Like Santa’s elves, the Minnesota Wild has been putting in overtime in its games leading up to Christmas. In the club’s first 27 contests, the team skated beyond regulation just four times. In its last four games, the Wild has played more than 60 minutes three times.
While Minnesota has secured victory in only one of its recent OT games, a 4-3 shootout win against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 13, the team has showed its resolve in the third period. In its last two games against the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators, the Wild has tied the contest in the third period to force overtime and earn an extra point.
“I give our guys a lot of credit. Again, it is tough to be battling back all the time,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “I am pleased that our guys continue to battle back, and that shows something to me, but now let’s make sure not to put ourselves in that position so many times.”
The National Hockey League’s overtime rules have been in flux this season. This year, teams are switching ends at the start of OT, which makes for longer line changes. The players have noticed a difference.
“I like the switching of ends,” Wild forward Jason Pominville said. “It creates more scoring; tougher to change.”
Consequentially, the scoring chances increase for both teams. Puck possession is critical and it starts from the opening draw. The more you have it, the more success a team will have in OT.
“With the long change, now, it’s not easy to get that puck back, so that faceoff is critical,” Yeo said. “We haven’t been able to get the puck. When you’re playing four-on-four and the other team has the puck the whole time, then odds are you’re going to give up a couple chances.”
Today, the Wild worked on its four-on-four D-zone game today in practice.
“We talked about a few things as far as what we have to do better in our zone, defending four-on-four,” Yeo said. “But we have to find a way to get the puck.”
“It’s an awareness factor,” defenseman Marco Scandella said. “We have to bear down a little more defensively.”
To start the season, the NHL employed the “dry scrape” in overtime, Zambonis clearing the ice surface without laying down water. However, on Nov. 18, the NHL’s General Managers vetoed the dry scrape and effectively killed the media’s favorite hashtag, save for when they spill coffee on their sport coats.
The reasons for the change: it took too long. Along with the scrape pre-OT, they didn’t reinstate the post-OT/pre-shootout scrub. Pominville, who is one of the Wild’s top shootout options, would like to see the League clear off the middle of the ice, like it had in years past.
“You’ve seen shootouts go a little longer lately,” Pominville said. “I don’t know if it’s because of that, or that’s just a coincidence.
“If they’re going to take that long, you might as well take a couple minutes to do the Zamboni.”
The longer shootouts climaxed in a 20-round thriller between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers on Dec. 16. Minnesota native, Nick Bjugstad, scored the game-winning goal in the longest shootout in NHL history to lift the Florida over the Caps, 2-1.
Teams would prefer to decide a winner before the skills competition. While the Wild has lost its last two OT decisions, the club knows it has to be better four-on-four.
“We’ve got to find a way to win those games,” Scandella said. “We let a couple points slip away at home and we can’t allow that.”
The blueliner knows there is more ice and looks for his chance to join the rush. He has scored overtime winners twice this season, and there’s no rush like scoring the game winner overtime and seeing your teammates pour out onto the ice to join in the celebration.
“In overtime, it’s the final dagger; it’s the endpoint,” Scandella said. “You also know that it’s an extra point in the standings and in the Western Conference every point matters.” Granlund Misses Practice
Wild forward Mikael Granlund (not mumps) was still feeling ill and didn’t practice today. The forward was a surprise scratch on Saturday against Nashville after feeling sick. Yeo didn’t rule Granlund out of tomorrow’s contest as Minnesota hosts the Philadelphia Flyers at 6 p.m. In Case You’ve Been Living Under the Mistletoe
The Wild’s digital, social and video team has emitted more holiday spirits than a collection of boozy carolers.
WildTV posted players’ holiday traditions
yesterday and their favorite gifts
today. The team’s official online video channel will have two more vids leading up to Christmas.
If you follow the team’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, or frequent View From the Lighthouse, you’ve seen the 12 Days of Zoyle
. We’ve had as much fun captioning the photos as Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker had taking them.