Production doesn’t guarantee prosperity, not when so many other factors contribute to a player’s performance.
“I played bad games in my career and ended up with two goals,” Wild winger Zach Parise said.
But the 5-2 win Saturday over the Lightning in which Parise scored his first of the season on a deflection in front of the net was the best he’s felt from start to finish.
“A good step in the right direction,” he said.
That this progress arrived in Test No. 8 isn’t surprising; Parise sat out the first 39 games of the season while he dealt with leg pain and weakness caused by a herniated disc, an issue that was finally rectified through back surgery in October.
And while he’s adopted a patient outlook as he transitions back into the lineup, Parise still expects to fulfill his regular responsibilities as a catalyst on offense, and he is confident he can provide the Wild with a lift as it chases a playoff berth.
“I’m an offensive guy,” Parise said. “I want to contribute offensively. We all have different roles and jobs on this team. I feel like that’s my job; that’s what I’m supposed to do. Whether it’s being fair on myself or not, I’m going to look at how was my production at the end of the year and where we are as a team.
“I want to help get this team into the postseason and hopefully beyond.”
Logging a game in which he didn’t sense any lapses stokes that belief.
In his first seven appearances, Parise would feel in a groove for a period and then feel like he was sleepwalking through the others.
“I was mentally not getting into it,” he said, “and I don’t know why.”
He could map out the play that he was unraveling in front of him, but after spotting an open teammate, the puck would be missing from his stick or he’d make a poor decision.
Without a training camp and preseason to reintroduce himself to the routine of hockey, his orientation was at full speed with critical points up for grabs.
“You get mad at yourself because it’s such an easy pass, such an easy play that you’ve done millions and millions of times,” Parise said.
That frustration, however, melted away Saturday in an effort that flattered the entire team, as the Wild returned from its five-day break looking re-energized.
Even before his goal in the first period, which was originally credited to defenseman Ryan Suter before getting changed after an unsuccessful goaltender interference challenge by Tampa Bay showed Parise got a piece of the puck, the 33-year-old was buzzing around the net with a few quality looks.
He’d come close in other games, too, but this time he looked even more like the persistent scorer who racked up 19 goals and 42 points last season after eclipsing the 30-goal plateau six previous times in his career.
“We’re not the highest-scoring team in the league,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So we could use him.”
And there might not be a better time for Parise to flex his skills than during a playoff race that continues Monday at Xcel Energy Center against the Senators.
“I’m very confident that everything’s going to go back to normal,” he said.