Hours before the Kentucky Derby was set to start, the Wild was back on the ice at Chicago’s United Center for a swift practice the day after falling a furlong behind the Blackhawks in the Second Round race to four wins.
Despite the 5-2 loss last night, the club was in high spirits for today’s session—a quick, lively and up-tempo affair. The Wild knows it had a chance to win yesterday, although, the club believes it can show more.
“We played a good game, but we didn’t play a great game,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
The team felt that it didn’t execute on some of the smaller details, something that the Hawks were able to capitalize on.
“The little things that we’re missing,” Yeo said. “There was just a very small dip in some of the little things — whether it’s a stick on puck, whether it’s a net front screen, whether it’s a shot block — that end up being the difference.”
We’ve written it before in the Lighthouse, but the word that seems to consistently come up with this Wild team, all season, is resiliency. Sure, the narrative might get a little tiresome to continue to expound upon, but it’s been a consistent story line, probably the main reason why we keep coming back to it. Of course, the club cannot just show up and presume it will bounce back, one of the reasons for today’s skate while the Blackhawks had the day off.
“You can’t just expect and assume that things will be better the next game,” Yeo said. “Just like we said all series, last series, we have to try to come to the rink everyday and get better and it’s the same mentality we’re going to have for this one.”
One area the club will have to improve: special teams. The Hawks scored on two power play goals, while the Wild went 0-3 with the man advantage. The Wild power play was able to set up in the zone on several occasions, but the Hawks PK played a bend-but-don’t-break strategy and didn’t allow much action in the box.
“They’ve got a really good penalty kill; they’re patient,” Zach Parise said. “A lot of teams are really aggressive and they’re not. They give you those shots from the sides, the shots from the flank, and they just try to get in the shooting lanes so it’s hard to get it through. For us, we can’t allow it to frustrate us. We can’t just start blasting pucks and getting frustrated, we still have to make the plays when it’s there.”
If the Lighthouse is going by today’s line rushes, it looks like Justin Fontaine will re-enter the lineup in Game 2. He was skating on the wing with Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter. During the regular season against the Hawks, Fontaine had four points (1-3=4) in five games.
“That’s a line that we matched up against (Nathan) MacKinnon last series,” Yeo said. “So, obviously, one that if they want to throw a skilled line out there, we’re comfortable with those guys in that role.”
With Fontaine in, Kyle Brodziak skated with Dany Heatley and Cody McCormick, while the top two lines remained the same. The D-pairs also stood pat. So there were some minor changes in practice, and the team wants to take lessons from game one, while looking forward to Game 2.
“I want everybody to remember that game, to feel that game,” Yeo said. “But to come back with a bit little more.”