Thomas Vanek said today’s 2-1 loss at Los Angeles “feels a lot like the other night again.”
Mike Yeo similarly said, “It’s almost the same script as the other night really. A lot of good things, but in the end not finding a way to win the game.”
In Friday’s 2-1 loss at Anaheim, the Wild, in Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau’s words, “dominated” a lot of the game. But it was the Wild’s lack of sharpness around the night that did it in. The Wild fanned on shots, shanked shots and wired shots wide.
In today’s game against the defending Cup champs, the Wild dominated from start to finish by actually putting pucks – lots of them – on net. But superstar goalie Jonathan Quick was there every step of the way. The Wild outshot the Kings 41-16 but lost by a goal to fall to 2-2 on the season and now sit dormant yet again until Thursday when Arizona comes to St. Paul (four games in the NHL season’s first 15 days).
Quick was awesome. He saw everything all game, constantly slithering all over the ice to find pucks. He was just zeroed in. At least the Wild got a goal on him – Matt Cooke at 6:47 into the third. The Blues similarly dominated the shot clock Thursday but Quick stole a 1-0 shootout win.
The super-fast Tanner Pearson-Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli line, nicknamed, “That 70s line,” because Pearson wears 70, Carter wears 77 and Toffoli wears 73, now has accounted for 11 of the Kings’ 14 goals.
Today, Niklas Backstrom had no shot on both.
Mike Richards’ pass meant for Carter hit Ryan Suter’s skate and caromed right to Toffoli, who buried the puck. Backstrom said he got a piece of the puck and wishes he could have stopped it. The second goal, a Toffoli to Pearson one-timer in the third to put the Kings up 2-0, came after Marco Scandella fell behind the net, Christian Folin left the front of the net, Jason Zucker didn’t have his head on a swivel (his words) and Matt Cooke lost his guy. Basically, an overall breakdown in coverage after the Wild didn’t react well to Scandella falling.
Again though, Backstrom said Quick played great on the other end, so it’s his job to find a way to stop pucks for the Wild.
Still, not much he can do.
The bigger issue is dominating a game like the Wild has the ability to do yet again being unbelievably unable to finish. Tonight, the Wild went 0 for 5 on the power play despite tons of zone time and 14 shots. Those five power plays? Three came down 1-0, two came in the third down 2-1. It must score in those situations.
The power play is now 0 for 16.
“We’ll figure it out,” Zach Parise said.
I wrote about this in the notebook, but Thomas Vanek is without a goal in four games and has 13 shots. He has one assist. Linemate Mikko Koivu has no points.
“I think we have chemistry,” Koivu said. “I thought we had chances again. I thought there was a lot of stuff around the net. I think we’re doing a lot of things the right way, but in the end, it’s no excuse to say you’re playing good when you can’t capitalize on your chances.”
Vanek admitted he’s frustrated by the lack of offense.
“As a team and for myself, you just need that first one and hopefully it opens up,” said Vanek, who has scored 277 goals and 557 points in 667 games and signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Wild on July 1. “I don’t feel like I’m squeezing my stick quite yet. We had some good looks. They’re just not going in right now.”
He missed the final 13 minutes of the second period today when he was struck on the right thumb by Suter’s wrist shot. It was bandaided (new word) up after the game and he said it was “throbbing.” He said it was tough gripping his stick in the third, but it felt good enough to play.
The message after the game? Bottom line: The Wild’s game is very good right now. But it again frustratingly has trouble scoring.
“I like how we’re playing well,” Parise said. “Our systems, we’re playing very well. We’ll be fine. Played two very good teams. All things considered, of course you love to win the game, but when you look at it as a whole, we played very well in both the games. Again, we just couldn’t find a goal at the time we needed in both the games.”
Said Zucker, who escaped a scare in the second when he was kicked in the throat accidentally as he tripped Kyle Clifford, said, “We can’t hang our head here, especially if we battle and play like that. We’ll be OK.”
Koivu said, “It’s tough when you can’t score. We had great looks. We’ve got to keep doing that. It’s a matter of time that it’s going to go in. When you get that first power-play goal, you get the feeling and it’s going to get easier after that. In the end, it’s about scoring goals and winning games, and we didn’t do that.”
He also said, like Parise, “Defensively, I think the whole team is right where we want to be. So now just offensively we have to keep creating and doing a better job when we get around that net.”
Yeo said the snakebittness (another invented word by me) “maybe, it’s in our head a little bit.” He noted some missed nets and posts, and “maybe if it’s coming a little easier then we’re not trying to be so precise.”
He also said it’s important to make sure he properly evaluates the game and not overreact to the losses this early in the season, but the bottom line, the Wild needs wins and despite some dominance, the team needs to recognize it didn’t win, “so if we have to be better, let’s make sure we’re better.”
“We’ve got to hit the reset button” for Arizona and Tampa Bay this week, Yeo said.
That’s it for me. Red eye home for moi tonight. The Wild has the day off Monday and Rachel Blount is covering practice Tuesday. Barring news, you’ll hear from me next in Tuesday’s paper and after Wednesday’s practice (and of course on Twitter, where I’m sure I’ll be blabbering about something nonsensical).