I know what the understandably ornery fans thought of the quotes I tweeted, so I imagine you’ll have the same reaction to this blog.
But understand, after so much negativity during this 0-3 road trip and stretch of 10 losses in 11 games, five straight losses and 13 in 16 this calendar year, the Wild was bound to try to grasp the positives out of a loss at some point.
Well, guess what? Tonight’s 4-1 loss to the Blues was the one.
I know it’s hard for everybody to stomach that with this season completely off the rails and no evidence that this team is close to breaking out of this funk, but really at this point, what choice do they have?
Before I get into that: Two injury updates, one for the Wild, one for the Blues.
Hours after the Wild announced Jonas Brodin would miss three to six weeks with a broken foot, defenseman Jared Spurgeon left tonight’s game early in the second period 14 shifts into his night. He was high-sticked late in the first, but that’s not the issue.
“I don’t have an update yet, but one thing I know about Spurgeon is when he leaves a game, it’s not something small,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I’m not going to sit here and say he’s going to be out long term, but I will say that I know he was in pain.”
There is no practice Sunday, so that update likely will come Monday.
On the Blues, Charlie Coyle clanked knees with solid Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the third period and he was hurt. He left the game in discomfort and limped down the runway. I’m told he has an MRI in the morning, so that won’t be good for the Blues if that’s serious. But this is a team that has overcome injury adversity all season long and has found a way to get points.
The Department of Player Safety, like all incidents like this, will review the play to see if Coyle warrants discipline. As you know, he’s far from a dirty player, and although I saw the replay quickly because I was frantically writing, it did look like Pietrangelo tried to jump out of the way. That sometimes affects the way the league looks at these things.
As for the game, no, Yeo and his players didn’t play the moral victory card, but it did try to grasp all the positives out of this loss with the goal of trying to return home for a three-game homestand (last one went 0-3, by the way) and building off the good things from tonight.
“I don’t think the score was indicative of the play. We knew we weren’t just going to snap our fingers and all the sudden get out of this,” Yeo said.
Understanding full well that they’re about return to an Xcel Energy Center that may be full of anxious, angry fans that’s not about to patiently give the team the benefit of doubt if there are slow starts or bad starts, the Wild’s trying to muster up any kind of good feelings it can.
Tonight, after a scoreless first period, the Wild pressured hard, registered 24 shots in the second, which not only tied a franchise record for most shots in a period, it set a road record and was the most shots the Blues had given up in a period in 12 years and 3-plus months.
At the end of that period, the Wild trailed 3-1.
Par for the course, eh?
During this stretch of five weeks of misery, the Wild has found different ways to lose. Tonight, it was the penalty kill’s turn to stink wholeheartedly. The Wild gave up three goals on five Blues power plays, a Blues’ power play that had gone 0 for 19 since Jan. 12.
It was the first time since Dec. 2013 at San Jose that the Wild gave up three in a game and the 16th time in team history.
Conversely, the Wild’s power play was largely a mess. Yes, it scored for the fifth time in five road games, but it went 1 for 7 (Matt Dumba goal when the Wild trailed 3-0) and was awful at times.
Very surprising to me, with Thomas Vanek scratched, the Wild decided to overhaul both units pretty completely rather than doing a minimal move like putting Coyle or Nino Niederreiter as the net-front guy on the No. 1 unit and finding a replacement for one of them on the second unit.
Yeo explained this by saying they wanted to get Zach Parise, who has one goal, no assists and is minus-11 in the past 10 games, off the flank and closer to the net where he has scored lots of goals. Of course, Yeo said that in Anaheim and that lasted one game, so don’t be surprised if that changes when the Wild plays Tuesday at home.
Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund had 21 of the Wild’s 39 shots (seven each), but no goals.
As for the quotes:
Devan Dubnyk: “It’s hard. I mean, I’d love to sit here and tell ya forget about it and move on -- we really don’t have a choice, but it becomes tougher each time. I thought we played a pretty good game today, but it’s just the way it’s going. We’re going to have to work our way out of this. There’s no hiding from it. We’ve got a lot of games coming up against a lot of good teams and it’s not going to get better. It’s going to be us as a group in here that’s going to make it better. There’s no away around it. it’s frustrating. It’s tough to sleep it out, it’s hard to let it go on days off. But this is the situation. It happens sometimes. You’ve just got to stay working and find a way out of it.”
Jason Pominville: “It’s frustrating the outcome, but I think on our side right now, we have to look at the positive. We showed a lot of fight. It’s been a little while since we showed that much fight and pushback and had that many opportunities. They got a couple bounces and sometimes it goes that way, but as long as we keep putting the effort in, we keep fighting and we keep improving our special teams, we’ll find a way to get ourselves out of it. Not worried about it. It [stinks] because we lose, but I still think it’s a step in the right direction, with the way we played, with the way we competed. But we want the results, and it hasn’t gone our way. But to get out of it, we have to look at baby steps and tonight was a good step.”
Mikael Granlund: “Second period it felt like we had a couple really good chances and next thing they get the power play and they score. That’s the way it went tonight. I don’t think we could do anymore. Tonight, I think we actually played a good game. we had our chances. We played hard.”
Jarret Stoll: “Our penalty kill let us down tonight. It’s been pretty good for the last while, but it let us down tonight for sure. I’m part of that. we all take a lot of pride in that. it was one bad bounce, but you work for your bounces and they worked hard for their bounces.”
More Stoll: “We did a lot of good things tonight. You’ve got to start with that and you’ve got to work hard for your bounces. … We just have to stay positive, stay positive anyway you can. There’s games left. We’re definitely not out of it, that’s for sure. Not one guy in here thinks that way. We just have to find a way to get a game. it’s not going to be easy. It’s never easy to get out of these things. It’s hard a league, it’s a tough league. Every team’s good, and you’ve got to play a full game, work for your bounces, bear down on your opportunities, special teams you’ve got to win those and tonight our penalty kill let us down.”
Mike Yeo: “Unfortunately more often than not you end up playing like that and come out of the short side and if we recognize that and see what we put into the game and bring that back home with us, then I think that we’ll have a chance to get this turned around.
On the penalty kill: “Right now we’ve spent enough time talking about some negatives. Certainly pointed out a few in the past couple days. But our penalty kill for the most part has been trending upward lately. Power play obviously would’ve liked to get one or two more there. Bottom line is we’ve been getting a few of those as well. The biggest area of concern for us has been our 5 on 5 play. And that was significantly better tonight. … We’ve got guys that are good penalty killers and they had an off night. Obviously we’ll have some tough challenges coming up here, but there’s no reason to think they can’t get back on top.
On the players demeanor after another tough loss: “Some of that is up to me, but some of that … you’d probably get a sense that there was a different feeling after the game. Obviously it’s nice to score goals and we need to win hockey games but when you put the right effort and the right attitude into the game, then you bring something that you can take some pride out of. That’s something you can build off of and that’s what we need to do right now.”
Off day Sunday, then Kent Youngblood, I believe, is covering Monday’s practice barring news.
Tuesday, the Russo-Souhan Show returns to Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub at 4 p.m. Please come on by, and leave your pitchforks at home.
Enjoy the Super Bowl!