As bad as the Wild played in losing 11 of 17 games (6-7-4) prior to Friday’s win against Toronto, the Wild was never, ever humiliated.
It lacked the energy and excitement that became its trademark late last season. It made mistakes and gave up too many goals, either because of sloppy defense or a bad goal or two, but for the most part, the losses were of the one-goal variety (yeah, yeah, if you exclude the empty-net goals, which do count, I know).
But for the first time tonight, the Wild left an arena with its tail fully between its legs. Humbled, shamed by the team that used to reside in Minnesota.
I’ve seen the Wild play lousy in this rink 15 or 20 times, but this was just an awful, awful display by a flat, uninspired, tired-looking group tonight, and it was so obvious right from the opening draw that tonight’s outcome could get ugly.
The only question was how ugly because the Stars, who have now won eight of nine, had been off since Wednesday and were here for the killing.
The Wild had to feel fortunate to get out of the first period down 1-0, but instead of regrouping and finding its legs, the Wild emerged flat again in the second, gave up a bad goal to start things off and that seemed to burst the bubble because in a 6:12 span the Stars turned that 2-0 lead into a 5-0 lead in an eventual 7-1 destruction.
The six-goal defeat equaled the largest margin of defeat on the road for the Wild in team history. It happened four previous times, the last time in Colorado by also a 7-1 score March 6, 2012.
Here’s a string of quotes for your perusal:
Ryan Carter: “They outskated us, they outcompeted us, they outdesired us, and it hurts.”
“Rock bottom,” he called it, although he said the good thing about rock bottom is you can only go up.
Zach Parise: “It’s not fun. It’s embarrassing. We’ve got a lot of players that individually need to be a lot better. I won’t hide from that, I know that I haven’t played well the last little stretch and that’s the only way we’ll snap out of this. Just goals you can’t give up this time of year. Just can’t do it.”
On tonight’s lack of energy: “That’s kind of been the common theme – no energy for us. I guess looking at the standings, coming into here where they always play well, we looked like we didn’t know what to expect. We were pretty sloppy in a lot of different areas, feels like we were just chasing the puck the whole night.”
On how you respond: “You just don’t have a choice. We have a pretty tough schedule coming up. We can’t dwell on it, but man, we have to learn something from it because that’s bad, that’s ugly.”
Mikko Koivu on the team arriving at its Dallas hotel at 3 a.m.: “No, every team goes through that. We’ve been in a back-to-back situation and everyone has that. That’s not an excuse. Just weren’t even close to good enough obviously. I think the score told you that.”
On what happened: “A lot of things have to happen to get a score like that. Right after the game, I really don’t know and I don’t want to say things I don’t necessarily mean, but like I said, there’s a lot of things wrong in that game. … We got to handle that, got to go through that. I don’t think you can just leave it behind you either. I believe you have to go through why it happened. The effort, it can’t happen again. In this league, if you’re not on top of your game, you have to find a way every single night and we weren’t even close tonight.”
Ryan Suter, who really looked sluggish tonight: “After you get through the first period, you think you’ve got your legs going. We have a bad couple shifts. They got the momentum going and were just unable to get the momentum back. It was just one of those freaking nights.”
On how it went to 1-0 to 5-0 in 6:12: “Once we got out of the first period, we came in here and said, ‘ok, we’ve got our legs now, let’s get her going,’ we had a couple early shifts I thought where we had some pressure in their end, but snap, they got it in and we just could never get it out of our end. It was just bang, bang, bang and we were chasing all night.
People are now calling for the coach’s head, the team’s head. How do you get out of this: “The biggest thing is we have to stick together. The guys in this room have to stick together because it’s us in here, and everyone’s going to be questioning our personnel and our guys, and we have to stick together and know that when we play – and we saw it the other night, when we play, we’re good. We just have to play.
Mike Yeo: “We’re not going to sit around wallowing in this one.”
On how he explains this performance: “Well, I think the first period you could see we that had no pace to our game. We weren’t able to execute against a team that was pressuring us hard. They played well and we played poorly. That’s how you explain it.”
On Parise saying it seems like a lot of guys on this team need to be better: “Well, looking at tonight, yeah. Like I said, what are we going to do? We’re ready to talk about how great we were last game and tonight. We can write individual stories every game. I understand that’s what you have to do, but I’m not going to do that. This was a game where we were not good enough. We got a homestand coming up here, so day off [Sunday] I think will be important for group and practice will be important for our group, and we’ll be ready to work.”
On what a loss like this is like from the bench: “It [stinks]. That’s the only way to put it, but that was the message, it was the bed that we made and so we had to lay in it.”
On the defensive play by everyone tonight: “We weren’t good, yeah. I’m not going to make excuses of why we weren’t good and I’m not going to try to sugarcoat what it was. It wasn’t a good game and like I said, these things happen to teams. You look around they even happen to the best teams, but how you respond and what you do afterwards is what’s more important.”
On this game being an anomaly: “Well, like I said, I’m not going to get, when we won the last game, I wasn’t ready to plan a parade and we lose tonight in a really bad way, we’ll throw the game out and we’ll get ready for the next one.”
Thomas Vanek: “We just got dominated. Now just forget about it. I don’t know. These ones [stink]. Just completely outplayed. I thought the first 20 we were sleepy and got away 1-0. We talked about it in here to come out with a little more energy which I thought we would. It was quick 2-0 then 3-0 and we were cheating in the offensive side a little bit to get back in the game. You look up and it’s 5-0.”
What needs to change? “I think we’ve seen it. When we come out and play hard from the get-go, we’re in every game. Tonight we just weren’t good. There’s no miracle answer to it. These are the games that you have to forget about really. We lost our share, but most of those losses were late losses and nothing like this. These are the ones – it was a night where we didn’t have it, which is unfortunate because it’s a team that’s chasing us. Now we’re chasing them.
Vanek said no excuse that the Wild got in so late or couldn’t skate this morning, etc: “we were just flat.”
Please read the gamer and notebook (I put the Bickel stuff in there) and the Sunday Insider in Sunday’s paper for the rest of the coverage, but this is as bad as it gets for a team that has been trending this way in my mind for awhile.
Now, was this one game where the legs were mush and they could, as Yeo said, throw it out? Or is this the beginning of even worse things about to embark?
We will start to get an indication on this three-game homestand. But nobody played well for the Wild tonight. Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon minus-4s, Marco Scandella, Kyle Brodziak, Jonas Brodin and Vanek minus-3s, a bunch of minus-2s.
But it was a never-ending pattern of sluggishness, sloppiness, getting hemmed in its own zone and then standing around. The Stars skated circles around the Wild and the fans here in Dallas got a heckuva Saturday night party.
There is no simple fix right now, but GM Chuck Fletcher is going to have to make some sort of honest assessment of what he’s got here because this season is not going to magically repair itself. The vets are struggling, the kids are struggling, the goalies are erratic, the coach is under immense scrutiny again.
Unless something changed in the past week – a 7-1 losses have a way of doing that – Yeo was in no danger of losing his job. But this team – players, coaches, management – is up against it bigtime right now. The Wild’s digging itself a hole and tonight was a humbling experience for all of them to be a part of.
OK, that's it for now. I have an absurdly early flight to catch. I haven't filtered through my Twitter mentions yet. That'll either help put me to sleep or make my heart explode.
Talk Sunday if there’s news. If not, Monday’s paper, I think there will be a story you’ll want to read.