Judging from my Twitter mentions last night, many Wild fans wanted Bruce Boudreau to skate the team into oblivion today in Calgary.
If you’re one of those fans, you would have been sorely disappointed by today’s anticlimactic yet long practice at the Corral.
Instead of punishing his players, the Wild coach decided to actually work – and work a lot – on the areas of the game that have been problems lately.
He said he would have scrapped practice today as a reward if the Wild had won in Vancouver. Instead, the Wild blew a lead for the third time in six games to lose, so he decided to get something out of today’s first of two straight practices before Friday’s game at Calgary.
It’s funny, and Boudreau has brought this up three times in the last week, including after last night’s game. He and I got into a slight disagreement on camera in the postgame in Dallas because I felt there were too many odd-man rushes and some bad habits were creeping into the Wild’s game that night.
He didn't see it that. We talked about it the next day, he kind of swayed more toward my opinion and now he’s completely on board. Odd-man rushes were the focal point of today’s 70-plus minute practice.
“As you talked about in Dallas, which I should have seen it coming, I didn’t think of it too badly in Dallas, but our odd-man rushes, it’s ridiculous how many we’ve [given up] recently,” Boudreau said after practice. “It slides and slides and slides, and then it slides into a problem, and then you have to fix it. And you can fix it through practice.”
In practice, the team worked on tracking back, picking up the right man, communicating and not losing the third guy high in the offensive zone in the first place.
The bigtime guilty party last night when it came to giving up odd-man rushes and backchecking all night was the Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle line.
The trio starred in today’s video session and a couple of the players, including Parise, got talked to by Boudreau.
“We didn’t have a very good first and second period,” Parise said. “We didn’t support each other very much up the ice, turned the puck over a lot in the offensive zone. Just felt like we were backchecking for two periods. Just one of those games. We couldn’t get much going. That’s OK. It happens.
“But I think we’ve got to learn from it too. There were times where we just gave up the puck away. I think the first five times I had the puck, I gave it away. Tough to feel good about your game when that happens.”
What was so uncharacteristic is most of the Staal line’s turnovers came on entries when they had full control of the puck before giving it away. That’s how the Canucks got most their rushes against that line.
When the line did establish a forecheck, Coyle said the three forwards pressed too hard, got away from what works and “cheated the system. We had that third guy too low, and one pass beats all of us and we’re backchecking all night.
“I know Eric and Zach, that’s not nearly good enough for them, and we’re all on the same page there. We have to be much better for our team. I can’t think of too many shifts down in their end and cycling and feeling good and getting chances. We didn’t have anything. We were playing in our own end it seemed like all night.”
Said Boudreau, “I talked with a couple of them. They’re good players and they’re all professional and they’re going to get back on track. We’d like to see, and we haven’t seen it too often, that all the lines are going at the same time. Against Pittsburgh, we were all involved and committed. I just think in some other times when you’re playing teams that have a lesser record than us, we’re not all committed. It’s tough to win like that. But you’ve got to keep grinding. They’re good players. It’s a good team. We’ll find out way again Friday.”
Boudreau isn’t pleased with the penalty kill or the power play right now, so I bet that’s the focus of tomorrow’s practice. He also wants more disciplined.
Matt Dumba’s penalty to negate a power play turned the Canucks’ game upside. Just a careless penalty by fencing off at the blue line. Textbook interference, and right whem the Wild had a chance to put the Canucks away on a power play.
“It’s a bad penalty to take because it was easily defendable,” Boudreau said. “All he had to do was turn around and go get the puck, and we all know that’s a penalty now.”
Re-watching the game today, Dumba had a ton of mistakes last night. Boudreau said, “You can say that. You’re watching the game. I’m not going to throw him under the bus. There’s a lot of guys that made a lot of mistakes last night.”
One other big issue: The fourth line. Boudreau is a guy that likes to roll four lines. He can’t right now. When I asked if he’s got an issue with this, he said, “It is what it is.”
As few of words as that is, that’s an indictment and a half. Chris Stewart hasn’t had a point since Oct. 27 (14 games)!
After a 6-2-1 October, the Wild went 5-6-2 in November. The team hopes to turn back around with the calendar flipping to December.
“It’d be nice. We’d love to. We talk about it,” Parise said. “But when we have that chance, we shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes. When we do have a chance to string a few in a row, we throw together a not very good effort.
“We have to worry about Calgary and get this turned around.”
Weird schedule. We’re in town tonight and the Flames host the Leafs, so I may check that out.
Talk to you after Thursday’s Flames and Wild practices.