Tonight was one of those games where you wish there was unlimited space in the newspaper. There was just so much to try to cram in, but at least space on the Internet is infinite, … so here we go.
Just be aware, this may be a stream of consciousness blog following the Wild’s 3-2 loss to Nashville because there are so many different facets to get to, it’s late and it’s probably easier to go section by section rather than try to formulate one giant block of type. The stuff to get to: the Zach Parise injury, the Nate Prosser injury, the controversial winning goal and the play that led to it, the fact the Wild’s depth is beyond thin right now because injuries up front are mounting and Iowa doesn’t have a lot of reinforcements, and the fact that Mike Yeo wasn’t accepting excuses after and simply was displeased with how the Wild gave such a winnable game away to its divisional rival.
Let’s get started:
1. The Zach Parise injury. It’s an apparent right knee injury. The Wild right now is just calling it a “lower body injury.” Yeo said he’d give us an update Friday, so he’s obviously getting an MRI. There’s no doubt though the Wild has an initial diagnosis because usually trainers and doctors can tell right away if the ACL is damaged or gone and/or it’s the MCL or another issue.
The injury came 75 seconds into the game and 30 seconds into Parise’s first shift. High in the offensive zone, Parise turned to the glass to fish for a loose puck. After he backhanded it into the slot, James Neal, who typically plays on that border, hit him above the numbers with Parise a little bent down. Their knees clanked, and Parise’s seemed to twist an abnormal way.
He fell to the ice, tried to get up and fell awkwardly. He finally was able to get up and skate slowly to the bench before limping down the tunnel. But he didn’t miss a shift.
Zach Parise played a couple shifts after this hit to his knee from James Neal but will not return https://t.co/aynv2ufXpV— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) November 6, 2015
Much to the relief of the crowd, Parise came back to the bench pretty quickly and played five more shifts in the period. In fact, Parise got back so soon, orthopedic surgeon Joel Boyd was in the tunnel chatting with athletic trainer John Worley as Parise was on the ice. Worley said whispered to him and Boyd left.
Looked like that was a good sign.
But the last two shifts, it was pretty clear to me Parise wasn’t himself. He seemed to have trouble pushing off and was in some duress in my opinion. So I kept my isolation eyeballs on him, and suddenly after a 4-on-4 , Parise made a beeline for the bench, skated through the door and limped down the tunnel not to be seen again.
Maybe some hopeful news about the Wild’s leading goal scorer is Ryan Suter said he was working out after the game.
Yeo would only rule Parise out for Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay and made it pretty clear by the end of the presser that “bottom line is we’re losing Zach …”
A mishmash of quotes from players:
Jason Zucker: “It’s never easy losing a guy like that. It’s a guy you can’t replace in anyway.”
Matt Dumba: It’s pretty big shoes to fill. Zach, what he does for our team, he’s awesome. We’re a deep team and we got guys who are going to come in and work hard and try to take this opportunity to play their best game and show what they have. If we do that as a team and work together, we should be good.”
Suter: He’s our best player. It definitely [stinks] to see your best player go down. Hopefully he’s back soon. … I know he’s in the back working out. Knowing him, he’ll be back pretty soon.”
Suter on the Neal hit: “It was from behind. He was running around all night. He hit [Charlie] Coyle [charge in the third period]. That was a pretty dangerous play in front of our bench. Cheap, I don’t know. Running around, yeah. Reckless, yeah, but I guess that’s part of the game.”
Mikko Koivu: Injuries, you need to adjust to that at this level. I just hope he comes back and it’s not bad.”
Koivu said, “everyone” must step up. “It’s as simple as that. Again, that’s part of the game. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t know what it is or how long it’s going to be, but knowing him, I’m sure he’ll back sooner than later.”
Devan Dubnyk: “The second you don’t see him on the ice, it hits home for everybody. He’s our guy, and you see what he brings for us every game. Just gotta hope for the best.”
2. Who the heck comes up for Parise? As I’ve written in the paper and blog and said on the podcast, with Tyler Graovac and Justin Fontaine now hurt, the Wild would be in deep, deep trouble if it got another injury or two.
Parise’s a fairly big injury, eh?
The Wild announced before the game that center Zac Dalpe will miss five months after hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. Graovac’s out six weeks, Fontaine out four to six. Grayson Downing and Marc Hagel have been out all year in Iowa and now Michael Keranen, arguably the natural callup for Parise, didn’t play today for Iowa because he’s hurt.
The Baby Wild is awful. It had scored 17 goals in 12 games and has very little skill. So who do they call up? Christoph Bertschy could be the guy. He’s skilled and apparently playing well. There’s also Zack Mitchell, Brett Bulmer, Brett Sutter, Ruslan Fedotenko (0 goals, has been a scratch), Kurtis Gabriel.
But nobody’s playing particularly well.
The Wild also has about $650,000 in salary-cap space right now, so things are getting … hairy.
3. The game-winner. First, the play that led up to it.
The game’s 2-2. With about seven minutes left, I turned to my “shadow” Drew (big help tonight transcribing the Dubnyk interview you’re about to read and my Phil Housley interview you’ll read in Sunday’s paper) and said, “This game doesn’t have a feel of a game that’s going to overtime. The Wild’s lost their way, aren’t playing well.”
They just weren’t skating as well and were getting loose all over the ice. Just like that, Thomas Vanek, who did play solid all the game, made a blindish backhand pass high in the zone for Jason Pominville. Pominville didn’t corral it, instead trying to one-touch it to Suter. It was turned over. Jared Spurgeon tried to backhand it from the neutral zone back into the offensive zone, but Hodgson grabbed the puck and wheeled by a curling Pominville at the blue line. Of course, at least they were trying something. Mikael Granlund was terrible tonight. No speed, no plays, at one point after a power play turnover idled to the bench in slow motion.
They need much more from Granlund, who has no even-strength points in nine straight games now (same with Pominville, who again was maddeningly snakebit tonight).
Just not good enough. The forwards left the defensemen hung out to try, and Yeo alluded so after the game.
“I think if we’re doing our jobs a little bit better and a little bit urgency of the situation – obviously we’re trying to score, but we have to make sure that they don’t score, and I think that they had a little more urgency in that shift than we did,” Yeo said.
Later, Yeo alluded to it again: “Bottom line is we’re losing Zach and we’re probably going to lose some offense. What does that mean? Does that mean you push harder to try to score more and give up a little bit more defensively? We didn’t handle that situation too well. Instead of digging in a little bit more defensively, we got a little soft there and it cost us game.”
4. The Dubnyk controversy. On the winner, Hodgson took a shot from the right circle that knuckled its way to the net maybe after tipping Spurgeon’s stick. Dubnyk, interestingly wearing new pads tonight, made the save. “Dooooo” began to circulate in the arena as they did all period as Dubnyk was playing well (challenging shooters, robbing guys like Roman Josi and James Neal). But suddenly, Hodgson scored.
What the heck happened?
Dubnyk didn’t look clean when he swallowed the puck, and maybe that caused the referee (I think, Rob Martell) to not blow the whistle. The puck was in his pads, and then suddenly as Dubnyk began to stand, the puck fell and Hodgson, who smartly followed his shot, scored.
Dubnyk was incensed when he saw the replay on the big screen scoreboard and immediately went to go look at the replay after the game.
“Watch the replay,” Dubnyk said. “[The ref’s] explanation was the puck was sitting between my legs the whole time and that’s why he didn’t blow the whistle. And I think, all you need to do is watch the replay to realize that wasn’t the case, and the reason the puck came loose was because I moved because he didn’t blow the whistle. And if you probably watch, the whistle was probably going to his mouth at some point, to blow the whistle (Russo note: that is true).
“And then I was told that the puck was between my legs the whole time, so I don’t understand how that adds up, and just like that it’s a hard-fought, 60-minute game and the game is over. It’s disappointing to have it go that way, when, 10 minutes earlier there was a slap shot that got through and the whistle was blown instantly (Russo note: true, too). And I’m not saying you need to blow the whistle, but the simple fact was that the puck was in my equipment, it was a knuckling slap shot, that I didn’t get cleanly, and the puck was in my equipment and the only reason that it came loose is because I moved because there was no whistle. I don’t understand how I can be told that the puck’s loose the whole time, when there’s cameras everywhere, that shows it was quite obvious it wasn’t. It’s a tough way when you come back twice like we did, but it’s disappointing.”
Suter was livid and complained to the ref.
“Definitely should have been [a whistle],” Suter said. “He had it. Obviously if you don’t hear anything, you’re going to stand up. And when he stood up, the puck dropped.”
Yeo was mostly upset with the things that led up to the goal on that shift. Yeo said the Wild could make the argument that the whistle should have blown, “and I know Duby thought that the play was dead, and I will say that they blew one awfully quick on Thomas earlier.” But like I said, Yeo wasn’t mostly upset with the play of his skaters on that shift before the goal.
5. Marco Scandella and Dumba scored power-play goals, but the Wild’s power play couldn’t come through with the score tied 2-2 or in the final 1:39 of the game. It was curious that Yeo never put Jason Zucker on the ice in the final 1:39 even though he was a threat all night and extended his point streak to seven games tonight, a career-high.
6. Nate Prosser also didn’t play in the third period with an undisclosed injury.
The Parise injury and the Prosser injury just led to a “weird” night, as Koivu called it, where the Wild couldn’t get a lot of momentum.
Suter, who was not happy with his own “sloppy” play, said, “A lot of whistles, everyone was with everyone. Pross was gone in the third. Just kind of chaos to be honest with you. A lot going on and it was tough to get into a game like that with all those whistles.”
7. Yeo said sloppiness has been creeping in for awhile and “it seems like we have one, two, three good shifts and then we get away from it. It’s not rolling four lines deep right now where every guy is on the same page as far as our identity on how we’re supposed to play the game.”
He said tonight the Wild needed to make sure it was mentally tough enough to stay in a tight-checking game, and the Wild didn’t and it was costly. He felt the Wild got too perimeter late in the game.
“You lose players a lot of times in games, and we’ve obviously lost a few guys up front,” Yeo said. “There’s going to be some opportunities for some guys. We’ll have to see what we do with our lines [Friday]. We’re forced into some changes with Zach, but the way things are going, we have to look at some other ideas anyways to try to get things going a little bit more in the right direction.”
OK, now I’m really tired. Stay tuned to the Star Tribune and my Twitter account on Friday for Parise/callup news.