ST. PAUL -- Longtime Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu shut door and took the floor inside the visitor’s locker room following Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Canadiens in Montreal.
His message during the players-only meeting after the game was brief, less than 10 minutes, though he probably could have gone on for hours voicing his frustration regarding one of the worst starts in franchise history.
“There’s two ways we can go and we’ve got to (fight) ourselves out of it,” Koivu told reporters as the locker room cleared out around him. “Obviously it’s not even close to being enough right now.”
While the Wild have been fighting an uphill battle from the start of the 2019-20 season, trotting out an aging roster devoid of top-tier talent, the biggest concern during the 1-6-0 start is that nearly every game has followed the same script.
It’s not so much that the Wild have been outplayed in every loss. It’s that they have stopped playing for an extended stretch, seeming to curl into the fetal position after an opponent scores a goal.
“I think it has to be (mental); I don’t know what else it is,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You’re digging yourself a grave (by doing that).”
That’s exactly what the Wild have done, and not surprisingly, they haven’t been able to dig themselves out.
“Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it,” winger Jason Zucker said. “It’s like they score one goal and all of a sudden we decide let’s just give them two more goals and then we’ll start playing again. I don’t have an answer for it.”
Here’s a breakdown of the six collapses, from understandable to unacceptable:
6. Colorado: 2 goals; 1 minutes, 27 seconds
This was somewhat forgivable considering it came during the Avalanche’s home opener and pretty much everybody expected them to come out on fire. They did just that as Mikko Rantanen and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored less than 90 seconds apart in the first period to put the Wild in a two-goal deficit before they could even adapt to the altitude in the Mile High City. The Wild did fight back to tie the score before letting it get away again down the stretch.
5. Nashville: 2 goals; 1 minutes, 29 seconds
It was the highly anticipated season opener, and the Wild were actually playing the Predators evenly until a 90-second lapse in the third period that turned a one-goal lead into a one-goal deficit. Mikael Granlund — yes, the former Wild player — and Austin Watson opened the final peroid with a flurry, and the Wild never recovered. This stings more in hindsight considering the way everything has played out since then. Who’s to say if the Wild could have won this one, how the next two weeks might have played out.
4. Toronto: 2 goals; 1 minutes, 12 seconds
This was probably the most overmatched the Wild have looked at any point this season. After taking an early lead, the Wild fell asleep in the second period, starting with a goal from John Tavares to tie it, and ending with a couple of big body blows from Mitch Marner and Andreas Johnsson. That one-two punch made it a two-goal deficit, and the Wild never recovered. Truthfully, nobody really thought they were going to win this game in the first place.
3. Winnipeg: 2 goals; 28 seconds
This was an inexcusable lapse by the Wild, especially considering it came during arguably their best effort of this season as they battled back against the Jets. It was almost like the Wild were content after tying the score the third period, and Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic made them pay by scoring 28 seconds apart to put the game out of reach. This was the first time the lapses seriously emerged as an issue, and the Wild have done little to fix things since then.
2. Pittsburgh: 3 goals; 2 minutes, 28 seconds
After weathering an early storm, the Wild threatened to make things interesting before the Penguins hit the NOS and left them in the dust. This was alarming in the sense that the Wild looked more apathetic than overmatched in their home opener. They let Adam Johnson, Kris Letang and Joseph Blandisi pile on in the second period, effectively ending the game with more than 20 minutes to play.
1. Montreal: 3 goals; 4 minutes, 46 seconds
Nothing encapsulates the struggles for the Wild more than the first period Thursday night against the Canadiens. They stopped playing for a five-minute stretch and allowed easy goals to Victor Mete, Joel Armia and Nick Suzuki. It hurts even more considering this was a very winnable game for the Wild on paper. It’s not like they were going up against the immense firepower of the the Penguins or the Maple Leafs. Nonetheless, the Wild made the Canadiens look like one of their dynastic teams of yesteryear. That brutal loss paved the way for the players-only meeting as the discontent in the locker room clearly has reached a boiling point.