Wild players admit 'we haven't really played great' during up-and-down start

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Oct. 31—Despite getting off to an impressive 5-1-0 start this season, the Wild had some glaring issues lurking just below the surface. Those are starting to show now after back-to-back road losses to the Seattle Kraken and Colorado Avalanche over the weekend.

Though it's way too early to press the panic button — especially considering the Wild are still in a very good position in the Central Division (tied for second) — there are things the team needs to work on moving forward.

And that's OK. As alternate captain Marcus Foligno noted after Saturday night's 4-1 loss to the Avalanche at Ball Arena, "We haven't really played great all season."

"Honestly, I don't think we've played our game yet," Foligno added. "There's little spurts of it, and we have five wins because of it. But I don't think we're really at our game yet."

The fact the Wild haven't been at their best at any point this season is somewhat encouraging since they are still near the top of the Central Division. They have uncovered what they need to improve on without sacrificing their place in the standings.

As of Sunday afternoon, the Wild have one-goal wins over Anaheim (twice), Los Angeles, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Some of the problem areas during the first couple of weeks of the season include taking too many penalties, leaving goaltender Cam Talbot vulnerable too often, and most recently, struggling to put the puck in the net.

"We have played well in spurts and stuff," coach Dean Evason said. We likely need to score some more goals. There's no question about that. We just need to find a couple more goals every game."

Asked why he thinks the Wild have been so up and down, Foligno pointed to the fact that the roster has been influx. Remember, the Wild are without winger Mats Zuccarello (COVID protocol), winger Jordan Greenway (lower-body injury) and defenseman Alex Goligoski (upper-body injury)

"Just growing pains and new guys getting into the lineup," Foligno said. "Everyone is playing decent. It's just trying to get a feel for each other and understand the way we have to play."

In that same breath, Foligno put the onus on the leadership group, which includes himself, captain Jared Spurgeon and alternate captain Matt Dumba. As far as Foligno is concerned, it's on the leadership group to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Still, the Wild have a lot of veterans on the roster, and it's on everyone to step up with so many players out.

"Just have to be those calming presences out there," Talbot said. "You just have to settle it down and not force plays. Just make the simple play, because when we're doing that, more often than not, we're having success. It's when we try to go through guys and they knock it down and go in transition, that's when it starts to hurt us. If our veteran guys are playing the right way, our young guys see it and they're going to follow suit."

It's only a matter of time before the Wild start to get some players back. If they can keep things together until then, they could be in good shape moving forward.

"Everyone is playing with somebody different night in and night out," Talbot said. "Give those young guys credit. They have come in and given us valuable minutes and they haven't hurt us. They are playing extremely hard whenever they are out there. It's not easy to step in and play that first game. But I think once we get back to full strength here, we will start to trend more in the right direction and we'll play our best game more often than not."