DALLAS – As he suited up for the final two games, a pair of contests that had already been ruled irrelevant, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter couldn’t believe the season was already over.
“You just start thinking back to the games that you blew and you should have won, and it might be a different story,” Suter said.
This was the first time he wasn’t moving on to the playoffs since he joined the Wild in 2012, a rare miss that disappointed and frustrated the team once its campaign officially ended Saturday with a 3-0 loss to the Stars at American Airlines Center.
“I’m bitter,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You just know that you want to be there. This is what you live for. This is what you grow up to do. It’s not grow up to, ‘Boy, I hope I do good in the regular season.’ You always dream of doing good in the playoffs. So I don’t think anyone should be happy.”
Those weren’t the only emotions floating around the Wild after the game.
Boudreau felt “horrible” for backup Alex Stalock, who absorbed the loss despite racking up 41 saves. Stalock kept the Wild even with the Stars for two periods, but Dallas’ offense finally capitalized with all three of its goals coming in the third.
“He was great tonight,” Boudreau said. “He was absolutely great and into it. You’re coming into a third period where you don’t belong, you don’t deserve to be tied, and he’s singlehandedly got you tied up and we don’t go to battle for him.”
While the Wild’s offensive struggles played a prominent role in its slide, center Eric Staal believes the team has enough skill to score. But he agreed it was tough for the team to recalibrate after the changes leading up to the trade deadline in February.
“It just didn’t seem like we found much mojo all year,” Staal said. “It was pretty grindy. Obviously, new general manager and there’s some uncertainty as the year goes, and he made lots of changes and we had guys in new spots and that always takes time to adjust. But we’re never going to make excuses. You gotta find a way, and I thought we might be able to do that and get into that playoff spot. But obviously it was too much to overcome.”
Boudreau also brought up the grind and how much the Wild had to claw its way to points, a pricey way to win because of how draining it can.
“When we won, we won by one or two goals,” Boudreau said. “So every game we won we were grinding it out type thing, and we’d get really good goaltending. Nothing’s come easy to this team this year.”