No energy, no battle, no semblance of quality play Thursday night in a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The L.A. Kings ended up beating the Winnipeg Jets, so the Wild's next opportunity to clinch a fifth consecutive playoff berth is Saturday. Two points, or two lost points by the Kings gets it done.
The Flyers deserve credit. They defended hard and played well, but the Wild wouldn’t have been able to fight through a wet paper bag.
No other way to say it: This was an absolutely troubling defeat during a very troubling month.
Just a huge letdown from Tuesday’s win over San Jose to fall for the ninth time in 12 games this month and the eighth time in the past 10 games.
The Wild looked like a very tired team, and whether you accept that as an excuse or not when there are many good teams in this league playing every other night not looking tired and finding ways to win, that’s reality.
The Wild looks fatigued, and Boudreau is admittedly uncertain as to how to get the Wild out of its siesta.
It’s not like he’s some magical sorcerer or something.
One issue is the Wild has chased games all month, so Boudreau keeps shortening his bench, which overextends players. Tonight, he cut it down to nine forwards and five D in the third period.
The Wild couldn’t get to the middle of the ice in the offensive zone, was just downright loose in the neutral zone and sloppy in the defensive zone. Passing was atrocious, offensive execution continued to be poor, and like I said, there was no battle to get to the net.
Down 2-1 in the third, the Wild managed TWO shots in the first 15:03 and FOUR for the entire period against one of the worst goalies in the NHL this season and one of the worst defensive teams.
The Wild lost 31 of 52 faceoffs and just bad following Zach Parise opening the scoring 2:07 into the game.
Boudreau said, “They checked very well. They were faster than us tonight, and they were on top of us at every move. We looked very tired. And in compete, when it’s one-on-one battles and you’re not winning them, they’re getting the puck and they’re controlling it. I don’t have an answer for you.”
Boudreau has mentioned a handful of times this month how tired the Wild, worried all season about this 20-game in 35-day stretch, look.
How do they get it back?
“There is no magical elixir,” Boudreau said. “You’d like to practice, but I don’t know, and don’t see … if fatigue is the answer, if they are tired, if they think that they’re in that area where they can’t go up and they can’t go down [the ice], it’s a tough, tough go at that point here. You’ve got to find it from your inner self. The competitive juices got to come from inside. Whether you’re playing this or you’re playing the soccer [warmup] that they play [before the game], you’ve got to will it, I guess, when you’re in this situation.”
Boudreau, by the way, for the first time this season split Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. Told recently how good longtime partners Spurgeon and Marco Scandella used to be, Boudreau tried them together and Suter with Matt Dumba.
“We are trying to get a Top 4 instead of sometimes using Suter and Spurgeon for 30 minutes and wearing them down. They probably played the same amount tonight. You figure, I've been told that Scandy and Spurge played very well together a couple years ago and Dumba's game is picking up, and when Spurge was out, he and Sutes were playing pretty good. So I thought let's give it a crack again and see if we can't get that Top 4.”
What’s so troubling about the Wild right now is almost everybody’s game has tailed off, from the goalie out.
Spurgeon and Mikael Granlund were about the only two that had constant energy and vigor tonight. Granlund could have had eight assists if his linemates could finish tonight.
Some examples of slumps: Mikko Koivu has two goals in his past 22 games. Nino Niederreiter had one of his toughest games of the year tonight and has one goal in the past 18 games and none since Feb. 27. Jason Zucker has one goal in the past 11 games.
On the slumps, Boudreau said, “If I had answers I'd try to cure it. I think we can -- they've just got to -- I don't know. They've got to will it. They've got to find a way. They can't get down when things don't go good. That's pretty well the bottom line. When things aren't going well it's pretty easy to get depressed. When things are going great, it takes a long time to wear you down. When things aren't going good, every little thing wears you down a little bit more.”
On his concern level now with the playoffs looming, Boudreau said, “I'm concerned because I'm used to them having jump and energy and for me to sit here and say, 'Ah. Everything's good,' when we've lost six out of seven, eight out of 10, it's not as good as we'd like it. That's for sure. I'm confident that this team is going to be ready when that time comes. But at the same time, we'd like to play every game like we think they're capable of playing.”
Other cut and paste quotes:
Staal: “It just seemed like everything we were chasing after, we were a half step behind, both offensively and defensively a lot of the night. When you’re like that, you’re playing without the puck and chasing it a lot. Just didn’t have enough.”
Staal said, “They battled, they competed and I think for us, we had to fight a little harder, a little better to get in there and get pucks back. It seemed like when we had one guy in there, we didn’t have a second and when we did get close to getting the puck, for whatever reason, it was rolling away on us or we weren’t executing the play after we had the puck. Just weren’t as crisp as we normally are.”
Staal on the lack of push in the third period: “That’s not good enough, obviously, we’re aware of that. We need to be better. We expect a push to come back and we need more. It just seemed like we didn’t have enough to generate enough in the o-zone to create those chances and shots. It needs to be better, two shots isn’t good enough, you’re not gonna come back very many times if you generate that much.”
Ryan Suter said, “We came out, we had a good start, we got that first goal and I think we just sat back. We thought it was going to be easy. We just quit moving our feet and it caught up with us. … I thought in the neutral zone we had a tough time getting through. We were turning a lot of pucks over. But I just don’t think we were skating that well today.
Suter on not being able to build after the Sharks win: “It’s frustrating. We had a good game on Tuesday, we came out and had good jump, and then tonight we were kind of flat.”
Zach Parise on the third period: “It felt like we were pretty flat for a lot of the game. But they played well. They played hard. They checked us all over the ice – we didn’t have a lot of room. But our passing was off. We had guys open and we just missed them for no reason. A lot of one-and-dones in the offensive zone. They outplayed us, I thought.”
Parise on dying as a team after his goal: “I thought a lot of it had to do with how hard they worked and how hard they played. Any time there was a loose puck it felt like they jumped on it quicker than us. Any time there was a 50/50 puck they came out with it, it felt like, the majority of the time. Just, they got it, flipped out and chased us down. It wasn’t our best game.”
On being outworked: “You’d like to think that in the spot that we are right now, we’d like to be the team and we should be the team that’s out competing. We’re going to play some teams that – I’m not saying they’re out of the playoffs, but it’s hard for them to make the playoffs, I think. We’re going to play some other teams like that, and really we can’t get outworked by them. They’re going to come, they’re going to play loose, they’re going to work and if you don’t show up to play, it’s going to be games like that for us. So we’ve got to compete a lot harder than we did.”
Dubnyk on not building after the Sharks win: “Yeah, we need to… this is a tough time of year. It’s tough to win games and I think if you look at that game [against Philadelphia], we need to do a better job of managing the game. There’s two minutes left in the start and end of periods; too many times, I think, this year and recently, we give up a goal in the last two minutes of a period. At this time of year, you’ve got a 1-nothing lead in your home building, it should be treated like it’s the end of the game and you should go out there and they should get absolutely nothing unless they’re working it around the end and throwing pucks at the net. But as far as, I think, if we’re winning 1-nothing or by a goal at the end of a game, I don’t think that play develops or happens. We need to start treating it that way. And then same thing, we come out to start the second period, both very avoidable plays. And this time of year, it’s small things like that that end up being the difference in games.”
Koivu: “We didn't get any traffic, any rebounds, anything pretty much the whole game. That's where you score goals and we're outside right now. Every team’s defending well. You need to find a way. I don’t care who you play or how they play, as individuals, we’d got to find a way t get puck through, get in front of them and get dirty one.”
By the way, Nick Schultz may be retiring after the season, so it was awesome to see him play maybe one final game in this rink. He played real well.
Afterward, he said, “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be playing, so it’s nice to get a chance to be in the lineup tonight and get a big win here. It’s a great building, fun place to play. The guys played hard and it was a nice win for our team.”
That’s it for me. I’m taking Friday to work on my Sunday package. Kent Youngblood is covering practice.
Let’s see if the sun comes up in the morning, as Boudreau likes to say.