have given up 139 goals. The Wild’s goal differential of +3 ranks 15th in the league.
This is why the Wild need to go and trade for a scorer, but they may not need to make a trade at all. Perhaps if they were going to, it should be for a defender. Adding a defender to go in front of Devan Dubnyk could be the difference maker for the Wild. The solution should not be to try and score more goals, but instead try and stop the other team from scoring. It’s a winning method in the playoffs, and that is what this team is all about.
Stop with the penalties
Penalties are a difference maker in every game in the NHL. It’s simple. If you let the other team play against you five on four for a majority of the game, chances are you will not win. Minnesota has had to defend the second most power plays this season and are ranked 10th on the penalty kill.
While this ranking is good, the Wild could see that ranking rise if they can merely stop committing so many penalties in the second part of the season. Adding a veteran defender could help stop the bleeding on the penalty crisis a little bit. It could take the pressure off some of the young forwards that have struggled defensively this season.
Dubnyk is human
A significant difference between this season and last season is that Devan Dubynk has come back down to earth with his play. Last season, Dubnyk had a stretch of play that was out of this world, but injuries have decreased his level of play this year.
Dubnyk’s goals against average of 2.68 has him ranked 21st in the NHL, and his .916 save percentage has him 22nd. The decline in play from Dubnyk has hurt the Wild mightily, but the struggles of the Wild cannot go strictly on him.
What Dubnyk gave the Wild last season was abnormal, but there is no saying he will never play like that again. There is no reason to make any rash decisions in the net for this team. Alex Stalock has proved that he is a capable backup, and Dubnyk has shown flashes of his old self. His three shutouts have him tied for sixth in the league.
Dubnyk can win the games for the Wild, he just needs the play of his defense to elevate.
Benefiting from the All-Star break
Minnesota is a team that will be benefiting greatly from All-Star weekend. Boudreau can evaluate his team and decide what he wants to do in the second half of the season.
Adding a veteran defenseman could help with what has been an average at best defense this season, but they do not necessarily have to. This team has a solid balance of young and old players. The right scheme in the second half of the year from Boudreau could do wonders for this team.
They are a team on the outside looking in at the moment, but they are nowhere near being out of it. Currently, the Wild are six points behind the Blues for the last division spot and are tied with Colorado for the final Wild Card spot in the West. Colorado may cool down after the break, so the door is wide open for the Wild. They just need to walk through it.
Featured image by Trevor Hogan
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