Very sloppy game tonight at Xcel Energy Center and the result was the Wild dropping a 4-1 decision in the first-ever exhibition game between Minnesota and Colorado.
Bruce Boudreau just laughed when asked his thoughts of the game. He wanted to be politically correct.
“I didn’t think we had a lot of energy in a lot of areas,” he said. “These are the kind of games in the first week where the kids really outshine the veterans. Unfortunately for us tonight, I thought our best line was the [Eric] Staal line [with Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville]. I wanted to see a little bit more from other people.”
The kids will get it, but a couple guys were real casual with their passing and it was costly.
Alex Tuch turned the puck over with a few risky, soft passes and the Wild will clearly need to chip the college off his game. Gustav Bouramman can really move the puck, but man, did he throw pucks away. One resulted in a penalty that led to the winning goal.
“It’s the NHL,” Boudreau said about the poor passing by some of the kids.
The Wild’s passing, frankly, was awful all night. Pucks were in skates constantly, even by normally strong passers like Jonas Brodin and Mike Reilly.
Boudreau reminded that he actually stopped practice to yell at the non-game group for poor passing earlier in the day.
Boudreau wants to have a fast, attacking team, but he said, “If you can’t pass, you can’t make plays. And if you can’t make plays, you’re going to get beaten. Our pucks were in our feet bouncing. We have to focus on putting the puck on the tape so guys can go with speed.”
Boudreau decided to have six guys play back-to-back and he said, “You could see they didn’t have the energy that they had [Monday] night. And that’s understandable.”
The six guys playing for the second straight night were Reilly, Tuch, Ryan Carter, Kurtis Gabriel, Zucker and Tyler Graovac.
Boudreau said he’s trying to give these guys (obviously excluding Zucker) “the best chance in the world to make our team,” and he thought being at home would offset the tiredness.
In Boudreau’s defense, he wasn’t about to play the five World Cup returnees yet, Nino Niederreiter is still gone and there are six minor-leaguers hurt that would likely normally get an exhibition game or two. And then, like all camps, there are a number of players who wouldn’t get a game anyway.
So tonight’s lineup was pretty convoluted and included one kid on a tryout and a bunch of minor-leaguers. One minor-league vet defenseman, Victor Bartley (one NHL goal in 121 games), scored the lone goal.
One bright spot was 19-year-old Joel Eriksson Ek. He played with AHL contracted Colton Beck and minor-league energy guy Marc Hagel on the fourth line. When Boudreau saw he only played Eriksson EK 5:30 through two periods, he more than doubled that in the third.
Eriksson Ek was by far the Wild’s best forward in the third period and it’ll be interesting to see if the Wild will give him a game with a couple skilled wingers, maybe Thursday in Winnipeg.
I wrote, by the way, about Eriksson Ek and Tuch in Wednesday’s paper, so please give that a read here. If Eriksson Ek doesn’t make the team, he’ll likely be returning to Farjestad in Sweden, not going to AHL Iowa. The reasons are in the story.
I thought Graovac had some decent shifts early. I thought Jordan Schroeder early was playing every shift like he never wants to see Des Moines again. But he struggled his last few shifts by shanking one shot and turning two pucks over.
I wrote about Gabriel in Wednesday’s paper, too. Here’s that link.
I thought Reilly was good early, but Boudreau said, “I think there’s a lot more to give from him. But you can see the skill right off the bat, the jumping into the play, he reads the play.” He said he’ll have to learn on the fly.
The Zucker-Staal-Pominville line had a lot of great looks the first two periods. In the third, they weren’t as good. Zucker could have given the Wild the oh-so important two-goal lead in the final minutes of the first period on a shorthanded breakaway, but he missed the net.
Staal, who used his size by crushing an Avs player in the first, said the game was scrambly at times, but he felt good to be out there.
“It’s a great building to play hockey in,” he said. “I know I’m going to enjoy my time playing in front of these fans.”
The line combined for seven shots. Pominville got absolutely robbed by Nathan Lieuwen late in the third. I retweeted the video, so go to my Twitter account to see that.
“I thought it was going in. I actually raised my hands,” said Pominville. “We had some looks, we moved the puck pretty good. We generated some opportunities. Unfortunately we weren’t able to put any away. I think in this type of game our line would have had to find a way to put one away to get in the game. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do it and we lose the game.”
Pominville said it was weird playing because the Wild hasn’t had any intrasquad games this first week of camp. He said the more games and practices, the more in sync they’ll get.
Devan Dubnyk stopped 26 of 29 shots. He, too, said it was strange playing again and at times he did look to have trouble with rebounds.
If you remember, Dubnyk saw almost no rubber in the preseason last year. It seemed every game the Wild played with Dubnyk in net last exhibition season, he saw few shots.
He recalled that, cracking, “I think I saw more shots in the first period than I did all of the preseason last year.”
That’s it for moi. Tonight’s game group has Wednesday off. I’ll talk to you after practice. The Wild will be trimming some bodies Wednesday.