Wild fans are officially fed up.
After watching the Wild stagger aimlessly through a hellacious month of hockey with things only looking worse, many in the crowd of 19,184 Saturday afternoon let players have it by firing missiles in the sound of boos after a humiliating second period during an eventual 4-2 loss to one of the worst teams in the NHL.
There was a reason Bruce Boudreau’s face was the color of his team’s Iron Range Red jerseys during a mind-bogglingly weak second period against the Vancouver Canucks led to a ninth loss in 11 games and 10th in 13 games in March.
“That was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed,” the Wild coach said. “If I were the fans I would be booing even more because they pay good money for this, and to see an effort like that?
“When you don’t win any battles … if you can’t compete one-on-one, if you don’t have the emotion to want to get out there and do the right things, let alone the things the coaches are telling you, I’m telling you, if this was earlier in the year, changes would be made.”
But with the trade deadline gone and nonemergency minor league call-ups limited to four, it’s up to the current cast of players to figure this out. The Wild did end up clinching a fifth consecutive playoff berth when the Rangers beat the Kings on Saturday night, but right now, the Wild’s poor play is all that matters with eight games left in the regular season.
After a scoreless first period, the Canucks, who had won six games out of 23 since the All-Star break, scored four unanswered goals in the second.
Ryan Suter and Eric Staal scored 86 seconds apart in the final 2:41 of the game to make the margin of defeat look more palatable, but the second period destroyed the fragile Wild.
Things got so bad, Darcy Kuemper, pulled in his previous two starts, received a mocking Bronx cheer after saving a weak shot by Jack Skille 40 seconds after Skille scored Vancouver’s fourth goal on eight shots in the period.
“I get it. We’re just as frustrated, trust me,” Kuemper said.
Reid Boucher scored the first two Vancouver goals, the first coming 19 seconds into the period after Suter took a slashing penalty and Mikko Koivu didn’t get the puck out of the zone. Jared Spurgeon then couldn’t intercept a bouncing puck to the net.
“Nobody took anybody, we just flopped around,” Boudreau said.
In Thursday’s loss to Philadelphia, the Flyers scored the winner 21 seconds into the second period.
“It’s killing us,” defenseman Marco Scandella said of early-period goals. “We can’t give them big chances; that’s what we’re giving up every game right now.”
Speaking of which, Burnsville native Brock Boeser made it 3-0 with his first NHL goal on a rebound of a Bo Horvat breakaway directly in front of his family filling main concourse level Suite 66. One day after playing for the University of North Dakota, Boeser’s goal was the eventual game-winner after Scandella had a shot blocked, took a bad route to the puck, then peeled away from Boeser on the retreat.
“Things snowballed in the whole building, and we couldn’t get to the intermission fast enough,” Kuemper said.
Offensively, snakebit Wild players couldn’t execute getting one-time shots off (Koivu, Zach Parise and Martin Hanzal), players overskated rebounds (Coyle, Staal and Parise), players shattered sticks (Nino Niederreiter).
The softness to fight to the net continues to be troublesome.
“In front of [our] net it seems like teams have total leeway. They’re doing what they want, whereas we can’t get to the net,” Boudreau said.
You knew it was bad when even leading scorer Mikael Granlund was playing the puck as if it were a grenade.
“We aren’t crisp. We aren’t sharp. Everybody seems to be fighting it,” Jason Zucker said.
Boudreau’s at his wit’s end.
“There’s a lot of guys I’m disappointed in right now. I’m not going to mention names. They might be disappointed in me — I don’t know,” he said. “But I know one thing — we’re not going to use fatigue as an excuse anymore. I don’t care if we play four nights in a row, we’re going to be practicing hard when we start practicing again.
“Practicing hard. See how bad they want to get out of it. Because talking to them and being nice isn’t the way right now.”