Skip to content

Zuccarello on Wild's poor start: We play defense like 'a f------g junior team'

David Berding / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Warning: Story contains coarse language.

The typically defensive-sound Minnesota Wild are struggling to keep the puck out of their net to begin the season, and the frustration is beginning to build.

The Wild fell to the New York Rangers 7-3 in their season opener Thursday before losing to the Los Angeles Kings 7-6 on Saturday. Minnesota is the first team to allow seven goals in each of its first two contests since the 1988 Chicago Blackhawks, according to Sportsnet.

"You can't expect to win games when you let in 14 goals in two games," forward Mats Zuccarello said after Saturday's loss, per The Athletic's Michael Russo. "Sometimes we play defense like we're a fucking junior team. It's the whole team. We've got to sharpen up."

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was lit up for all seven goals in the opener but was mercifully pulled in favor of backup Filip Gustavsson after stopping just 10 of 14 shots on Saturday. The home fans at Xcel Energy Center booed Fleury, which he believes was justifiable.

"I don't blame them. I'd boo myself," Fleury said, according to The Athletic's Joe Smith. "I was not good. I feel bad for the fans. I feel bad for my teammates. I've got to step up. I've got to be better."

Fleury was especially upset with himself for the fourth and final goal he allowed - an unscreened, long-range point shot by Alex Iafallo.

"So fucking stupid," Fleury said. "I think I was just looking to see what was coming - I knew he was far away - to see where guys were at, and then I looked back at the shot, and it was already in. Just stupid, stupid."

The poor defensive start is very uncharacteristic for Minnesota. Over the last three seasons, the Wild allowed just 2.09 expected goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five, the second-best mark in the league during that stretch, per Natural Stat Trick.

It's also uncharacteristic of Fleury, who's just two years removed from winning his first Vezina Trophy and well on his way to the Hall of Fame.

The road ahead doesn't get any easier, as Minnesota is back in action Monday against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox