Three Players the Wild Need More From, In Addition to a Change at Goalie
The Minnesota Wild find themselves needing to respond in the Stanley Cup qualifying round, after losing Game 2 to the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Through those first two games, Kevin Fiala has been absurdly good but he can’t carry the team’s scoring by himself. If the Wild are going to win this series they’ll need more from a few different guys…. and a change at goalie.
MATS ZUCCARELLO, RW
After signing a lucrative five-year, $30 million dollar contract with the Wild last July, Zuccarello’s first two playoff games in a Wild sweater have been extremely underwhelming. With 75-career playoff games under his belt, you would expect Zuccarello to come out with a little bit more juice than he has.
The passing and vision is all there but he needs to start showing up on the scoresheet if the Wild have any hopes of getting past the Canucks. So far, Zuccarello has mustered up a complete goose egg in every statistical category. He just hasn’t seemed to mesh with current linemates Marcus Foligno and Alex Galchenyuk.
MY SOLUTION: Bump Zuccarello up to the top-line with Eric Staal and Kevin Fiala.
JORDAN GREENWAY, LW
Coming in at a mammoth 6’6”, 225 lbs, Greenway has been gifted the tools to be a top power-forward in the NHL. There’s one problem though… he never seems to use those god-given talents while on the ice. He is a player that has the ability to change the momentum of the game with just one shift. I have seen way too much hesitancy in his game and not nearly enough grit and power. I want to see Greenway simplify his game. Dump pucks in, retrieve them, and go to work beneath the dots in the offensive zone with his linemates. It’s time for the big rig to play big again.
Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway chirping from the bench. pic.twitter.com/g0SFHdeOdh— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 3, 2020
MY SOLUTION: Get Greenway in a more simplified role and pair him back up with Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno.
MATT DUMBA, D
Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin have had an incredible playoff series thus far. But it’s been a fairly quiet one for arguably the Wild’s most dynamic defenseman, Matt Dumba. With a stud like Quinn Hughes on the other side of things, the Wild need Dumba to get cooking before their steak is all burnt up. Like a lot of highly-skilled defensemen do from time-to-time, far too often I see Dumba trying to make that “perfect” play or attempting to force things that aren’t there.
The thing that makes Dumba great is his rocket of a shot from the blue line. He also brings a ton of physicality in the open ice. I don’t see the drought lasting much longer for Dumba. He is just one big goal or one big hit away from becoming himself again.
MY SOLUTION: Put Dumba on the top power-play in place of Ryan Suter and let him drop bombs from the point.
WHO WILL DEAN EVASON PUT IN NET FOR GAME 3?
I would be crazy to blame that ugly game two loss against the Canucks on Alex Stalock. You could make the case that none of the four goals allowed were even his fault. Two of them were strange bounces and the other two were absolute snipe shows. That being said, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that Evason might be pondering the decision to go with Devan Dubnyk in game three (Thursday, 1:30 CT, FSN/NHLN).
Now why do I say this? Heading into this series, there was already uncertainty surrounding the Wild’s goaltending situation. Do they go with the experience of Dubnyk? Do they go with the hot-hand towards the end of the season in Stalock? Or do they even give the promising young Kaapo Kähkönen a look? Evason evidently chose to go with Stalock. While it worked in the first game, game two was a whole different story. The Wild got outplayed in just about every aspect of the game in Game 2.
TIME TO SHAKE THINGS UP
In my opinion, the Wild have always seemed to play better defensively when they have a calming presence in the blue paint. With his experience and calm demeanor, Dubnyk can provide that for the Wild. On the other side of things, Stalock’s roadrunner playing style has proven to bring anxiety to the lineup more often than not. You just can’t be swimming around in the crease with guys like Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat and co. lurking around in the shadows. All of the momentum is on the Canucks side right now. Changing your goaltender can help gain that momentum back heading into the game.
So, getting to my point, I think Stalock starting in net is more of a systematic issue for the Wild than a simple “this-guy-is-better-than-this-guy” one. Does Alex Stalock deserve to come out of the lineup? No. But I think this team has a better opportunity to win against a high-flying team off the rush like the Canucks with a veteran, calming presence in net. And you don’t think Dubnyk has a chip on his shoulder after losing his starting job this year? If it were me, I would go with Dubnyk in game three. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Jake Jensen | Minnesota Sports Fan