The lowest point of the Minnesota Wild’s season came on Jan. 13, a 7-2 drubbing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the team’s sixth consecutive loss and it seemed like things were coming off the rails. The next day, the Wild acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes and the team took off like a bullet train, chugging its way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
So, following a 6-1 loss in Game 5 of its opening round series against the St. Louis Blues, the club has some perspective on what it takes to turn things around in a hurry.
“At the point in January, if we could’ve said, ‘Hey, we’ll be in the first round tied 2-2,’ I think we would’ve taken it,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Last night after the game a lot of negative thoughts go through your mind and then today you wake up and the series is tied 2-2 and now it’s a best of three.”
In a series that has gone back and forth as often as a commuter on the Green Line, the Wild knows there will be times when it pushes and gets pushed back. For a team that has been playing solid hockey since mid-January, its resolve is strong.
“The fact that we played our worst game, for probably two months, gives us confidence, too,” Suter said.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo has liked the way his club has played in three out of the four games, with last night’s loss the obvious blemish.
“We were really off. We were in-between on everything. We were reactive, watching them play a very good game. That’s a pretty dangerous combination,” Yeo said. “A best of seven series, a playoff series, against a team like this, it can’t be the end of the world when you lose a hockey game. Conversely, you can’t feel that you’re ready to move on because you win one hockey game.”
It was a disappointing loss with the chance to take a series hold on the series. Suter said the team was losing one-on-one battles and races to loose pucks, which set them up for failure down the road. Rather than having control of the game, the Blues were able to set up its forecheck and put pressure on Minnesota in the defensive end.
“When we’re in the offensive zone, playing with the puck, it makes it a lot easier to play defense because you don’t have to play it all the time,” Suter said. “For us, get back to playing a puck possession type game in the offensive zone.”
This led to breakdowns and Dubnyk played his worst game in a Wild sweater. However, the team that rides the highs together, takes its the dips together, too.
“It’s one game, we were all bad, it’s not just one guy,” Suter said. “No one can look themselves in the mirror and say they played well.”
The group is confident that Dubnyk will have a bounce back game and believes it will play better in front of him, as well.
“He’ll be fine,” forward Thomas Vanek said. “Duby has been great for us all year. We have to be better in front of him as well. It’s not on him. He’ll respond, just like our team will respond.”
Yeo said there’s “probably a good chance” of some lineup changes, but he didn’t go into detail. He said the team would make that decision tonight and reveal any alterations tomorrow.
For Yeo, the team wasn’t nearly good enough. However, to him, it doesn’t matter how the team loses. A triple overtime loss feels the same as a blowout. Both instances are frustrating, but the most important thing is how a club replies following defeat. The Wild will get that chance in Game 5 at 8:30 p.m. State of Hockey Time at Scottrade Center tomorrow night.
“They played well, so we’ll tip our hats to them. But we also know we weren’t even close to the top of our game. It’s not like we played our best hockey and came up short,” Yeo said. “If anyone’s had any kind of playoff experience or success, you’ve gone through things like this. Any team that’s advanced and has gone on a run, they’ve all had tough games.
“It’s how you move on, it’s how you go to the next one.”