UPDATED: Mike Reilly reassigned to Iowa. As I wrote below, either he'll be back or Gustav Olofsson will after the break.
The Wild earned a very well-deserved respite in its schedule Thursday night by beating the St. Louis Blues, 5-1, to enter the All-Star break with the second-best record in the NHL (32-11-5, 69 points in 48 games) and a four-point lead in the Western Conference and Central Division.
Please give the game story a read for a ton of stats heading into the break, but basically, the Wild leads the conference in goals, goals against, goal differential, fewest regulation losses, home power play (best in the league) and save percentage.
It has scored four or more goals 20 times in 48 games, something it did 20 times in 82 games last season.
Like I said, please read the gamer.
I’d assume Friday morning the Wild will at least reassign Mike Reilly to save some cap space. I do wonder if Gustav Olofsson gets a look immediately after the break or soon after. With Jason Pominville playing well at the point of the second unit, Reilly isn’t getting power-play time, so the Wild may want to get him back to playing every situation full-time in Iowa.
We shall see.
The Wild will practice in St. Paul on Monday afternoon, then fly to Edmonton to open a four-game trip vs. the Oilers, Flames, Canuckleheads and Jets. Then, starting Feb. 8 vs. Chicago, the Wild plays EIGHT in a row at home (seven-game homestand, then the bye, then one game).
Friday, Ryan Suter, friends and his wife, son and nephew charter out to LA for the All-Star Game. On another charter, Bruce Boudreau, his wife and one of his sons, Devan Dubnyk, his wife and two kids, some Wild staffers and somebody else head to L.A.
I’m stuck in steerage on a commercial flight.
But the good news, at least I’m going to L.A., so some cool stories should be on the horizon.
I have been at the arena since 7 a.m. today and still haven’t packed for the trip, so I’m going to take the cheap way out of this blog and copy and paste some quotes. But please follow me on Twitter during All-Star Weekend and in the paper. I’ll also be on KFAN on Sunday at 10:15 a.m. CT.
Boudreau on Zach Parise, who had an assist tonight and battled his you know what off: “I thought Zach was our best player. I mean, he didn’t score a goal, but to me, he was all over the ice, he was the catalyst that started the first goal. He could have had a couple himself, and eventually they’ll start going in for him. But to me he was the catalyst for us tonight.”
Boudreau on the Wild’s ridiculous balance (seven 30-point scorers, eight 10-goal scorers to lead the league in both): “It’s pretty balanced right now. I think every line got a goal today. It’s a different kind of team that I’ve had in the past, but it’s a very enjoyable one to coach.”
Boudreau on Nino Niederreiter’s goal to make it 4-1: “The fourth goal I thought really took the wind out of their sails. I think we scored with 10 seconds to go in the second (Mikko Koivu’s second power-play goal in two games), so I didn’t know really how bad it affected them in the room. But we came out and it was a relatively weak goal by Nino, a shortside goal, and I think their shoulders slumped and that was it.”
Boudreau on the Wild not relinquishing a 2-goal lead: “I thought it was going to eventually correct itself, and it did. … I thought tonight we played the right way. You learn from your mistakes. It’s a process for the whole year that hopefully by April you’re not making any of the mistakes because you’ve learned by them all.”
Boudreau on Dubnyk, whose 27 wins are second in the NHL and his 1.88 GAA and .936 SV% lead the NHL: “That was the guy that played the first 40 games. He was sharp. They had some good chances at the end, but I think he held on and did a real good job.”
Granlund, who had a goal and assist to extend his point streak to nine, quotes:
“It was a pretty good effort. We wanted to go into this stretch on a good note and now we’ve got to rest a little bit and get your mind off hockey.”
Granlund on what he’ll do during the break: “Not to think about hockey at all. That’s my plan.”
Granlund on his line: “I think as a line we’ve been doing a real good job. Just the overall game, just the way we try to defend hard and obviously when you defend hard that creates a lot of chances for you. With Zach’s speed and Mikko’s really good defensive game we get a lot of chances. It’s been a fun stretch, but there’s still a lot of season left.”
Granlund on the break: “I don’t know when it’s a good time or a bad time but I think everybody really likes it when you get a couple days off. It’s been a lot of games so when you get a couple days completely off … it’s not (just) physical, but your mind’s on the game, you think about hockey all the time. It’s going to be really nice for everybody and everybody’s just going to try and relax and get back on Monday.”
Niederreiter, who had a goal and two assists for his second three-point game in the past five, quotes: “It was definitely big for us. We knew we wanted to go into the break with a good feeling. We sure did that and we have to make sure we regroup and recharge our batteries and come back even stronger. … It's been a lot of fun. I personally haven’t been in a situation like that in a long time. It's great. It's fun to be in the hunted seed here.”
Haula, who had the first goal 23 seconds into the second, quotes:
“It’s huge. We talk about consistency. The bar is high for us in the room. We keep each other accountable. Every game is important. We’ve talked about it and we want to be on the top.”
What is it that has led to being so consistent- “I think it’s really big for us that we have four really good lines that we just have different lines scoring and playing well. I think we’ve been really good at picking each other up. Even if it’s not going for somebody, you don’t have that pressure this year, I feel like. Especially for our top guys, we just keep playing and we’re getting a lot of production from all around.”
Tonight an example- “Yeah, absolutely. That’s great. That’s great that everyone gets a piece. It’s going to take that. I feel like we’ve seen it in the past few years here. It’s obviously a great addition to get that caliber of center in Staalsy. I feel like we’re strong in the middle and that’s important.”
What does it mean to be leading West right now- “It means we had a good first half, basically. It just shows the potential our team has. We can’t pump each other’s tires. We know how quickly it slips. We’ve seen those losing streaks, as well as the winning streaks, so we know what it’s like. I think we’ve kind of learned from our mistakes. I think the goal is just to never lose two in a row and just have a high standard for our team.”
Pile on them quick in the 3rd- “It was important. It’s happened, too, in the third for us, where we had that two-goal lead and we don’t keep playing. It was great that we learned a lesson from those. It kind of happened again and we can feel good going into the break, and be excited coming back.”
Graovac, who scored the game-winner on dad Tom’s birthday:
“I think winning here has been amazing to be a part of even if it's just a limited role. Tonight goes to show that if we have four lines going we're a really hard team to stop. Going into the next couple days we're going to take a break and I'm not going to think about hockey at all. I think for me it's been a lot of adjusting and trying to build my game. It's been a bit of a process. I got lucky tonight with that goal. It was a great play by Nino.
“That was awesome and that’s the way we played. We started to get back in order in Dallas to how we want to play and Bruce talked about it, we’ll still score goals playing tight defensively, we’ll still score and we showed that perfectly tonight.”
Focused from puck drop?
“Yeah, it’s St. Louis. We talked about it this morning, it was going to be a tough opponent, their needing points right now. We’re good with that, we’re comfortable in tight games. Anybody on our bench can come up with a big play and we had lots of guys do that tonight.”
Take a breath and enjoy where you’re at?
“Yeah, it’ll be fun, I’m looking forward to the weekend and seeing my family and everybody out there, a little Vitamin D in LA is not going to hurt either. We’ll go enjoy the weekend and step back a bit. This is fun, I think everybody will say the same thing, no reason to stop what we’re doing, it’s nothing magical. We’re playing the right way and we can continue to do that.”