The Minnesota Wild limped into the holiday break with a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday — their fourth consecutive defeat — which left the club sitting 10th in the Western Conference and facing a number of questions about its collective attitude and identity.
Under [head coach Mike] Yeo, the Wild have built a reputation as one of the NHL’s best defensive teams. It has been a trademark of the franchise. They also have built a reputation as a structured team whose players work for one another.
“We’re starting to lose that reputation,” Yeo said. “And that’s disappointing.”
The Wild’s problems seem to transcend the on-ice product. There seems to be something intangible wrong with this team, something the five words painted in the locker room represent.
Asked what his team was missing, Yeo provided a simple answer.
“A winner’s attitude,” he said. “Teamwork. Those things in particular.”
As the Press notes, this is one of the first times Yeo’s publicly called out his players this season, and it’s a telling move. He’s in the first of a multi-year extension — deservedly earned after last year’s playoff run — and has already exercised a multitude of other motivational coaching tools (line juggling, healthy scratches, etc.)
The next could be Yeo putting his goalies on blast.
Darcy Kuemper wasn’t bad or at fault for Tuesday’s loss — “we were not even close enough to win the hockey game,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu lamented — but Kuemper wasn’t great, either, surrendering four goals on 29 shots to finish with an .862 save percentage.
Save percentage is a problem in Minnesota. Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom have combined to post an .897 this season — the third-worst mark in the league — and it’s costing the Wild points; Minnesota out-shoots its opponents by five on average (31.9 for to 26.6 against), suggesting the skaters are doing their part to create chances and win the possession battle while the goalies simply aren’t holding up to their end of the bargain.