The Winter Classic appeared to be a double-edged sword for the Minnesota Wild. You finally get the hockey world to stop and look at your team that has been impressive the last two seasons, and take in the local weather and acknowledge how significant a market the State of Hockey is — but then you have to actually put a good performance in on the ice.
The Wild did not do that last night.
It’s easy to toss it up as a missed opportunity due to multiple factors. Whether you want to blame the absence of Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, and Joel Eriksson Ek — essentially the spine of the Wild’s entire system — or you can blame the weather, or you can even blame the fact that before the outdoor game, the Wild haven’t played in over a week due to postponements and the extended holiday break. They had to breakthrough rust while also missing some key players, all outside in the coldest NHL game ever played.
We will be making excuses for them so we don’t have to dwell on the current five-game losing streak for too long, but the players themselves certainly won’t be letting up after the 6-4 loss.
“The first two periods, I don’t even have words why — it’s just embarrassing, I think, the first two periods,” Mats Zuccarello said. “To have 40,000 people coming, freezing their assess off, and we’re playing like that? You gotta give credit to St Louis, too. They outplayed us for 40 minutes, for sure. A little bit of pushback in the third, but it doesn’t really matter. You lose the game.
“There’s no excuses. It’s cold. It’s cold for both teams. The ice is bouncy for both teams. They just outplayed us for 40 minutes, easy. We didn’t play smart hockey like we’ve been doing most of the time this year. I think we all know it. We talked about it between the second and the third — we all agree. It’s just unfortunate it happened on a great night like this, and a lot of people out in this cold to support us, and we perform like that. We are as disappointed as everyone else.”
The entire multi-day event for the players finished with a bad loss that just adds to the current state of this team. Now with five consecutive losses stretched over multiple weeks, the Wild are heading in a direction that will negate their eight-game win streak that they earned just before the first of these five defeats.
“Of course it sours the day, ya know?” he said. “A very great day, and yeah, I think this is going to hurt for a little bit. Five in a row now, lost — that’s the big picture. This was a fun game for everyone, but now it’s over. Now we gotta get back to the winning ways and play the way that we know how to play as a team.”
At least there’s hope for the future. The holiday break is done and they will at least have more opportunities — even if two more game postponements came under the wire recently — to break this losing run. The games in the month of January start a little bit spaced out, but with some heavy practice time and the games following, they wrap up the month and head into February on a five-game road trip.
“We got to find it,” Marcus Foligno said. “It’s got to be on us. I think we go to Boston next, a team that’s always been good, and it’s just something that you got to find a win and you got to build off it. There’s no panic. It’s unfortunate losing a big game like this. But we got the leadership in the room and we got the mentality that we can get out of it. We just need to get back in the win column.
“Hey, there’s a lot of things that are going against us right now — injuries, the schedule. But we got to stay with it. There’s one thing that’s a positive out of this: We’re rested, and we should have a lot of energy going forward.”
If any team can gather around and will some wins out of nothing, it really is Minnesota.
Some good news is that Brodin should be back for the Boston Bruins visit, and GM Bill Guerin said that both Eriksson Ek and Spurgeon will be out for “a couple weeks” — which means they should be back for that heavy road trip at the end of the month.
And hey! Top prospects Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy might just be making their NHL debuts soon according to the GM as well, so this roster might see a lot of changes in the next month or so, and that can only prove to be better overall. Hopefully that is enough for the Wild to reclaim the top spot in the division and have that confidence heading into the playoffs.
We’re trying to be optimistic here.