ST. LOUIS – The veteran coach, Bruce Boudreau, cut off questions at his news conference and stormed away.
The franchise player, Zach Parise, didn’t speak in the locker room.
Three games into the playoffs, the best regular-season team in Wild history is winless and clueless, and the coach is selling the notion that his players should treat Wednesday’s Game 4 as if it were a Game 7.
Boudreau is 1-7 in Game 7s. He might as well try selling humidity to Missourians.
“We gotta look at it like it’s a Game 7 on Wednesday and not worry about the series at all,’’ Boudreau said.
It has come to this for what was the best team in the Western Conference for much of the season: treating Game 4 as if it’s a Game 7 and treating miscellaneous statistics as if they validate a 3-0 deficit in the first round against a team that had to scramble to make the playoffs.
Boudreau tried to praise his third line of Ryan White, Martin Hanzal and Nino Niederreiter. He defended the play of Ryan Suter, who was uncharacteristically shaky Sunday. He didn’t just whistle past the graveyard; he tried to conduct an orchestra from atop a tomb.
Boudreau was jovial most of the season, but now you see why his previous teams have failed in big games. He’s uptight. His face is even redder than usual, and when reporters entered the locker room Saturday, when the Wild practiced, he was slamming potato chips into his mouth and missing with most of them.
This is not the behavior of someone who calms the water. This is the behavior of someone who dives for a lifeboat.
Asked about the play of the third line, which was energetic but erratic, Boudreau said: “If you’re looking for me to criticize our team, it’s not going to happen. We were friggin’ good tonight, and we didn’t get the breaks. So quit trying to put words in our mouths that make us look like we’re bad because we’re not.’’
This is something that must be proved, not hypothesized. The Wild fell apart late in the regular season and is down 3-0 in the meaningful season.
That the games have been close is not an excuse. Playoff hockey games tend to be close.
The Wild has not led in this series for a second. The Blues have gained the lead and then become passive, allowing the Wild to amass shots and chances.
The Wild has scored three goals in almost 10 periods. This is not a fluke. This is the Blues boxing out and slowing down a team that wants to score on rebounds and the rush.
One moment in Sunday’s game illustrated the problem. In the third period, Eric Staal tried to stuff in a goal from behind the net. Staal is the only Wild player with a Stanley Cup championship on his résumé. He is experienced and intelligent.
He stuffed himself on the post. That doesn’t happen unless the player feels undue pressure.
One close loss might be an aberration, but here are the results from games between these teams since Mike Yeo took over as Blues head coach:
Blues 2, Wild 1. Blues 2, Wild 1. Blues 2, Wild 1. Blues 3 (with an empty-net goal), Wild 1.
If you get rained on every day, you might want to consider buying an umbrella.
The Wild has been beaten by the same team with the same game plan four straight times, scoring one goal in each game. The players have to stop saying that they need one break. Now they need at least four.
I don’t speak for Wild fans, but if I did I’d say this:
Show us something, boys. Show us you’re tough enough to challenge the Blues’ physical defense. Show us you’re better than your 2-11 record in your past 13 playoff games. Show us your leaders can handle tough times.
And make it soon. In Game 4. Aka Game 7.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org