The Wild hockey team arrived in Montreal early on Sunday morning with concerns about their defensive lineup. Just days ago, the blue line shut down the Florida Panthers in their season opener, but things took a turn for the worse in their game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe had predicted that the Wild’s tight defensive system would make it difficult for his team to replicate their previous high-scoring win, but that wasn’t the case. The Wild suffered a 7-4 loss to the Maple Leafs, prompting head coach Dean Evason to announce plans for changes before their upcoming game against the Canadiens.
However, making those adjustments won’t be easy for the Wild. Currently with a record of 1-1-0, they have limited options available. Despite these challenges, Evason referred to the changes as “adjustments with our pairs.” One hurdle is the absence of Jared Spurgeon, who sustained an upper-body injury during a preseason game. As of Saturday, Spurgeon hadn’t started skating yet. The Wild have called up Dakota Mermis, the only minor-league defenseman with an NHL contract that fits within their cap space, to potentially play in Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens.
Against the Maple Leafs, defensemen Alex Goligoski and Jake Middleton struggled throughout the game. Their combined minus-5 rating reflected their performance. Goligoski and Jon Merrill made costly penalties, resulting in power-play goals for Toronto. In the third period, Goligoski received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that hindered the Wild’s momentum. Despite Goligoski voicing his frustration with the officiating, Evason criticized his penalty and attributed it to the Maple Leafs’ power play, which disrupted the Wild’s progress.
Beyond Goligoski, Middleton and Merrill also struggled defensively, with Middleton being on the ice for four goals against. The Wild’s blue line consistently faced pressure from the Maple Leafs, partly due to mistakes made by the forwards.
Goalie Filip Gustavsson, who had an outstanding performance in the Wild’s previous shutout victory, faced a tougher challenge against the Maple Leafs. He didn’t have as many clear opportunities to save shots, as Toronto’s goals came from close range and crowded creases.
On a positive note, rookie Brock Faber stood out as one of the Wild’s top players in their first two games. He finished the game with a plus-3 rating. Evason and his coaching staff may consider altering Faber’s pairing with Jonas Brodin or replacing a defenseman with Mermis, but overall, options are limited.
An additional concern arose when forward Matt Boldy suffered an upper-body injury during the game against the Maple Leafs. Boldy had been performing well for the Wild early in the season, but he had to leave the game and didn’t return. Evason expressed worry about the severity of Boldy’s injury and stated that updates on his status would be provided after Monday’s team practice.
As the Wild had a day off on Sunday, fans can expect news on Boldy’s condition when the team practices on Monday afternoon. If Boldy is unable to play on Tuesday, the Wild will face a challenge due to their remaining salary cap space. They won’t be able to call up a forward from the Iowa team while keeping Mermis on the roster. Their alternatives include Jujhar Khaira, Vinni Lettieri, and Nick Swaney, who all have NHL contracts that fit within their cap space.
Sarah Anderson dives into the fast-paced world of NHL hockey. Her coverage includes game analysis, player spotlights, and the latest news from the ice. Sarah’s dedication to the sport ensures that hockey enthusiasts stay informed about the NHL’s thrilling action.