Before the Wild boarded its charter to St. Louis on Thursday afternoon, a handful of players--and coach Mike Yeo--answered questions about Wednesday night's horrendous 6-1 loss to St. Louis in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series. The party line: Let's move on. Nothing to see here.
Thomas Vanek said he had trouble falling asleep after the game, bothered by the sting of a missed opportunity. But Vanek, Ryan Suter, Devan Dubnyk and Jason Pominville all said the Wild is determined to forget Wednesday's bomb and get back to the way it played in Game 1 and Game 3 victories. Yeo said there was "probably a good chance'' there would be lineup changes for Friday's Game 5 in St. Louis, but he declined to elaborate on what he has in mind. He will make those decisions today and announce them Friday.
Everyone is healthy, and Dubnyk said there are no lingering effects from that shot he took to the nether regions in the second period.
Dubnyk didn't seem to have an emotional hangover, either. He said Wednesday's game was neither the first nor the last time he would give up six goals, and while he was disappointed at the outcome, he was ready to put it out of his mind.
"I know how to handle it,'' said Dubnyk, who gave up six goals on 17 shots in his worst performance since joining the Wild in mid-January. "You just feed off past experience. You realize it’s a beautiful day here in Minnesota, and the sun came up this morning, and that’s going to happen regardless of what happens on the ice. Whatever you need to do, if you spend some time with the family, play around with (his son), whatever brings you some perspective on life. You reset and get back at it. We all know we’re a great hockey team, and that was one hockey game.''
Some observations from Yeo:
--On whether he was concerned at how badly things fell apart for the Wild in Game 4: "No. You just move on. I’ve liked the way that we’ve looked in three of the four games in this series, and the reality is, we’re playing the team that won our division, and it’s a great hockey team. We’re here now tied 2-2. To sit around and think about a missed opportunity is silly, because we’ve done a lot of good things in this series already, and we’ve put ourselves in a pretty decent position. We know it’s still going to be a tough task, but we’re still a confident group. And we move on from the last one and get ready for obviously a very tough challenge but an exciting opportunity tomorrow.''
--On the fact that he and the players were not wallowing in "gloom and doom": "We're keeping it in perspective. A best of seven series, a playoff series against a team like this, it can’t be the end of the world when you lose a hockey game. And conversely, you can’t feel that you’re ready to move on just because you win one hockey game. It’s all part of the process, and I think our guys recognize that. I think we understand that the combination of, they played well, and we’ll tip our hats to them. But we also know that we weren’t even close to being on top of our game. So it’s not like we played our best hockey and came up short. I think there are some positives in that, if we’re going to look for positives.''
--On the series being knotted at 2-2: "I don’t know that before the series started if too many people would have told us it would be 2-2 at this point, I don’t know if too many people would have been disappointed with that. There’s a lot of work to be done here. We’re not in a terrible spot, by any means, but we’ve just got to make sure that we get ready to be at our best.''
--On the Blues: " I think there’s still pressure on that team over there. I think that the way things have gone for them the last few years, we know the word redemption is coming into play for them, and obviously it’s a very motivated group over there. I do think that they think that they’re much better than us and it's our job to prove that we’re up at that level. So we’ve got an opportunity tomorrow to be a good test, but we’re excited about it.”
--On the emotional swings of the postseason: "It’s a game that we lost, and that’s a part of the challenge of the playoffs. That’s what makes it great. ... You have to prove that you can get through those difficult times, and you have to overcome those things, those emotions. That’s what makes it special. And I think our group recognizes that. We’ve done that before. We’ve done it in the past. We did it last year in the playoffs, and we did it this year in the course of the season. So now we have an opportunity to do it again.''
And this from Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, on whether his team has an edge now:
"(The Wild has) scoring players who quite frankly look like they're an eyelash away from lighting it up, too. The advantage we have is we've got two home games, and they've got one home game. That's all we've got. Both teams are so evenly matched, both teams have so many good players, and their good players are so significant to the success of their franchise...I just look at it as a hell of a competition, and the one little advantage we got back was home ice. We've got to take advantage of that.''
And a final few words from Blues forward Ryan Reaves, on the strategy of the fourth line and its mission to wear down the Wild over the course of the series:
"We're making sure that their D are hesitant to go back and get the puck. Whether we're on the ice or the other lines are on the ice, just to make sure they're thinking twice about getting the puck, knowing that every time they do, they're going to get a bump. I think if we can make them go back hesitant like that, I think that's mission No. 1. You get into seven games ... The bumps and bruises start adding up.
"Teams don't want to go on the boards and get hacked and whacked and banged around, especially in a seven-game series. It takes a toll. When you can put the puck on the end boards and get a lick on it and a little hack, get in their face a little bit, it's overwhelming, it's annoying, it's frustrating. And I think that's what we have to keep doing. ... When they're looking over their shoulder, you create mistakes, you create turnovers when guys don't want to go back and get the puck.''