Minnesota Wild: Staying the Course Pays off With Win Over Pens

The Wild skated away from Pittsburgh last night with a strong win that snapped a small two game losing skid.  While many might be tempted to say the Wild drastically changed their game plan, they actually didn’t change much and that might have been the best strategy of all.

The alarm bells were sounding before last night’s tilt in Pittsburgh.  Many of the Minnesota Wild faithful had felt the team might have been on the road to rough times with two straight losses and only one goal to go around.  With injuries hurting the lineup’s ability to score it looked as if that road might have no clear end in sight.

What a difference four days off and a little bit of work can do.  The Wild started the process of righting the ship last night by defeating the Pens in a blow-by-blow game that saw the Wild uncharacteristically vanquish their opponent in the third period.  When the final score was posted on the scoreboard at PPG Paints Arena the Wild had win 4-2 against the defending Stanley Cup champs handing them their first home loss of the season.

So, what was the difference in this game for the Wild?  Sure Erik Haula made his return the lineup after an injury, and there were some big call-ups from Iowa but they were absent on the scoresheet.  The ingredients for success seemed to come from the same players who have been in the last couple of games.  The Wild seem to have already have laid the groundwork for this win even in their defeat on Saturday.

Oct 27, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (20) against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

After Saturday’s loss against the Avalanche Ryan Suter explained it best to Michael Russo of Star Tribune that “We have to play like that if we want to have success. I thought we played a solid game. A couple minutes there in the third we’d like to have back, but for the most part it was a solid, all-around game.”

A lot of people doubted that Suter was living in the same reality as they were, because after all the Wild did lose.  But sometimes you just run into a great goaltender, and Pickard was that for the Avs.  The fact that the Wild walked away from that game knowing the system was sound and to stay the course was key to last night’s victory.

A big part to staying the course was to keep playing the same players even despite the losses.  The stepping up of Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle was huge, and they seem to respond when the team needs them.  They seem to be the key in many of the Wild’s bigger victories this season and both played well.  Staal especially seems to be the straw stirring the drink and last night’s 1 goal, 2 assist performance goes a long way to the narrative that if Staal plays well the Wild play well.

Most of all though the consistent and excellent play of Devan Dubnyk has been the reason the Wild can stay in these close games.  Per Russo Dubs has only given up six goals in his last 21 periods, and statically he’s in the top three of NHL netminders in the three major goaltending statistics.  That’s excellent play and shows that he’s been giving the Wild a chance to win even in the two losses before last night.  The Wild just needed to give him a few more goals, which is what they did tonight.

It’s a difference from last season that showed last night.  The Wild are a resilient team that is drawing from a solid system to build a level of consistency.  Bruce Boudreau is giving this Wild team the piece it had been missing for years, a solid foundational system of hockey that can be tweaked to the strength of the lineup that is available.  Boudreau hasn’t been afraid to move players where they need to be to get the best out of the lineup, and really doesn’t have any allegiances to any line combinations and that has paralyzed the team in the past.

So going forward the Wild have a win to build on.  But you can say the team and the system to win has always been there even in recent losses.  As the old saying goes “You can’t win every game”, so how the Wild lose is every bit as important as how they win.  Last night the Wild saw the result of playing hard in Saturday’s loss, and it wasn’t too shabby of a result.

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