Like NBC Sports Network in the third period, I’m kind of in the mood to pull out the “technical difficulties” card with this blog tonight and head out for the night.
Not much more I need to add than what I wrote in the game story that’ll be up on startribune.com/wild soon.
2-1 loss to the Devils.
Just an ugly game and a disappointing loss for the Wild when you consider it walked into Dallas 24 hours earlier and took two points from the conference’s top team and league’s best home team.
But, so predictable, too.
With three games in four nights and a week bookended by road-home, home-road back-to-backs, I predicted one clunker on Dan Barreiro’s show on KFAN on Friday and this was the one that made sense.
Maybe I’ve covered this team too long, but it made all the sense in the world to win in Dallas and return home and lose to an injury decimated Devils team. As coach Mike Yeo called it in the postgame, it was a “trap game.”
It may be an excuse, yes, but the Wild just played four of six on the road, return home to play one game against Philly, hit the road again for Dallas and then return home to have New Jersey sitting here waiting for them.
That is the perfectly clichéd trap game and the Wild emerged flat as a pancake.
“It was a pretty ugly, uneventful game,” said Zach Parise, who scored the Wild’s lone goal and the first of his career against the team he once captained.
He was just getting started. Asked why this has occurred at home lately, Parise said, “I don’t know. For whatever reason here, we’re not playing with any pace, we’re not controlling the puck well, we’re not moving it well, but we’ve just been flat. I mean, seven shots after two periods in your own rink against a team that no disrespect to them, but they’ve got a lot of guys injured, a lot of minor-league players that are playing for them, it’s not good enough. It’s not. We want to catch Chicago, we want to catch St. Louis, we can’t come out and play like that.
“You can play a team well like we did dallas and win a game and then come here and do this, that’s not pretty.”
“It was not a very fun game.”
The Devils were content to sit back in the neutral zone, make it a maze and the Wild just fed right into it. Then when the Wild got into the offensive zone, it was content to either play in the perimeter, cough up pucks or try two or three extra passes.
That led to three shots in the first period, four in the second of a horrific scoreless affair until things opened up with three combined goals in the first 6:26 of the second.
“They definitely play that kind of game,” Darcy Kuemper said after his first start since Dec. 22. “You could tell that was a focus of theirs. There wasn’t much either way really. You’re not seeing a whole lot. They were just keeping it simple, pucks deep and trying to get traffic and pucks through. I’m sure it was a boring game watch.”
Added Charlie Coyle, “It was really nothing, about 20 shots combined going into the third. They play a tight game, but it didn’t really matter. We didn’t get to our game, we didn’t play well enough and it hurt us.
“We go out and beat a top team in their own building like that and then come out like that and not play a full 60, we’re too good of a team to come out flat like that and not play our game. We can’t afford games like that.”
The Wild pushed late, but as Coyle said, “Time’s winding down, we usually do that. We usually wait, which we can’t do that. When we come out right away and we set the tone, we play well.”
Mike Yeo voiced concern about this game in the pregame.
“That's your concern,” he said afterward. “We know that they're going to play hard, and they're going to play a structured game. We know it's going to be a tough game, and it's about us, it's about our game, and making sure we're prepared and ready for the type of game we need to play. Without the puck there were some areas where we definitely could have been better. We didn't give up a whole lot, but we didn't get nearly enough tonight; that's for sure.”
On seven shots through two periods, Yeo said, “Well first off, we had shot opportunities that we decide that there might be a better play, and then we try to make four more passes to get the puck back to the same spot to try to shoot it again. You have to understand that, especially against a team like that you can't be content to stay on the outside, and you have to create off the shot, and quite often one shot leads to three others. We had the mindset that we were going to try to look for a better opportunity, and along the way we lost the one that we had.
“Obviously we didn't play with enough pace, but even enough battle, and the mentality of how you have to create against a team and the way that they're playing. We didn't have that tonight.”
The Wild is 1 for 22 on the power play the past 12 games. That’s awful, but as notable is the fact it has averaged 1.8 power plays per game the past 12 games. Sure, there have been spotty performances, but there have been some crazy no-calls (high-sticks, muggings, obstructions).
Yeo finally let loose on it tonight, saying, “The one thing that's really driving me nuts though, and we're a really good hockey team: I can't understand why we draw one power play a game right now. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. It's night after night, it doesn't matter where or who we play against, and it doesn’t matter who's officiating, it's a consistent thing. I'm trying to find reasons, and I can't understand why. It's pretty hard. It would be nice to draw more than one power play a game, and we just can’t seem to do that right now.”
It doesn’t shock me their power play stinks right now. They don’t enough power plays in games to get into a rhythm and I think they’ve had two real practices since Christmas as Yeo is trying to balance rest with work during this eight game in 13 night stretch, plus you have to get the mandatory CBA days off in.
Mike Reilly made his home debut and had two very close calls for his first NHL goal.
This after the teammates let him lead them out on the ice for his first pro home game. Naturally, the players held back in the tunnel and made him do one lap around the zone all by himself.
He had a clue that was going to happen. It’s a thing you do to rooks.
“They actually tried to take my helmet away from me to go on the ice for a quick twirl without the bucket on, but I ended up getting it,” Reilly said.
“They” was actually Thomas Vanek.
Reilly said he felt he made progression tonight (I agree) and he said he was more nervous for tonight than his NHL debut.
That’s it for now. Some definite passengers right now. Jason Pominville is really struggling again. No points since Dec. 22.
The Wild has a planned day off Monday. The Buffalo Sabres come to town for Game 43 – the third year in a row the Wild plays the Sabres in Game 43. They’re usually the tonic. These are two very important home games coming up because the Wild plays four in a row on the road starting Saturday in Nashville.
Next two podcasts with myself and Jim Souhan at Tom Reid's is 4 p.m. Tuesday and 6 p.m. Thursday. Special guest Thursday is Anthony LaPanta.