Bye-week observations: Wild players might have taken a break from hockey during the recent shutdown, but coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t. He has been watching action around the league since the NHL restarted Monday, and what he’s noticed is a sloppiness in the games where teams are coming off their layoffs. Boudreau relayed that observation to the players Friday when the team regrouped at Xcel Energy Center before its first game back Saturday, a message that also highlighted puck management and passing.
Wild, wild West: When the Wild reunited Friday, only 10 points separated 11 of the 15 teams in the Western Conference. The Blues have a comfy cushion as the leaders of the West, but it’s tough to say anyone has a firm hold on the remaining seven playoff seeds. “I just think every team can beat every team in the West on certain nights,” Boudreau said. “Obviously, St. Louis is well ahead of the pack. But I look at every other team in the West, they’ve been beaten by the last-place teams in the West and vice versa. To me, it’s being able to do it on a consistent basis, and the team that does it on a consistent basis like St. Louis is going to be successful.”
Milestones watch: Keep an eye on LW Zach Parise. Not only is he four games shy of 1,000 for his career, but he needs just one goal to record 20 for the fifth time with the Wild — which would tie him with Marian Gaborik for the most seasons scoring 20 or more goals in team history. Parise is also two assists away from 400.
Make it memorable: The NHL continued to tinker with the All-Star Game this year, and it will be interesting to see what tweaks it makes for the next rendition in Florida. But what went down last weekend in St. Louis could certainly serve as a blueprint. Integrating stars from the past with ties to the Blues such as Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull (above) and Al MacInnis was a neat sight. Kudos to the league for continuing to showcase elite women players, and the new challenge that had players trying to hit targets from the stands was certainly entertaining. If this event is to remain a break from the competition and stakes of the regular season, focusing on what makes the game and its players unique is important.