If you click this link, you will find a column written after the Wild’s 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
The defeat was the Wild’s fourth in a row and dropped them to 2-7 in March. Yet, coach Bruce Boudreau did not show any signs that his team’s woes had him rattled. That led to this headline, “As Wild slide continues, Boudreau takes calm, cool and collected approach.”
A day later, I’d like to make one thing clear. That column’s headline – and much of its content – is no longer relevant. It took only one more loss for Boudreau to crack in Mike Yeo-like fashion.
That happened following the Wild’s 5-4 loss Sunday at Winnipeg. Boudreau, having just suffered a fifth consecutive defeat for the first time in his 10 seasons as an NHL coach, took only two questions in his postgame press conference as the Wild players reportedly held a players-only meeting.
This came after the Wild fell behind 4-0 before rallying with four second-period goals to tie the score. Josh Morrissey’s shot past a screened Devan Dubnyk at 12 minutes, 43 seconds of the third period proved to be the winning goal for a Jets team that was missing three regular defensemen and has little chance of making the playoffs.
The Wild had several opportunities to tie the score near the end – they were on a power play and also pulled Dubnyk to create a 6-on-4 advantage – but were unable to beat Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson.
The Wild are now seven points behind Chicago, which beat Colorado on Sunday, in the Western Conference and will fall into third place in the conference if Pacific Division-leading San Jose wins Monday at Dallas.
“This isn’t a good day because I’m going to say something stupid,” Boudreau said when asked to balance the disappointment of the loss with the way the Wild played in the second period. “So I don’t want to answer that question.”
A follow-up question was asked about the resilience the Wild had shown by coming back. “Hey listen,” Boudreau barked, “we stunk in the first, we better come back in the second. Holy crap, it’s not resiliency. You’re making it sound like we’re good. That’s (it), I’m done.”
And with that Boudreau stormed off.
The feeling after Saturday’s loss was that doubt had crept into the locker room, but Boudreau was doing his best to make sure he wasn’t giving the same impression. He had done the same after road losses last week at Washington and Carolina.
After Sunday, it would be safe to say the Wild are sitting at DEFCON 2 and that Boudreau has his finger on the button. Somewhere in St. Louis, Yeo has to be chuckling as many of his former players again prove to be far too fragile.
Dubnyk, so good early in the season that some (me again) felt he deserved MVP consideration, looks as if he has lost all confidence and spends much of his time fighting the puck. Charlie Coyle, in the midst of a terrible goal-scoring slump, had the Wild’s first goal Sunday, but was unable to guide the puck into what amounted to a wide-open portion of the net in the third period.
Coyle did the same thing on Saturday when Erik Haula set him up on a 2-on-1 with a perfect pass and somehow Coyle was unable to direct the puck into the open net.
Coyle has company when it comes to players who have gone cold in the goal-scoring department. Mikko Koivu has two goals in his past 20 games; Nino Niederreiter has no goals during the March slide; Jason Zucker has one goal in that time; Jason Pominville has one goal since returning from the mumps and was a healthy scratch on Sunday; and Zach Parise has two goals since coming back from the mumps. The list of struggling Wild players goes on and on.
Just over two weeks after putting together an impressive performance against San Jose in a rare March victory, the Wild will attempt to end this free-fall on Tuesday against the Sharks at Xcel Energy Center.
Will the players-only meeting help? Will the fact Boudreau finally appears to be fed up with how his once red-hot team is playing help? Will Dubnyk even get the start in goal? Will any of the struggling goal scorers end their slumps?
At this point, only one thing is certain. After months of stability, the Wild have returned to being a soap opera and their head coach now appears willing to play a leading role.