The Wild’s on a two-game slide and certainly showed signs of a team tonight that has been missing Jared Spurgeon bigtime and could seriously miss Zach Parise.
The Wild outshot the Senators 35-17 yet still lost 3-0 to Ottawa, and even coach Mike Yeo was tossing the shot disparity out the window and saying “our team game” allows that to happen.
He basically said it is absolutely imperative for players to step up their games and stop doing the “minimum” without Parise, Spurgeon and important veteran Matt Cooke.
Mikko Koivu, who has three points this year, had six shots and Thomas Vanek, who has one goal, had seven shots after four in the previous seven games.
Those vets obviously have to step up, but this is also the time to see Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter take advantage of the opportunity being given. Coyle and Granlund especially need to take on a bigger role. Neither has impressed lately.
On Wednesday, I was talking with Hall of Famer Guy Lapointe, the Wild chief amateur scout who is having his number 5 retired by the Canadiens on Saturday. I’ll be writing a lot about him in the next few days (in a row yesterday, I talked to Lapointe, Larry Robinson and Scotty Bowman, who have combined to win 28 Cups). Lapointe and I were talking about Parise’s loss and he said this is the time you find out a lot about kids and whether they have got the ability to drive the bus.
“The one thing you don’t want is to be outside the bus pushing,” Lapointe said, laughing.
These kids are lauded and lauded. Now it’s time for them drive the bus, so to speak, with Koivu, Vanek, Jason Pominville and Ryan Suter, of course.
“There’s some guys that are going right now and I do know there’s some other guys that can give us more,” Yeo said. “I feel like there’s some guys that are kind of doing the minimum, like playing the system. That’s expected of everybody, but then you’ve got to bring a little something extra on top of that, and I think that’s one thing missing right now.”
Yeo continued later in his scrum when asked about the young kids and how underwhelming a few of them have been lately.
“That’s what we have to find the answer to,” Yeo said. “Some guys are getting some really big opportunities with Zach and Spurge out.”
Yeo said it’s a fine line between pushing them hard and taking away their confidence or not pushing them enough. He said, “We have to find the right mix right now. These guys are a big part of our team. We need them to deliver.”
Maybe Yeo needs to pull Coyle and Granlund and Niederreiter and Haula in his office again and give them the same time of heart-to-heart (or challenge) he did late last season before Coyle and Niederreiter stepped up bigtime the final eight or nine games and the playoffs.
The Wild played a solid road first period, killing off consecutive minors and getting the better of the offensive-zone play at even-strength. The Wild also outplayed the Senators at 5-on-5 in the second, but the period got off to a terrible start as you can read more about in the game story.
In my eyes, Pominville was hit with a clean check. Pominville cut back to avoid the check, which in my eyes caused Mark Borowiecki to clank knees with Pominville. Yeo felt it should have been a charge or kneeing.
Regardless, Marco Scandella skated right at Borowiecki in response and a fight ensued. Scandella was given a 2-5-10 for instigating. Yeo was fuming during the game and Scandella, too, disagreed with the call.
It was definitely not your classic instigating. Typically a player either has to jump another player or drop his gloves first after challenging an unwilling combatant to get tagged with an instigator.
Yeo felt Borowiecki dropped the gloves first, and at a minimum, he knew it was coming and he was willing. Veteran referees Dave Jackson and Dan O’Halloran disagreed, giving Scandella two, five and 10, and this after a blah fight. Watching the replay in hindsight, I don’t think it should have been an instigating, but in the ref’s mind, it doesn’t happen with Scandella doesn’t skate up to the Ottawa player and challenge him on what the ref’s deemed a clean check.
This was a huge turning point. Scoreless game, and now the Wild’s blue line, which has rookie Christian Folin playing on the second pair without Spurgeon and Nate Prosser and rookie Matt Dumba on the third pair, would be facing 17 minutes and an initial PK without Scandella, who has been so, so good.
Well, predictably, the Senators scored on the power play and then 2:24 later on a bad goal by Niklas Backstrom (he said the puck changed direction on his after hitting a player’s stick).
So now you’re down 2-0 and without Scandella for the majority of the rest of the period.
As I said, Yeo didn’t like the call, nor did Scandella. Yeo said Scandella was trying to do the right thing and he wouldn’t be happy with Scandella in that situation if he took a true instigator penalty and left the team that shorthanded. But Yeo basically said he felt it was a bad call and he’s not even sure Scandella was going up to Borowiecki to fight him.
But this is why the old-school mentality of standing up for veterans even after clean runs drives me crazy. THIS is the new NHL, like it or not. Sure, maybe it was commendable that Scandella stood up for Pominville after a few weeks of the Wild seeing some of its important players run. But in today’s NHL, Scandella is lost for 17 minutes and the Senators essentially won a game because of it.
Retaliate every night, and you’ll lose many more games than you win because of it, trust me.
Sure, you can say, just kill the penalty. But that’s still a 20-minute defenseman in the box for 17 minutes on a blue line that can’t afford his loss.
Checking is part of the game. Pominville was fine. That was a case – a scoreless game the Wild was outplaying its opponent – where no response is the right response, in my humble opinion.
Such a frustrating period though. At 14 minutes in, the Wild had eight shots and no goals and the Senators had two shots and two goals. Also, Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker hit pipes on golden chances, the Zucker one coming when he amazingly got his stick on a Ryan Suter setup but equally as amazing hit the post of an entire gaping net.
The Wild’s power play, 0 for 3 and is now a ridiculously bad 2 for 38 this season. Also alarming, the Wild has allowed 19 goals the past six games, and let’s be honest, this is a team that doesn’t give up a whole lot of Grade A chances, so the goalies have to be better, too.
But tonight, a lack of finish was the biggest issue.
That’s it for me. Wild practices in Montreal Friday afternoon. Be with you after, and of course, on Twitter. We’ll see if the Wild makes any lineup/roster adjustments to get a little jolt to a team that has lost two in a row and faces a tough challenge Saturday.