Bluntly, the Wild’s one bad hockey team right now.
It’s that simple. Just look at the third-period power play it had tonight when players were busy slapping errant passes to each other, almost like, “Here, it’s your problem now.”
Last game, the loss to the Flyers, was troubling because the Wild looked fatigued and lacked fight. Today’s game – a 4-2 loss to a Vancouver team that had won six times since the All-Star break – was troubling because the Wild didn’t seem engaged, didn’t battle until it was down 4-0, couldn’t execute one-timers, simple passes, overskated rebounds, shattered sticks.
So many snakebit players all over the ice, yet the Wild continues to play soft hockey in every facet, especially in its zone as evidenced by the four goals it allowed in the second period – matched a Wild home record for most goals against in a period.
The Wild, which still can officially clinch tonight if the Rangers beat the Kings in regulation, lost for the ninth time in 11 games and 10th time in 13 games this month.
Brock Boeser, fresh out of a University of North Dakota sweater, scored his first goal in a Canucks sweater. It was pretty sweet because his family – mother, father, uncles, aunts, cousins – were all sitting in the main concourse level suite closest to where he scored (please read my game notebook on this because the Canucks classily let his parents announce the starting lineup to the team; Boeser started with the Sedins and played regularly with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi).
But back to the Titanic that is the Wild.
The Burnsville native’s goal was the game-winner after Ryan Suter and Eric Staal scored in the final 2:41 of the game to make the score seem less humiliating.
Wild fans let the Wild players have it with mock cheers and boos in the second, and coach Bruce Boudreau did the same after the game saying the outcome was “embarrassing,” he was embarrassed and if he were the fans, he’d boo more.
The Wild’s simply fallen apart and with eight games left in the regular season, there’s very little time for this team to patch itself together again.
Anybody who feels that can magically happen in the first round is fooling themselves, and Boudreau knows it. He slammed the team after the game in a fairly controlled manner.
“It’s got to be up to them,” he said. “That was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed. To me, if I were the fans I would be booing even more because they pay good money for this, and to see an effort like that. When you don’t win any battles – you know, I’ve been here when we’ve been losing and I haven’t said anything too negative about the team, but I mean, if you can’t compete one on one, if you don’t have the emotion to want to get out there and do the right things, let alone the things the coaches are telling you, I’m telling you, if this was earlier in the year, changes would be made.”
Changes can’t be made now. It’s completely up to this cast. Trade deadline’s gone, and it’s not like the Wild can recall half of Iowa to send a message (not that it would want to anyway). You’re only permitted four non-emergency callus after the trade deadline.
Sign of a fragile team is just how easily this game turned upside down.
Started with veteran Ryan Suter taking a penalty. Seconds into the second, it continued with veteran Mikko Koivu having his clearing attempt blocked. Seconds after that, it continued with veteran Jared Spurgeon being unable to intercept a bouncing puck. Boom, 1-0.
“The puck was bouncing, but at the same time we just let them skate right in and shoot the puck,” Boudreau said. “Nobody took anybody, we just flopped around.”
Reid Boucher, who scored the first goal, made it 2-0 after play was stopped because Toronto saw the puck actually hit the camera in the back of the net, not the post.
This happened after Christian Folin turned the puck over and Darcy Kuemper, starting for the first time since March 10, yanked in his past two starts and giving Devan Dubnyk his first rest since Feb. 16, didn’t stop a stoppable shot.
Just so soft all over the zone
“Every facet, we don’t win a battle,” Boudreau said. “In front of the net it seems like teams have total leeway, they’re doing what they want, whereas we can’t get to the net. I don’t know, at this stage, whether that’s the will to get to the net or if the other teams are being that good. But they had a player today that played for North Dakota last night. I don’t think college hockey is as good as the NHL and he scored a goal.”
Boeser made it 3-0 after Marco Scandella, the king of getting shots blocked, got a shot blocked by Sven Baertschi. Scandella tried to go get the puck, but Baertschi kicked it out to Boeser, who triggered a breakaway because Scandella and Spurgeon were now out of position.
But things got worse when Scandella retreated, then didn’t stick with Boeser and peeled off. Kuemper made the save, couldn’t hold the puck and now a left alone Boeser scored.
Scandella owned the mistake.
Asked how disappointed he is with the vets, Boudreau said, “There’s a lot of guys I’m disappointed in right now. I’m not going to mention names. They might be disappointed in me – I don’t know. But I know one thing – we’re not going to use fatigue as an excuse anymore. I don’t care if we play four nights in a row, we’re going to be practicing hard when we start practicing again.
“Practicing hard. See how bad they want to get out of it. Because talking to them and being nice isn’t the way right now.”
Of course, the next scheduled practice is Wednesday. Wild plays in Detroit at 11:30 a.m. Sunday and is off Monday and plays Tuesday.
Some player quotes:
Kuemper on fans turning on them: “I get it. We’re just as frustrated, trust me. We’re out there trying, and things aren’t going our way right now. You can kind of see it in our play. We’re just as frustrated as they are, so I understand where they’re coming from.”
Kuemper on the second period: “They got the power-play goal. Then we had stretches where we were good, and then we just had some breakdowns and they were capitalizing on their chances. Things snowballed in the whole building, and we couldn’t get to the intermission fast enough.”
Scandella on the chances lately: “We have to tighten up defensively and play like we did in the third. That’s the main thing. We can’t give them big chances; that’s what we’re giving up every game right now. They’re capitalizing, but we’re giving up big chances and that’s not our team.”
Scandella on the early goals (Boucher’s first goal was 19 seconds into the second after Philly scored the winner 21 seconds into the second): “It’s killing us, and we just gotta clean that up. Like I said, tighten up defensively. We’re very capable in this room; we’ve got a great group. And not giving away games like that, not giving away big chances.”
Mikael Granlund: “It’s tough. We’ve just got to find a way. This is not good enough and we all know that. We will get better. I’m sure about that. We gotta find it.”
Jason Zucker on the second: “Yeah, it wasn't good enough. We are leaving guys open. We aren't winning battles. We are hanging our goalies out to dry. I don't think we're prepared enough to start some periods and they score quick and we're not being resilient enough to come back.”
Zucker on how guys are fighting it: “We aren't crisp. We aren't sharp. Everybody seems to be fighting it. It all starts with winning battles and playing to our strengths and not turning pucks over. Just playing the right away.”
Zucker on snapping out of it: “It doesn't just turn around. You can't just turn it on and off. You've got to start with one period and make it a second period and then a third period and that should win a game. You have to do the same thing over again and over again and over again. At that point, then it's something good. You can't do it for one period or one shift and hope that it's just going to all of a sudden turn around. We aren't going to get five empty net backdoor tap ins and all of a sudden win a game. It just doesn't work that way.”
On his parents in the room pregame: I had a few tears in my eyes when they brought them in because I'm thankful for everything they've done for me. Just being able to see them before the game was definitely nice and I was very happy to make them proud."
On lining up next to the Sedins: It's something you dream about, I mean, I think they got drafter the year I was born. So it's really special and a special moment and I'm definitely gonna cherish this for a long time."
on the last 24 hours: "Yeah, it's been crazy. Obviously a heartbreak loss there with my North Dakota team but, you know, I had to regroup there and focus on this game. I definitely think adrenaline kicked in here for this whole game."
On getting his first goal here: "It's an awesome experience and just to have my family and friends in the crowd I think it definitely means a lot to all of them and me and, like I said, it's a dream come true."
Does today lessen last night's loss: “No. It's a heartbreaking loss and it's hard to leave those guys in North Dakota but, you know, with me I had to take a new step and I'm looking forward to the future."
That’s it for me. I better jet to the airport. Talk to you from Detroit.