“Bottom line is until we … prove that something’s different, then nothing’s changed.” – Wild coach Mike Yeo prior to Game 1.
Nothing changed. In fact, it got worse.
A year after many in NHL circles felt the Wild very easily could have beaten the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference semifinals, the Wild was eliminated for a third consecutive season Thursday night by the mighty Hawks in a sweep.
The Wild’s stellar second half and first-round elimination of the Central Division champion Blues was long forgotten in the aftermath of a disappointed, dejected locker room Thursday night after the Wild fell, 4-3.
Check out startribune.com/wild for all of the Star Tribune’s covering and I’ll write a couple follow stories this weekend in the paper and of course after availability, probably early next week. Because of the 8:45 start time tonight, I wasn’t able to get to coach Mike Yeo’s presser, but I was able to work the locker room pretty good.
Bottom line about this series: The Wild just wasn’t good enough and better take an honest appraisal this offseason of what it has to do to beat the Hawks, who will go to their fifth conference final in seven years against the winner of the Anaheim-Calgary series. The Hawks are going nowhere and in the new playoff format, it’s likely the Wild faces Chicago in the first or second round every year.
The Blackhawks have finishers. The Wild does not.
I’m sure there will be some pretty good dissecting of Devan Dubnyk’s playoff series. No doubt he was outperformed by Corey Crawford and gave up some tough, tough goals and inopportune times.
But this series was lost on the sticks of the Wild’s go-to guys.
The Wild didn’t have a lead in this series. The Wild didn’t score a first-period goal in this series. The Wild scored seven goals in this series – one total in Games 2 and 3.
Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle were shut out in the series and Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter scored once each.
“We couldn’t score goals,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “That was the good thing about the St. Louis series. We were able to score first a lot of the games and we’re a good team when we do.”
Suter said the Wild has a lot of good parts but “we have to look at ourselves in the mirror. We have a lot of good parts.”
On the big guys not getting it done, he said, “We have to be better. There’s no question about it.”
Parise was very down in the dumps, saying, “It's not fun. We got swept. We didn't do nearly enough. Just disappointing.”
“We didn’t do nearly enough. It’s tough to dissect.”
On how he dissects the year as a whole: “You always remember what last happened. Unfortunately we’re here after losing four straight. Right now, it’s just tough. We had a good first round. Just nothing, didn’t play well enough this round.”
Vanek, who scored no goals in the playoffs said, “It’s really frustrating because it just didn’t feel like a sweep. That’s a good team over there. They know how to win. Sometimes it’s just a matter of bounces. That’s a team that’s won two Stanley Cups. They know how to win. We didn’t play well enough.”
On what changes need to be made, Vanek said, “That’s tough to say right now. Obviously when you’re swept, you feel like you need to change something, but with the teams I’ve been around I really thought we had something special going. We have a lot of character in here and had a great run. Obviously that’s not the way we wanted to end it.”
Vanek said, “They are tight games and their scorers scored when they need to with timely goals and I didn’t.”
On the Wild’s go-to guys not producing (he and Chris Stewart didn’t have playoff goals), Vanek said, “We’re not going to talk about the other guys. I tried staying positive because I knew I just needed one to get me going. I didn’t find that one and that’s on me. I let them down.”
On tonight, Vanek said, “We battled hard. Didn’t quit. That’s our team. Been last 3 months. But we fell short of our goal.”
On his lack of production again, Vanek said, “I know I can score in this league. I put myself in a couple situations, especially tonight, to score and I didn’t a guy in my position has to put that away.”
Dubnyk said, “Feel sick. Doesn’t feel right. To be with the group that we have, to finish it that way, it just doesn’t feel right.”
On the Brent Seabrook first goal tonight, Dubnyk said, “Yeah, he shot it and it was probably going wide on my blocker side and it went high glove. I’m not going to rethink that one. That was a crazy bounce and that doesn’t happen very often.”
On the series, Dubnyk said, “We played well. We played well and we deserved to win, certainly win a couple games. Obviously they’re very opportunistic and I couldn’t seem to come up with one to keep that game tied or keep it within a shot. We did a good job not quitting. Certainly not surprised by that at all with this group. Just disappointing.”
On the Patrick Kane third goal, Dubnyk said, “It went off my back. It hit the post and it went off my back and in the net. I was trying to take the shot away while being prepared to push off too. I don’t know if he had anything there or if he just went off the post and off me and in. But again, just seemed to be the way it went this series.”
On the season, Dubnyk said, “It’s going to take a while. This was a special year and a special group. Again, it just doesn’t feel right that we’re done playing now. It’s going to take a while and after that, you move on and get better the next time.”
On this team, Dubnyk said, “It’s been an honor to be a part of it. I’ve said it over and over, but the way that we played from top to bottom every single night, every single guy. It didn’t matter if guys were coming in playing more minutes, coming in from out of the lineup, everybody played as hard as they could every night and it was an absolute honor to be a part of it.”
Here’s Yeo, who again I didn’t go to (transcribed by colleague Rachel Blount):
“It’s hard to describe the feeling. Losing [stinks]. Obviously very, very disappointed to go down 4-nothing, but the bottom line is whenever you lose, it’s the same feeling.”
(surprised at all?) yeah, I mean, there’s a lot to learn from this. I think maybe we went in with too many, I don’t want to say expectations or too many, we have to learn from it. All the talk, this is our year, things are gonna be different, everything else, instead of just staying with the process a little bit more. That led to a lot of the frustration, a lot of the getting away from our game a little bit.
That’s a team, first off, they played great. I’m not surprised they played great. They’ve won 8 of their last 9 playoff series, and the team that beat them took 7 games to beat them. So for you to beat them, you’ve got to be on top of it, and it’s going to be hard. So yeah, learning experience, that’s for sure.
(did you put pressure on yourselves) Like I said, it’s a learning experience. Certainly we felt good about the game we were playing, felt good about the way things went in the first round. Probably needed to take a little step back and realize the next one, it’s not just going to carry over to that. We seemed to have a tough time adjusting. And we were chasing every game. It’s an incredible stat; we never had the lead in this series.
(lot of focus on your big guys not producing, did it come down to that) I don’t think that. Certainly their big guys, they’ve got guys that are a little bit different from our guys, that’s one thing. We’ve got guys that do tremendous things for us too. We might not have a guy that’s going to get 100 points a year for us right now but we have guys who are going to contribute offensively, but they play the game a certain way and that allows us to be successful as a team. Right now we’re a good team and we have to find a way to be the best team.
(feel team in the right frame of mind tonight) The first half of the first period was excellent. The second half of the first period, once they scored, it was a lot of familiar things we’d seen through the rest of the series. But that’s a very, very tough thing. There’s so much emotion involved, obviously whether it’s pressure, there were a lot of tough things to deal with. That’s part of winning, though. Talk about learning experiences and getting through that stuff, that’s the kind of stuff you have to deal with.
(evaluate season on these 4 games or overall) I would have to get back to you on that. I have to digest this a little bit further.
We’ll get with Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher next week. Like I wrote today, they have to figure this out and I’ll do my own analytical pieces in the paper Saturday and Sunday.
To update what I wrote in Thursday’s paper, in the past 30 playoffs games, Koivu, the Wild’s captain and top-2 in ice time among forwards the past three postseasons, has scored two goals and nine assists and is minus-17. In 25 playoff games with the Wild, Pominville has five goals and 10 assists. In 28 playoff games with the Wild, Suter has one goal, nine assists and is minus-18. In the past 17 playoff games dating back to last season with Montreal, Vanek has no goals, six assists and is minus-11.
Against Chicago, in 15 playoff games, Koivu has no goals, two assists and is minus-13, Suter has no goals, five assists and is minus-14, Charlie Coyle has no goals, four assists and is minus-8 and Zach Parise has three goals, five assists and is minus-13. In 12 games against Chicago, Pominville has two goals and three assists.
Against Minnesota in 15 games, Kane has eight goals and 15 points, Marian Hossa 14 assists, 18 points and is plus-12, Patrick Sharp has seven goals, 15 points and is plus-9, Jonathan Toews has three goals and five assists and Duncan Keith has nine points and is plus-12.
Their high-end guys score against Minnesota, the Wild’s high-end guys don’t against Chicago.
That is a fact. Crawford and the Hawks are 12-3 against the Wild in the playoffs, 8-0 at home.
I’ll be on KFAN at 10:35 a.m. Friday and on KARE 11 Friday night.
I’ll start looking ahead in the next couple days and next week and what the offseason looks like. I talked a little bit about that in my postgame video with Michael Rand tonight, so look for that on startribune.com/wild.
That’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed the Star Tribune’s coverage this season. As you know, things slow down in the offseason, but there will be plenty of news in June leading up to and at the draft and the first half of July.
My guess is Dubnyk is re-signed in the next few weeks, and then the Wild can see its cap situation heading into the offseason after that and the likely Niklas Backstrom buyout. But there will be nothing major beyond Dubnyk until after the Wild has its organizational meetings later this month or early June. The Wild will decompress, then come together to really analyze how this promising season and postseason ended so quickly and easily to the Hawks.