It took less than a minute into the phone conversation Wednesday for Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise to bring up the elephant in the room. Or in this case the elephant on the line.
"Our power play is terrible," Parise said. "That's where your top guys need to get some points, get some goals and feeling good. That carries into 5-on-5. When the power play is not working that's frustrating and it can carry into the rest of the game."
The Wild entered Friday 29th in the NHL on the power play at 9.0 percent (7 for 78). They have scored a power-play goal in five of 24 games.
DUCKS VS. WILD PREVIEW
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By Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who has the mumps, took part in the morning skate but will not be in the lineup when the Wild host the Anaheim Ducks at Xcel Energy Center on Friday. READ MORE ›
Parise is convinced, and it's hard to argue with him, that Minnesota's problematic power play is the main culprit for why some of the Wild's high-end offensive players have below-average offensive statistics to this point in the season.
Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle each have two goals. Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund have three goals apiece. Jason Pominville has five. That's 15 goals from five forwards who started the season in Minnesota's top six.
Parise, the other top-six forward, has nine goals but one on the power play. Vanek has one power-play goal too. None of the other aforementioned players have a power-play goal. Nino Niederreiter has four power-play goals and leads the Wild with 11 goals.
"You can't dodge it," Parise said. "There are games we have lost because our power play didn't click. That is one thing holding us back from getting into that groove and being in the top tier of teams in the Western Conference right now."
The Wild entered Friday one point behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second Western Conference wild-card berth.
Parise said the problem on the power play is not systematic. He said the system works. Or at least it should.
"Every team plays basically a 1-3-1 power play," he said. "That's the most common thing in the League. We do the same thing. So a lot of it is execution. We don't make the right plays off the wall. If we do, we get a shot through and we've got no one in front of the net. Or we set up a guy for a one-timer and we throw it in his skates. It's not like there is 'Oh my gosh, we need to work on this.' It's like five different things not clicking, just not working."
Parise said the mentality on the power play has changed from the Wild players feeling good about the chances they were getting early in the season to frustration at not scoring to now not moving around, not moving the puck, or supporting each other at all.
"Sometimes guys are on their own program," Parise said. "So it's one thing led to another and all of a sudden it's not one thing you pinpoint, it's five different reasons for why we're not scoring."
He indicated that the Wild are in a mode now where they don't even want a power play. He cited a game Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens.
"We were in complete control the game, dominating, and we get a five-minute major power play in the third period and get zero shots," Parise said. "All of a sudden Montreal gets the momentum out of our power play. They start to feel good and end up scoring one late. It's got to be the other way around. Even if you're not scoring, you've got to get momentum. We didn't get a shot on it. It's frustrating for everybody, trust me."
So what can the Wild do about it? That's the million-dollar question, one Parise said the Wild examined during an extended power-play meeting Thursday.
"Everybody wants to make that backdoor play or that play to a guy for a one-timer, but when you look at the power-play goals, it's rarely off the initial set up," Parise said. "It's a point shot, it's a rebound, it's a scrum. It's a shot and then you make a play. That's what we have to do. We have to shoot the puck and retrieve and get the penalty killing running around. Right now we're making it too easy for them. The old saying is, 'Simplify it,' and I think we need to do that."
The flipside is the Wild are a strong team in other areas of the game. Despite their struggles on the power play the Wild are plus-1 in special-teams goals. They have scored 10, including three shorthanded, and allowed nine. Their penalty kill is second in the NHL at 88.9 percent. They are plus-8 in even-strength goals.
"We've got guys in 20 or so games who have 15 or so 5-on-5 points, but if we have a decent power play all of a sudden you go from 15 to 20 and you're a point-per-game player," Parise said. "You feel good about your game. You hold onto it a little longer. You make the right play. It's amazing how it makes the mind work like that.
"We play a great style of hockey. We're playing well on the other side of the puck. We're a good 5-on-5 team. If we can get the power play figured out we'll be in good shape."