During the first road trip of the season, Minnesota Wild goaltenders Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen were chatting while waiting for the bus. Though the interaction seemed harmless enough, it was enough for goaltending coach Freddy Chabot to race over and separate them.
Let’s just say the Wild don’t want to become the NHL’s version of the Denver Broncos.
Most NFL fans remember when the Broncos lost all of their quarterbacks to COVID protocols before a game back in November, and ultimately had to play practice-squad receiver Kendall Hinton under center for a game. It went about as badly as expected: Hinton had more interceptions (2) than pass completions (1) in Denver’s 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Using that as a cautionary tale, Wild coach Dean Evason has made sure his goaltenders are being smart about their interactions with each other. All it takes is a momentary lapse of judgement to lose all four goaltenders on the roster.
“We talked to them and said they cannot eat together and cannot hang out together,” Evason said. “We want them separated as much as we can.”
It’s somewhat of an awkward message to preach, and even Evason acknowledged that.
“You’re constantly telling the team that we want them to interact with everybody and we want them to be close and communicate with each other,” Evason said. “You want them definitely to communicate. Just in these times, it’s not the right thing to do.”
To say the Wild have struggled on the power play this season would be putting it lightly. They are currently 2 for 30 with the man advantage, and both goals have come via a mad scramble off the faceoff.
In other words, the Wild still haven’t converted using the actual systems they work on every day, and it’s not something the coaching staff is taking lightly.
“If our power play was average, we would’ve had more success than we’ve had to this point,” Evason said. “We’re grinding in there, trying to figure out combinations and trying to figure out what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong.”
For the Wild, perhaps regression to the mean will work in their favor at some point. They have actually looked good at times this season only to hit a crossbar or have a puck narrowly miss the back of the net.
“The key for us is to continue to work at it and continue to teach and continue to show video,” Evason said. “It’s to continue to believe that if we get those opportunities, they’re going to go in and we’re going to get those bounces.”
There were only a handful of players on the ice during Wednesday’s practice. That was by design as Evason once again opted to use rest to his team’s advantage.
“We expended a lot of energy last night trying to get back into that hockey game,” Evason said of the Wild’s 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center. “It’s going to be a constant thing where we are trying to figure out our rest and work ratio.”
In a slight change, Evason confirmed that Thursday’s morning skate, before that’s night’s rematch with the Kings, will be mandatory. He usually lets players decide whether or not they want to participate.
“It’s the first time we’re going to tell the group that they have to go on,” Evason said. “We’ll have a different look and do some special-teams stuff in the morning. It’ll be a little different for us. It’s just trying to figure out what works best for our group.”
Asked if Talbot would be ready to play in Thursday’s game, Evason confirmed he will not suit up. It will be the third straight game Talbot has missed after suffering a lower-body injury in last Friday’s win over the San Jose Sharks.