By Scott Taylor
October 21, 2017
Friday night in the bowels of Bell MTS Place in downtown Winnipeg, Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau sounded depressed. He sounded like a man in need of a Zoloft.
Frowning, Boudreau was as quiet as a mouse during the post-game scrum. He was angry. He never raised his voice above a whisper. His Wild had just been beaten 4-3 by the Winnipeg Jets despite the fact they led the game 3-2 late in the second period and were tied at 3-3 with just seven minutes to play.
The Wild had blown another lead and Boudreau wasn’t angry, he was depressed about it.
The first thing he was asked was about the defense and goaltending.
“Obviously, they got four,” he said softly. “So it’s not as good as you want it…
“You want it better. You want it better if you want to win it. You can’t keep giving up three, four, five goals a game. Just look at the end of the year, look at the teams with goals against that are three-and-over and see where those guys are. They’re never in the playoffs.”
The 1-2-2 Wild have played five games this season (most other teams have played at least six, maybe seven, so that’s an odd schedule). They lost 4-2 in Detroit and then 5-4 at home to Carolina in a shootout. They beat Chicago at United Centre 5-2 and then blew a late 4-2 lead and lost 5-4 in overtime at home to Columbus. Friday night, they fell 4-3 to a Jets team that was coming off a 5-2 home loss to the Blue Jackets.
On average, the Wild have given up four goals per game. The defense has been shaky while the goaltending has been really mediocre. In Winnipeg on Friday night, Devan Dubnyk looked slow, clumsy and confused.
“I think you can find fault with a whole bunch of guys,” said Boudreau. “But the guys making the biggest mistakes are the guys we rely on. You can sit and talk about the Mitchells and Kunins and Ferarros, but those guys aren’t making the mistakes. It’s the guys who are supposed to be our better players who are making the mistakes and that’s why we’re losing the games.”
To be fair, the Jets scored two power play goals on Friday night, but Boudreau refused to use that as an excuse.
“(The penalty kill) is frustrating,” Boudreau conceded. “But it’s not the penalty kill itself. It’s how the opposition’s power play goals are going in. How many deflections in the five games have gone in? But again, that’s an excuse. The fact is, they’re going in. We gotta stay out of the box. We only took three penalties tonight, but when two of them go in, that’s not good.”
One reporter tried to give Boudreau an out by suggesting that his team hadn’t played in five days so maybe some rust had sent in. The Wild coach would have no part of that lament.
“I think (the team was flat) for the first 10 minutes and that was it,” Boudreau said. “But after the first 10 minutes we started to find our legs and we took the play to them.
“I thought we took the play to them until we got the lead and then it seems like we’re afraid to win. In all five games we’ve been tied or ahead with less than 10 minutes to go in the third period and you look at our record, it’s just not good enough. When you’re that close it — doesn’t matter who’s in our lineup – but when you’re that close and you come away with nothing you have to do some soul searching.”
Fear of winning? That has to lead to depression and soul searching. If Boudreau’s team doesn’t get things turned around soon, this could be a long winter in the State of Hockey.
Frankly, this Wild team is way too good to be (a) below .500, (b) blowing leads late in the game and (c) playing as confused and as confusing as it has been so far this season.
Nobody really believes that Game 6 in an 82-game season is a big game. However, for this year’s version of the Minnesota Wild, it be bigger than anyone could have imagined back in training camp.
It will definitely be big for the team’s confidence and maybe even bigger for the coach’s mental health.