When his frightened wife rushed to his side after he uncontrollably crashed head-first into the boards Saturday afternoon, Eric Staal simply said, “Sorry.”
“She’s watched a lot of hockey over time, and I’m sure when you see your husband in that state, it can shake you up a little bit,” the Wild veteran said Tuesday of his wife, Tanya. “But she was with me right from there all the way through the process of what we had to do at the hospital. We’re really fortunate.
“When you see something like that happen, it’s scary because I think everybody in this game knows somebody or knows of somebody that has crashed into the boards and not been able to get up.”
Staal has a concussion. It could have been a lot worse.
The 32-year-old, whose three young brothers all play professional hockey, knows how lucky he was not to sustain a neck or back injury. Staal couldn’t brace himself after clipping skates with St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen while he attempted to score off his own rebound.
Most terrifying, after crashing “very fast, he initially felt numbness in his feet.
Staal’s parents, brothers and several friends were in touch with his wife right away.
“It’s a scary play,” Staal said. “I had a lot of people that care about me, which I appreciate, reaching out. Glad it wasn’t worse.”
Staal, who has had “one or two” concussions in the past, said he has gotten progressively better after a lot of sleep.
“I did not feel very good the next day or the day after that. I’m still a little stiff,” Staal said. “But as far as my head goes, it’s cleared up quite a bit over the last couple days. I don’t foresee it …, I mean, I’m hoping it doesn’t get worse. But I feel pretty good.”
Staal is supremely disappointed how the season ended. The Wild’s leading goal scorer with 28 during the regular season had none in five playoff games.
“I would have liked to have been better throughout the series,” he said. “We needed some offense, we needed some goals. I was a key guy this year in doing that, and I wasn’t able to. I felt like I created some looks, created chances throughout the series, but for whatever reason, they didn’t hit the back of the net as they had been previously.
“So, I was disappointed in a lot of different ways as to how it all finished.”
Still, Staal still firmly believes the future’s bright in Minnesota.
“As difficult as it is to swallow and how tough it is right now, I don’t think there’s a ton of huge changes that need to be made for us to be a top, effective team next season,” Staal said. “Our goal is to win a Stanley Cup, our goal is to go do good things in the playoffs, and unfortunately that didn’t happen this year.
“But we have a very good team. It was a fine line in the first round every game, and that’s what the playoffs are. They’re a fine line, and you have to get on the right side of that, and we didn’t this year. But hopefully we can make some tweaks and be better next season.”
On his season, Staal said, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it felt good to maybe stick it to some people that didn’t think I could play still a little bit. But, I came here expecting to play on a good team, came here expecting to play with some great players and be given an opportunity, and I was able to do that and contribute. We did a lot of great things throughout the season. It just stings right now with how it finished. For me personally, I wish I could have done more to help the group in the playoffs. Sometimes that’s how it goes, and now it’s about preparing yourself for next season to have a good start."
Staal also said of the chemistry on the team, "There was a lot of special qualities that I felt like we had in this room, and it’s unfortunate the way it kind of played out. But I still think we have a great team, and I still think we were as competitive as anybody. You get into the playoffs, and you never know what can happen. You give them credit. They played well. But honestly, from my perspective for the most part, there was mostly games where we felt like we were carrying the play, and we just weren’t able to capitalize on the looks and the opportunities that we had. And that’s not an excuse. That’s the reality. You have to be able to score and finish those chances and get on the right side of those close games, and we just weren’t able to do that.
More later on wrapup day