ST. PAUL — Try as they might, the Wild can’t seem to find a rhythm on the penalty kill as of late, and it’s starting to haunt them in nearly every game.
After the frustrating 2-1 loss to the Flames in Calgary on Thursday night, when the Wild allowed yet another power-play goal, they are now 43 for 64 on the penalty kill over the past month and a half.
That’s a success rate of 67% over the past 23 games. Their season rate of 75.8% ranks No. 26 in the NHL.
To put things in perspective, the league average for the penalty kill sits right around 80%, and the Winnipeg Jets rank dead last with a season success rate of 73%, a number the Wild could easily reach if things keep going in the wrong direction.
It’s been confounding for coach Bruce Boudreau, especially considering the Wild have long been one of the best teams in the league on the penalty kill.
“We have to be able to stop that or we have to change the way we penalty kill,” Boudreau said. “We can’t continue to win at (67%).”
Maybe the most frustrating thing for the Wild is the fact that it’s a lot of the same penalty killers as usual.
Whether it’s veteran center Mikko Koivu or gritty winger Marcus Foligno, the Wild haven’t changed personnel much.
And this is starting to weigh on some of those guys.
“It’s frustrating,” Foligno said. “Especially a guy like me that takes pride in it and wants it to be perfect. Nobody that plays on the penalty kill wants to get scored on. It’s such a crucial part of the game now. We know that has to get fixed sooner rather than later.”
There have been some bad bounces here and there, like during a recent home game against the Flames in which the Wild put a pair of goals into the back of their own net.
“They didn’t have very good entries (in that game) and we did what we were supposed to do,” Boudreau said. “It’s almost like when it’s going bad in that respect and things aren’t working, everything seems to go to hell in a hand basket.”
It hasn’t been all bad bounces, though, evidenced by the road game against the Flames in which the Wild failed to get the puck out and then left an opposing player unmarked in front of goaltender Alex Stalock.
“You talk to them and show them and hope they understand that the No. 1 thing (that leads to) teams scoring goals on a power play is when we don’t get the puck out,” Boudreau said. “You don’t get the puck out, it almost always kills a team.”
It’s clear in the locker room that the Wild don’t feel like they have to make wholesale changes to fix this.
“I think if we just keep doing what we’re doing, it will be successful at the end of the day,” Stalock said. “If we play the same structure, I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”
That said, it’s clearly a confidence issue for the Wild, which explains why Boudreau hasn’t torn into his players yet.
“I’m confident because it’s the same guys we’ve had for years, and we’ve always been in the top 10,” the coach said. “It’s going to turn around, and when it turns around, we’ll go on a really good streak.”