What's wrong with the Minnesota Wild?
Craig Custance: It certainly doesn't help that Devan Dubnyk has come crashing back to earth after looking earlier like he was going to win the Vezina. He entered the All-Star break with a .936 save percentage but has been at just .909 since. It gets even worse in March, where it's at .900. Over the course of his career, March has historically been his best month (.923 cumulative save percentage), and often when a goalie starts to go sideways, it's an indication that the team isn't playing particularly well in front of him. It certainly doesn't excuse a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night, but at a time when other teams are fighting for playoff positioning or a spot in the playoffs, the Minnesota Wild don't have a lot to play for, because they're basically locked in at No. 2 in the Central. That lack of motivation might have more to do with it than anything.
Pierre LeBrun: I touched on this earlier this week, but the 16 games they're playing in 29 days from March 2-30 is their most compressed schedule of the season. Every team has it this season, it's just that the Wild get their worst stretch at the very end of the regular season, which is not ideal. It also means the team has only practiced four or five times the entire month (not counting morning skates), which really compounds things, when you don't have much time to teach as a coaching staff and help rectify issues. And finally, the lack of regular practice reps hurts Dubnyk the most. Goalies have told me the compressed schedule is hard on them because they get taken out of their routine to some degree. Having said all that, it's better to go through this adversity now than come playoff time. The Wild will be better for it.
Scott Burnside: Lots of different elements at play for a team touted as a Stanley Cup contender for the first two-thirds of the season. Yes, the goaltending hasn't been what it needs to be, as the Wild have stopped winning close games, going 3-9 in March to give up any hope of winning the Central Division. Martin Hanzal's addition at the trade deadline has also been a work in progress (one goal in 11 games), as is often the case when key pieces are added to a team with high expectations. The big center has been a plus just twice in March and has admitted the adjustment hasn't been easy after playing his whole career with the Arizona Coyotes. But as was the case when the Washington Capitals recently hit the skids, it's sometimes helpful for teams that have had a lot go right for them to have to look in the mirror -- and better now than in a month, when the games are more important. I still believe the Wild are built for the long playoff haul, and I still think we're going to see an epic second-round clash between them and the Chicago Blackhawks, even if the Wild have looked pretty tame lately.
Rob Vollman: The short answer? They were riding a hot goalie. The Wild picked up a lot of points in games they were outplayed thanks to Dubnyk, but it never lasts forever. That being written, the addition of Eric Staal, the shift to younger, faster players, and especially the addition of coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant John Anderson are all legitimate and sustainable improvements, and they are no longer an easy first-round out -- whether Dubnyk is hot or not.
Joe McDonald: There's nothing wrong. A bit of adversity is exactly what the Wild need right now. Minnesota hasn't dealt with too many issues this season, so skidding now is the best time for a wakeup call. The Wild have dropped six of their last seven, and with nine games remaining in a 16-day span, they have plenty of time to turn it around and sprint into the postseason. The trick is to battle through and come up smelling like Minnesota pines. It's not time to point fingers, especially at the coach, because everyone needs to take responsibility and fix it. Minnesota is too good to implode after the type of season it's had.