A clear pattern has emerged this season for the Wild. Come out hot, fired up, ready to go in the first period. A hard forecheck creates scoring chances, and the defensemen clear the zone quickly and efficiently. Everything falls into place, save for the ability to finish. When at home, they get the fans riled up, on the road, they quiet them and then the horn blows. The Wild heads to the locker room, and apparently celebrate Thanksgiving during the intermission.
In all but a handful of exceptions, the Wild has entered the second period looking as though they forgot how to play hockey while in the locker room. The basic tenets go out the window. Clear the traffic in front of Backstrom? Nah. Play lockdown defense? Maybe in the third. Forecheck hard and create turnovers? We already did that in the first period. Maybe now fired Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress is in charge of the game plan for the second period. He had the best running back in the game and used him in the first, but never after that. Same goes for the Wild. Aggressive, fast, powerful through one, then they decide to change the game plan and they fall apart.
After the latest incident of this second period meltdown, on November 20th versus the Rangers, the question was burning, and was asked. What do you plan to do about these second periods?
Coach Todd Richards answered with the most feared answer he could have given to Wild fans: "It's something that we talk about and we have to correct it. Again, answers for it? Right now, I don't know."
You don't know? "I don't know" would maybe be acceptable last season. "I don't know" was maybe even acceptable though the first five game of this season. "I don't know" is not acceptable at the 20-game mark in your second season.
The Wild has been out shot in the second period 216-149. They have been massively out shot in the second period in the past two games, and the ratio has killed them in both cases. Against the Rangers, the score was tied at zero after one. Then the Rangers outshot the Wild in the second 17-4, and the second intermission score was 3-0 Rangers. Against Detroit, the Wild left the first period up 1-0, came out in the second and were outshot 18-3. The period closed with the Wild still in the lead, but the Wings had found their legs, and the Wild was barely able to hold them off.
The key to any success the Wild has had this season is from their goaltending, with Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore both performing admirably. The fact that they have been outshot by 67 shots in the second period, yet only outscored 17-13 in the same from is a testament to the abilities of the Wild goalies.
The NHL no longer tracks zone time, it's probably better we don't know all of the numbers.
Can it be fixed?
Richards used up his harsh practice card already this year. The team has fallen right back into the same routine they were in before that bag skate. Would another beat down revitalize the team? It might, but there is nothing preventing them from falling right back into the same rut. Punishment is only going to be a short term solution. Until the root cause is discovered, they will just go right back into second period nap mode.
The players need to find it within themselves to focus for the entire 60 minutes. The coaches need to find it within themselves to motivate the players to play for a full 60 minutes.
This is clearly a team wide problem, and it is going to take a team wide effort to solve it. The "it's something we need to talk about" needs to become "it's something we have corrected" in short order, or the Wild will find themselves falling down a Western Conference standings board that is impossible to climb back up again.
It's not a matter of can it be fixed, but rather how it gets fixed and how fast it can be corrected.