As I said this morning on the radio, this was not a game I would have felt good about if I was a fan who had purchased tickets.
Not that fans care or should care, but this had bad game written all over it just by looking at the schedule weeks ago. Toughest game this week wasn’t going to be the second of a back-to-back in Vancouver. It was going to be tonight’s against Colorado.
Third game in four nights. No practice yesterday. Just a Pacific to Central time zone flight that touched down at 3 p.m. The Wild actually had better legs than I thought they would, but according to their coach, many players’ urgency, focus and battle weren’t up to snuff.
Read the gamer of tonight’s 4-3 shootout loss to lowlier Colorado for many of the details, but coach Mike Yeo said, “I don’t think we were prepared to play the right way. Whether it’s the travel or what, I know one thing: if you only play well this year when you’re feeling really good, that’s going to be a problem. If you’re only going to play well when you’re feeling like you’re really fresh and you’ve had lots of practices, then it’s going to be a problem because that’s not what we’re dealing with this year.
“We have to deal with it. Everybody’s faced with the same thing. Some people will make the excuse and some people will find a way. You can’t just chalk it up to, ‘Oh, we had travel. Oh, we played three games in four days. Oh, we haven’t had practice.’ It doesn’t matter.
“You have to find a way to be good … at least.”
Zach Parise scored one goal on nine shots. He now has a league-leading 68. Mikko Koivu scored a goal and assist. Dany Heatley had two assists. Ryan Suter had an assist and was plus-2.
Yeo said it was a shame to waste their performances. Mike Rupp also scored his first goal with the Wild and 54th in his career (coming in 22 venues). It was his first goal since Jan. 14, 2012, snapping a 52-game drought.
Forty-two seconds after Koivu scored the go-ahead goal with 8:04 left in the third, Matt Duchene tied the game after a terrible shift from the Mikael Granlund-Kyle Brodziak-Devin Setoguchi line and defensemen Justin Falk (also responsible for Colorado’s first goal) and Jared Spurgeon.
They allowed a rush too easily, lost one-on-one battles and there was soft coverage, Yeo said. Indicative of the Wild’s game, Yeo said.
The Wild, which has been remarkably healthy this year, may have suffered one with winger Cal Clutterbuck.
With 6 ½ minutes left in the first period, Clutterbuck looked like he took a stick up high. He missed the remainder of the period but returned to start the second. That lasted three shifts and he wasn’t seen from again.
Yeo didn’t provide a postgame update. He thinks he may have been cut. I never got a good look at his face once he returned and before he left again.
One interesting tidbit from tonight.
Penguins GM Ray Shero scouted the game. Yes, the Penguins play in Winnipeg on Friday, but the Penguins are looking for a top-6 forward and may have been looking at Pierre-Marc Bouchard and/or Setoguchi. Could help explain why the Wild had to get Bouchard back into the lineup.
A lot of this is conjecture, but we also know the history of Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher in Pittsburgh and the fact the Wild has acquired former Pens like Nick Johnson, Rupp and Erik Christensen.
We shall see, perhaps.
And after four games in six nights and no game til Sunday, the Wild won’t practice Friday. No blog barring news.
The following U.S. Olympic men's hockey update is from columnist and Olympics writer Rachel Blount, who was on a conference call with Jim Johannson, USA Hockey assistant executive director for hockey operations, today:
He said he hopes the NHL and NHLPA will agree to participate in the Olympics. He said his organization will again work with an NHL advisory committee of eight general managers--who also assist USA Hockey with the men's national team that participates in world championships and other international tournaments--to choose the team and prepare it for Sochi. Right now, USA Hockey is simply waiting for the NHL/NHLPA to resolve the question of participation.
Johannson said USA Hockey doesn't plan to name a management team until later, and a coach won't be named until after the NHL playoffs, to allow everyone to keep their focus on their NHL teams.
If the NHL and NHLPA do reach an agreement for Olympic participation, Johannson said there probably will be an orientation camp in late August, with 35-40 players being invited for four days of practices. That's similar to what they did for each of the past three Olympics. If they don't, the Olympic team would likely be made up of Americans playing in Europe or college players.
"Coming on the heels of Vancouver and the exposure on the men's side, obviously we feel very excited about the potential of NHL involvement in all the countries to have a best-on-best competition in Sochi. ... Certainly we hope that everything gets settled on the player front with NHL involvement.''
"With the management group and head coach, we're going to wait out all the negotiations that are ongoing right now with all the interested parties. We anticipate the management decision would be made first, and the coaching decision most likely after the NHL season and playoffs to allow everyone to have their focus on those teams.''
"Vancouver was so great on so many fronts. From a USA Hockey perspective, we were very happy with the way our team played and how it represented the game. As we go into Sochi, a lot of those trademarks and characteristics will be in the USA team again.''
"The bottom line is that no matter the outcome (of the NHL/NHLPA negotiations), we'll pursue the best available players. Our other main pools are players in Europe and in the NCAA ranks. This day and age, we want the best available players. I do not see us in the position of the old days of forming a touring team, having a team that prepares for six months. I see us getting access to the best available players and having a couple of international competitions (to prepare).''