Ryan Suter doesn’t look right, but he refuses to admit anything. Ask him about his left arm and he’ll smile and say everything is A-OK.
Suter took a horrible spill in Game 3 after a collision with Chicago’s Marian Hossa and landed awkwardly. He left the game holding his arm in a way that suggested he had suffered a serious injury.
Naturally, Suter returned for the third period.
But the Wild’s star defenseman hasn’t looked the same since. He hasn’t played poorly. He just looks like a guy who might have an arm injury, which prompted another round of health questions a day before Game 6.
He insists his shoulder is not an issue. OK, how about his elbow?
“I’m feeling great,” he said, laughing as he exited the interview room.
That should be the official mantra of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Everyone feels great, or at least well enough to play. The NHL postseason is nothing if not a testament to the willingness of players to ignore their aches and pains and broken bones in pursuit of the Cup.
A team that’s still alive at this time of year is like the family beater sitting in the driveway. It looks rusty and worn, but the thing still fires up when the ignition is turned.
“I think it’s just a matter of will and who wants to win the most, who’s fresher and who feels better,” Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said.
The NHL playoffs are such a physical and mental grind that success often is determined by a team’s ability to survive in one piece. If, as players suggest, the 82-game regular season is a marathon and not a sprint, then the postseason is the marathon after the marathon.
Players beat their bodies to a disgusting pulp and then pretend nothing is wrong. Actually, they’ll usually acknowledge something’s wrong with their “lower body” or “upper body” but that’s about it.
Sometimes, they’re even more purposely vague than that.
Boston’s Patrice Bergeron left Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final last season and went to a hospital because of what the team described as a “body injury.” Coach Claude Julien later told reporters that Bergeron was “day-to-day” after initial reports indicated that Bergeron suffered a ruptured spleen.
Bergeron finally came clean after he played in a series- ending Game 6 loss. He admitted that he had suffered a broken rib, torn rib cartilage and a separated shoulder.
“I was obviously going through a lot of pain,” he noted.
At least he could talk about it. Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson took a puck to the throat on a shot by Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin in Game 2 of this series.
The Blackhawks defenseman did not miss a shift, but doctors ordered him not to talk, possibly for two weeks, as he recovers from his throat injury.
Think about that. He’s medically cleared to play, but not talk.