The Wild’s in the midst of playing eight games in 13 nights and 10 in 17 nights, with three sets of back-to-backs, including two road-home, home-road back-to-backs this upcoming weekend and next weekend (so two back-to-backs seven days apart).
Mike Yeo clearly knows he’s coaching a team that’s starting to show signs of fatigue, so during and after tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Flyers, Yeo almost seemed to be trying to convince his team it’s not tired because of the upcoming three games in four nights starting Saturday in Dallas.
He said tonight’s rally from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime should be a good lesson to the Wild that it’s “all mental.”
We shall see. History says there could be a clunker on the horizon and the Wild’s about to play the division leader IN Dallas, where the Wild rarely wins. The Stars are an opponent that has beaten the Wild three times this season, twice (not shockingly) in overtime.
The Wild fell to 1-8 in overtime tonight (one of those eight being a shootout loss). I don’t feel like rummaging through my game sheets at this late hour, but it also seems like all the OT losses other than the 4-on-3 PP goal by Arizona in Glendale last month have come within the final 1:20 or so.
Tonight’s by Michael Del Zotto came with 37 seconds left after Mikko Koivu took an ill-timed line change. The Flyers had the puck at center and a tired Koivu tried to change from the defensive blue line. That led to a 3-on-2 down low.
But like most the Wild’s overtime losses, the Wild had the better of the chances and had five shots.
As Zach Parise, who tied the score with 6:24 left in the third, said, that’s been the theme of the majority of the losses. Get Grade A looks, don’t score, the opponent does. That’s been the formula.
“It’s pretty hard to say we should play that OT differently,” Yeo said. “They scored a goal, but I mean we dominated overtime and then they scored one. Mental, whatever. I wasn’t concerned on the bench thinking, ‘Oh no, here we go again.’ I thought, ‘This is great, this game is ours.’ We had the momentum. We have a long way to go to make the playoffs, but hopefully we’re saving some magic for the playoffs in overtime.”
Luckily for the Wild, playoff OT is 5-on-5 and for 20 minutes.
Yeo said he was “pretty happy with the guys. Obviously we wanted to get the win, we had more than enough chances in overtime. As a coach, you’re not pleased with the way the first half of the game went, but the way we responded. We had a pretty decent start, but then they scored, and that seemed to take the life out of us. I thought we looked tired for the next stretch. They got the third one and we kind of addressed it (Yeo called time out) and it showed the second half of the game that it’s all mental. Once we addressed it, I thought the guys started to feed off each other’s energy. It takes a lot of character to come back with the schedule that we’ve had. We could easily be sitting here with two points. … More importantly we understand going forward how important it is to make sure you concentrate on the preparation and understand that it is all mental.
“When you’re playing in a stretch like this, we have to make some better decisions. We make things harder on ourselves. We have to make things easier on ourselves. We’ll address these things the next couple days and get ready for the next one.”
In the timeout, Yeo he told the team that they looked tired and didn’t have the energy, the jump.
“The energy is there right now, but you just have to look harder to find it,” Yeo said. “The guys did a great job of responding. You have to pick each other up, you have to feed off each other. There were plenty of good plays that developed from there.”
Jason Zucker made something out of nothing late in a shift and admitted gassed. He stole a pass, chipped the puck into open ice and then took off for a breakaway goal, his 11th of the season and fifth in 12 games.
Then, a bad exchange by Steve Mason and Nick Schultz on a Parise dump-in led to Parise’s 15th goal and fourth in two games.
But there were some miserable nights, too. Jonas Brodin was minus-3, Matt Dumba minus-2, but he was on the ice for three goals on his first seven shifts in his first 4 minutes, 41 seconds of ice time.
Thomas Vanek picked up his game in the third and created some close calls, but the first two periods, he had no shots and only played four second-period shifts. His coasting back on a backcheck led to Philly making it 3-1.
Vanek’s frustration lately has been on his face. He has one empty-net goal in the past 10 games and one non-empty-net goal in 18 games since Nov. 28.
Some good efforts, too. Parise had eight shots, Koivu six, meaning a total of 14 of the Wild’s 34.
The Wild has optional practice Friday as plenty of guys will be ordered to rest up before its flight to Dallas. The Wild’s at the part of the season where Yeo has to balance rest with the need for practice.
But Yeo said it’s clear guys are tired. He pointed to the way guys like Brodin, Dumba and Ryan Carter (without naming names though) came into D-zone coverage on Philly’s first goal.
“These are mistakes when you’re brain’s not turned on,” Yeo said. “You’re a little bit mentally tired. You have to be a little bit stronger in your preparation in how you get ready for the games. I’m pretty certain our group will be ready to go [this upcoming stretch].”
Added Zucker: “We looked a little tired, a little slow. Myself included made a few plays right after it happens you’re like I don’t know why I just did that. It’s a long year. Guys responded well.”
On how the Wild will muster up the energy this busy week, Zucker said, “It’s part of the job. We’ve got to get it done. I don’t know any guy in this room that’s going to make an excuse about it. We’re here to play hockey and you have to make sure you find your legs and battle hard.”
That’s it for me. Please read the game and notebook. Also, you can go to malepatternpodcasts.com for the latest Russo-Souhan Show at Tom Reid’s. Fun show today. Plenty of Ryan Johansen talk and Kayle Hanson, one of those four 20-somethings who drove all over the country on the last Wild four-game road trip, joined.
The next podcast at Tom Reid’s will be Tuesday at 4 p.m. Anthony LaPanta will also join Souhan and I for a podcast at Tom Reid’s at 6 p.m. Jan. 14. Come on by and grab some grub and hang out with us after the show.