The Minnesota Wild struggled to score for the second straight game and came out with another loss. They’re a great first-period team and were once again in their game against the Colorado Avalanche, but they couldn’t keep it up. Despite some good goaltending by Cam Talbot, they could not keep the puck out of the net.
The Wild did have a couple of good things come out of this game despite the loss and, of course, some things to work on going forward. They were still without Mats Zuccarello and Rem Pitlick, who tested positive for COVID earlier this week, as well as Alex Goligoski, who is still injured. Still, they did get Dmitry Kulikov back from his injury. With those players out, that meant the Wild still had to change up lines to make things fit.
Cam Talbot Consistent
The Wild may have lost, but their goaltending was not to blame. The three goals that Talbot let in were mistakes on the part of the defense, and there was nothing he could do other than possibly the third goal that made it through the five-hole.
He’s been consistent all season and sits fourth amongst all goalies in the NHL. As of Saturday evening, his save percentage (SV%) was .912, while his goals-against average (GAA) was quite high at 2.55. Even though his GAA was high and he has let in 18 goals so far this season, he has five wins and just two losses. The Wild had been finding ways to win even when they’ve let in quite a few goals.
While Talbot has been steady and in net seven out of the Wild’s eight games, Kaapo Kahkonen has had just one start and he really struggled. He let in five goals, had a .828 (SV%) and a 5.36 (GAA), not great numbers. It was only his first start of the season, but he’ll have to have a stronger game the next time he’s in the net, or he may not get many more chances.
Wild’s New Faces Make Waves
The Wild have shuffled in quite a few new faces so far this season. A few of these players have had good performances, including Jon Merrill, Adam Beckman, and Calen Addison. This game was the NHL debut for Beckman, while it was Addison’s first game of the season. Both of those players were quite noticeable, even though they didn’t tally any points.
Addison played a few games for the Wild last season and did quite well, so it was pretty obvious he’d be sent up sooner rather than later. Beckman had a great preseason, but the Wild still felt he needed to start with the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League. However, he was called up just eight games into the season, and he proved his worth with three shots on goal in just 10 minutes of playing time.
That leaves Jon Merrill, who started with the team in game one of this season and hasn’t left since. He’s been a solid, steady presence on the blue line and even scored two points on nine shots in eight games. He’s had some offensive chances and is also very capable on defense, a sturdy two-way player. He’ll be an interesting player to watch as this season continues.
Wild Need to Communicate
This is an issue almost every team deals with at some point every season. Their communication breaks down, and bigger problems start to build up. During last season, watching games without fans, it was pretty easy to hear all the players chatting back and forth up and down the ice. With fans in the building this season, it’s become a little harder to hear, but it’s still noticeable and even more noticeable when it doesn’t happen.
The Wild had several clear communication breakdowns against the Avalanche. They missed passes, or their passes were intercepted. They also tried to make passes without looking or talking to their teammates, resulting in more turnovers. This has become more of an issue in the last few games but was really noticeable in this game.
Wild’s Future: What Needs to Happen
The Wild have improved on several things in this short season, but they’ve neglected a few as well. It seems like every time they take a big step forward, they take an equal one back in different areas. They scored a power-play goal, but they were still outshot. They need to buckle down and fix these mistakes, especially those that are easy to fix, like communication. Many of their errors would be fixed if they simply communicated and let their teammates know where they’re sending the puck.
The Wild get a break from the road with a quick one-game stop at home before heading back onto the road again. It’ll be interesting to see if they can fix this problem or if it will continue to be a thorn in their side.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.