At the very least there was honesty.
There were no excuses about injuries, tired legs or being road weary. Wild players admitted they weren’t close to being good enough after the San Jose Sharks provided a painful wake-up call during a 6-1 trouncing Thursday night.
The Wild flew home from the Silicon Valley on Friday morning after a humbling defeat in which its first line and top defense pair were all minus-3, and goalie Niklas Backstrom was pulled for the fourth time this season.
“This time of year, we’re still working on trying to get better as a team, and that’s a game that’ll give us a stiff reminder,” coach Mike Yeo said after the Wild’s most lopsided loss of the season.
The Sharks are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, particularly at home, where they have lost one game in regulation out of 22 this season. But the Wild’s lack of forecheck, inability to inhibit San Jose’s ability to attack with speed and constant running around its own zone were troubling.
This has been a trend against many of the teams ahead of the Wild in the standings. If the seventh-place Wild makes the playoffs — it is still four points up on ninth place with four games remaining — it’s not going to face Calgary or Edmonton, the teams it beat in the first two games of the three-game road swing. It instead will be a decided underdog.
The Wild hasn’t beaten a team ahead of it in the standings since a March 30 shootout win against Los Angeles. In six consecutive losses to San Jose, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Chicago, the Wild has been outmuscled, outskated and outscored 20-4.
“We have to be better. We know we can play a lot better,” Backstrom said. “We didn’t do it [Thursday]. It wasn’t our game. We didn’t do the details right. That’s everyone. Me, the rest of the guys. I have to step up there. The rest of the guys have to step up. We want to be better, and we can be better.”
The good news is the Wild returns home for a three-game homestand. But considering it is 0-3-1 in its past four at home and just recently had no wins during a three-game homestand, the Wild can’t rely on the Xcel advantage.
“We’ve got to learn from this,” said captain Mikko Koivu, a minus-3 in San Jose along with Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin. “We can’t [rely] on three games [at home] or whatever. We have to go game by game and be honest about [the Sharks’] game. We weren’t good enough, not even close, to win a hockey game.
“We have to get better. That’s the bottom line.”
The Wild opens the homestand Sunday against Calgary, and the Wild just beat the Flames there on Monday. Backstrom is also usually lights out in the first start after being pulled, going 21-2-4 all-time and 17-0-2 with a 1.60 goals-against average and .943 save percentage since March 26, 2008.
“Just back to basics and doing the small things right,” Backstrom said. “[Against San Jose], all over the ice, we didn’t do the right things. We just have to get back to our game, the way we played in Calgary and Edmonton.
“We didn’t give them odd-man rushes. [Against San Jose], it seemed like they got 3-on-2s all the time. We’re a good team. We just have to get back to our game.”
Yeo and his players said they just have to have a quality practice Saturday and brush Thursday’s experience aside.
“This time of the year, you play so many games, you can’t get down,” Suter said. “It’s easy to get down. But we have to know that we only have four games left, and three of them at home. We’re in a good place.
“We just have to be ready to play on Sunday, show up to play. You don’t feel good about a loss like this, but you have to learn from it and move on fast.”