Wild know their penalty kill stunk last season. They are being aggressive to fix it.
Minnesota operated at 76.14% on the penalty kill — 25th in the NHL — and allowed opposing teams to score a whopping 63 goals on the power play in the process.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason has never been someone to mince words. If he’s not pleased with something, he’s not going to hide it.
Naturally, he has been pretty outspoken with how badly the Wild stunk on the penalty kill last season. They operated at 76.14% on the penalty kill — 25th in the NHL — and allowed opposing teams to score a whopping 63 goals on the power play in the process.
It wasn’t good enough, and everyone on the Wild understands that heading into this season.
“They hear. They read. They see stats,” Evason said. “We didn’t have to go in and say our power play and our penalty kill weren’t very good. They know it wasn’t. They have taken ownership of it, and we’ve seen it be successful so far in the preseason. Now it needs to continue.”
While there have been some personnel changes on the power play, the system is pretty much the same as before. The same thing can’t be said about the penalty kill, where the Wild have changed their approach and plan to be much more aggressive in that area.
What exactly does that mean?
“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” winger Brandon Duhaime said. “If there’s a loose puck, or a bobbled puck, we want to jump on it a little quicker. Just pressing guys to make good plays. If they make good plays around us, we’re still going to be aggressive and try to force some turnovers.”
“We’re going to put more heat on teams,” winger Connor Dewar added. “Just use our feet and use our sticks to make them feel uncomfortable. Our mentality is to be aggressive and attack, so we’re going to bring that into our penalty kill.”
The aggressiveness on the penalty kill has resulted in a few shorthanded goals in preseason games.
“It’s a direct result,” Evason said. “We’re asking our guys when we turn the puck over to get it all the way down the ice any way they can. That can mean dumping it out or skating it out. That sometimes gives us a chance to score a goal. We’ve been fortunate and caught a couple of breaks and scored some goals on it. But the priority is our clears, which was a problem for us last season. We’ve done a good job with it so far.”
It’s still unclear which Wild players are going to play on the penalty kill. There have been a few different looks in training camp so far, though the lineup itself should materialize in the next week or so.
No matter which players it ends up being this season, the Wild are hellbent on making sure it is better than last season.
“They did a really good job of making some changes and tweaking some things,” Duhaime said. “I’m just glad I’m getting some reps on there and able to help out in that aspect.”
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