THE WILD WIRE - #24Apr 1, 2019
BLOG #23 – 4-01-19
FRUSTRATING TIMES CONTINUE
There’s no way to sugarcoat what’s going on with the Iowa Wild right now. A five-game losing streak at a very inopportune time is frustrating and disappointing for anyone with a vested interest in this hockey team. Over the last two weeks, they’ve missed multiple opportunities to inch closer to a playoff spot.
Now, because of the team’s inability to take care of business in recent games, they’re getting close to losing the chance to control their own destiny.
The Wild are still a playoff team as April is upon us. Let me repeat that. THE TEAM IS STILL IN A PLAYOFF SPOT. They start the month at least three points clear of the non-playoff teams. They still have six games left, but their struggles in the “big moments” of recent games is a cause for concern.
For the first time all season, the team dropped three straight games in regulation at Wells Fargo Arena. In fact, prior to last week, Iowa hadn’t lost back-to-back games at home all year.
The club ended the month of March one game below .500, having allowed three or more goals a whopping 11 times.
Quite frankly, this is one of those weeks where I’d love to have someone else deal with the responsibility of writing a weekly blog. Five straight losses aren’t fun for anyone – the players, the coaches, management, the fans, or even yours truly.
Starting Tuesday against the Tucson Roadrunners, a club fighting for its Pacific Division playoff hopes, someone needs to step up and carry this Wild team back into the win column. A lot of times that starts in net, as the easiest way for a team to get back on track is to have a superb goaltending performance.
I chatted about that with Wild Head Coach Tim Army prior to Saturday’s game and he said there have been plenty of mistakes made prior to the opposition finding the back of the net (translation: a losing streak certainly doesn’t fall completely on the goaltenders). However, the first-year bench boss conceded it would definitely help to get an A+ type of performance in net with the team currently mired in this skid.
Just more than a calendar year ago, Iowa sat in third place, two points ahead of fifth place Rockford with two games in hand. Grand Rapids, who the Wild swept in a two-game mid-March set at Van Andel Arena, was holding the fourth spot. Despite the high of clutch wins in Grand Rapids on March 14 and 17, the Wild got thumped by the Chicago Wolves on March 18, a 7-3 road loss. That defeat started a nine-game winless skid (0-8-0-1), which ultimately cost the team a playoff spot.
Two seasons ago, Derek Lalonde’s first campaign behind the bench, the club defeated Milwaukee at home on March 18 and they woke up the following morning with a four-point cushion for the final playoff spot with 62 games played. Charlotte, who was in fifth, had played 61 games at that point.
Iowa hit the road for two games in Charlotte and two more in Cleveland with their first realistic chance in franchise history at a postseason berth. They proceeded to lose all four contests and lost a playoff spot because of it. Overall it was six losses in seven games in late March 2017, which included four times where the Wild were shut out.
With this season’s team having endured similar late March struggles, it begs the question – what the heck is going on here?
Is it the handful of players who have been here for all of these borderline collapses? Umm…no.
Is the organization’s depth currently not strong enough to withstand the long 76-game season? Maybe, but again, this year’s bunch has been more than consistent for five-plus months.
Is it the fact the team’s road-heavy schedule in February and March just flat out takes a toll each year and they run out of gas when it matters most? I think this one carries some merit. The unfortunate thing is that it’s a stone-cold reality of playing in Central Iowa. The Wild’s travel is among the most brutal in the league and Wells Fargo Arena will always be busy with high school and collegiate tournaments come February and March.
Honestly, I don’t have the answer. Maybe we won’t need an answer because the current team will snap out of it this week and keep control of their playoff aspirations.
I’d love nothing more than to see that. I know you would too.
BOKA & SADEK TO ALLEN
The organization recently released defensemen Nick Boka and Jack Sadek from their ATO contracts in order for them to play a few games with Allen in the ECHL.
With eight defensemen right now (Michael Kapla and Gustav Bouramman were both healthy scratches Saturday night), Iowa can afford to let the two Minnesota draft picks hone their game with the Americans.
Boka, a University of Michigan product, made his debut in Allen on Friday night.
Sadek, a former Minnesota Gopher, flew to Texas yesterday and will most likely get into the Americans next game on Friday at Wichita.
- Wild Joe Radio