The Minnesota Wild are in a funk. They’ve lost 5 games in a row, scoring a grand total of 5 goals. The losing streak and lack of goals coincides with the loss of Matt Dumba, who is expected to miss at least three months after rupturing a pectoral muscle. Dumba is top 10 among defensemen in powerplay points and leads all blueliners with 6 powerplay goals. In his absence, the Wild are 0 for 12 with the man advantage. However, after Minnesota’s most recent loss, a quote from Zach Parise stood out to me for a couple of reasons. Here it is –
I’ve written about the value of creating scoring chances off the rush in the past. How, over the past couple of season, over half of all even-strength goals created by a zone entry of any kind, are scored within 5 seconds of gaining the attacking blueline. Almost 75% are scored within 10 seconds and the longer a team has the puck in the offensive zone, the lower their odds are of that possession resulting in a goal. It’s much more difficult to score at even-strength once the defending team is set up in its own end. Clearly, Parise understands the value of creating offensive chances in transition. So, it got me thinking – do the Wild really struggle to hit the net on odd-man rushes?
Technically, a team can enter the zone with a 4 on 3 or even a 5 on 4 and it’s an odd-man rush, despite the low odds of that type of rush resulting in a goal compared to a 2 on 1 or a 3 on 2. So, in an attempt to separate the signal from the noise (trademark, Nate Silver) we’ll look at the Wild’s scoring chances off the rush. These are shot attempts from the slot created off the rush as opposed to cycle or forecheck plays. Parise understands the value of making the most of your rush opportunities and he should because the Wild don’t get very many.
Minnesota ranks second last in the amount of scoring chances off the rush it gets and the number of times it hits the net. However, when looking at the percentage of its chances it puts on net, it sits middle of the pack at 17th overall.
It’s unclear if Parise was referencing recent play or the season overall, so let’s take a look at the Wild during their current 5-game losing streak.
Again, Minnesota ranks near the bottom of the league in the amount of chances it generates and puts on net. More to Parise’s point, the Wild are hitting the net on their rush chances at a lower rate than their season average during recent play, ranking 26th overall in that area.
Parise is right, Minnesota needs to do a better job of getting its rush chances on net. The Wild are a low event team in terms of volume regarding rush chances so making their opportunities count is critical. As mentioned, Minnesota creates the 2nd fewest rush chances of any team in the league but they also allow the 4th fewest against. With Dumba out long-term, the Wild are going to have to generate more offense at even-strength in order to score at a rate that allows them to be competitive. Making the most of the few rush chances they get is one way of doing it. Failing that, they might have to look at opening up a bit to create more of these opportunities.