As Mike Yeo said after Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, “familiar script.”
So familiar, I could probably get away with tossing up a previous Wild blog or game story from this road trip in this space, change a couple words and depart into the humid Florida evening.
But alas, you want a fresh blog and here I am to provide one.
Forgive me, I’m loopy on cold medication.
The Wild coach mixed up his top three lines in search of offense and departed with another one goal loss, although with one point in the standings. Playing against a young team that had lost six of eight, the Wild again turned its opposition goaltender into a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and one-time Conn Smythe winner.
Only this time it wasn’t Jhonas Enroth, James Reimer or Ben Bishop in net. It was actually Tim Thomas, who won those above awards. He made 30 saves, including eight on a frustrated Zach Parise, who went goalless on the trip despite 21 shots.
Tonight, Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Dany Heatley and Ryan Suter had a 79-second 5-on-3 to break a 1-1 tie in the third period and, as Suter said, “I think we had two scoring chances.”
It was an ugly display. Shanked shots, turnover and a near icing.
“Whenever you don’t capitalize on that, something bad probably is going to happen,” Suter said. “We have to get better chances.”
Even in the third period, it felt like the Wild spent the majority of the period in Florida’s end, yet somehow managed four shots. Parise, whose seething quotes can be read in the game story on www.startribune.com/wild, said the Wild was “too perimeter.”
I will say this: Parise was seething after this one. His whole demeanor reminded me of Feb. 12 in Vancouver when the Wild lost 2-1 to the Canucks. The Wild had scored seven goals in a six-game, 2-4-1, stretch – one goal each in six of the seven games.
The Wild did find a way to start scoring goals, but it is amazing that no matter the coach, system or players, this team historically struggles to score.
The Wild’s 3-3-3, yet has given up a league-low 21.8 shots per game and a league-low five 5-on-5 goals. Yet, they’re 3-3-3. It’s amazing.
“I’m disappointed for our guys, to be honest with you, because they’ve been playing their tails off and we’re playing great defensively, we’re playing our tails off, we’re generating chances, but we’re not winning games,” Yeo said. “And you can tell that guys, it’s in their heads a little bit. You can see it in the 5-on-3, you can see it in the shootout. Guys are playing their tails off and they’re not getting rewarded, so as a staff, we have to help them out here to figure out what we can do to mentally and what we can do, whether it’s personnel or whether it’s again adjusting lines or whether it’s something tactically, we have to figure something out because it’s obviously tough winning games 1-0.”
One would have hoped Friday’s day off in the sun of South Florida would have reset the minds, but it was clear on the 5-on-3 the Wild was pressing and gripping its sticks tight. Just look at Koivu’s two shanks.
“The guys came in with a good mindset, but we can’t sit here and say, ‘Oh geez, hopefully one of those good chances goes in for us in the first period and then we feel better,’” Yeo said. “It’s something that’s in our heads and we have to find a way to get it out. But at the same time, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to keep battling. We’ve got a big stretch of games coming up at home and we’ve got to be prepared to start making a run here.”
Yeo said, “We need a great practice on Monday and certainly having a little bit more practice time – during this stretch we haven’t had practice time, you can’t get out there to work your shot, you can’t do things to build confidence through practice, through just going out and doing the right thing over and over again and feeling good about it, so certainly that’ll help.”
The young kids were great tonight, especially Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund Niederreiter and Granlund combined to draw the penalty before Jonas Brodin’s goal and then combined to set it up with Heatley, who again had a few glaring turnovers tonight.
Yeo said on Nino and Granlund: Those guys, they’re just going to keep getting more opportunity. They deserve it. So I’m going to start getting those guys out there if they can keep playing like that. They just keep winning more and more opportunity and I’m ready to give it to them.”
Is he talking even 5-on-3’s?
“I don’t know about that,” Yeo said. “We'll sit there with Bruno (Andrew Brunette) and look at it and figure it out. Again, we're fighting it a little bit there. These are the things that you have to think of big picture. Do we want to start taking people off there and hurt their confidence more? Is it a matter of sticking behind them and helping them get through it? If we feel that somebody is not cutting it, if they're not putting the effort in, if they're not doing the right things, OK. But again our guys are doing a lot of the right things and we have to help them get to it.”
On if he’ll continue to go with Harding (which, how can’t he): “That's obviously something we'll have to consider. We do want to get Backy in at some point -- we don't want him sitting around forever. But Hards has been great. He's been nothing but great and again tonight he had no chance on that goal. He's doing a heck of a job making [the Niklas Backstrom-Harding decision] tough on us.”
Does he feel for Harding?
“I feel for our whole group. We deserve better. That was kind of my message. We're not a .500 team. We're not built to be .500. We're a better team than that and we could sit here and argue -- I mean scoring chances on the season, we've gone over them, we're close to 2-to-1. So we could sit here and argue we deserve to be better, but the bottom line is we're not. So we have to figure it out and we have to find a way to rectify that.”
It’s harder when you’re going through it. I don’t have any answers. I don’t know. You just keep shooting and know and hope that it’s going to go in for us soon. But we’ve got to do something a little better. what that is, I’d like to find out sooner than later because it’s killing us right now.
Wild’s PK continues to be brutal. Careless penalties and a porous penalty kill is a bad combination. The tying goal in the third by Aleks Barkov came off that. The Wild’s PK ranks 29th as of this moment and has given up at least one goal in eight of nine games.
That’s it for me. The Wild has the day off Sunday, and then I'm off Monday and Tuesday. Rachel's covering both days, including the game vs. Nashville on Tuesday, although I'll probably go to the game to tweet and blog.