By the time the Wild’s plane landed Thursday, coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t particularly interested in rehashing his team’s Game 4 victory over St. Louis. He already was looking ahead to Saturday’s Game 5.
Wednesday’s 2-0 triumph was only a tiny step, one that turned a 3-0 series deficit into a 3-1 hole. And simply matching that effort in Game 5, Boudreau said, won’t cut it. After giving his players a day off Thursday, he expects them to be ready to make further progress when the series resumes Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
“Our message is, we have to play better if we want to win the next game,” Boudreau said. “It’s pretty simple. If you stay status quo, people pass you by. That’s why [the Stanley Cup] is so hard to win; you’ve got to be at the top of your game for as many as 28 games after the season.
“I don’t think we have everybody playing at the top of their game. I think there’s still room to get better. And if you want to prolong the series, we have to have 20 guys getting better, not 14 or 15.”
Boudreau said his players were relieved Wednesday when Charlie Coyle’s goal at 16 minutes, 50 seconds of the first period gave the Wild a 1-0 lead, its first of the series. He anticipates the Blues will put a premium on denying the Wild the first goal Saturday, making it critical the Wild gets off to a good start.
Blues coach Mike Yeo agreed that scoring first is important in a series between two strong defensive teams. But if it doesn’t happen, he added, it is equally important to stick to the game plan. In Game 4, he credited both Wild goals to Blues breakdowns and said his team was not as tightly focused as it needed to be.
“We weren’t physically invested, we weren’t ready and we weren’t sharp right from the start,” Yeo said. “Because of that, we were chasing all game. We have to be ready [Saturday].”
Boudreau still was steamed Thursday about what he called a “cheap” hit on Zach Parise with four seconds left in Game 4. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo barreled into Parise along the boards, inciting a shoving match as the game ended.
Parise didn’t appear to be hurt, and he immediately took a swipe at Pietrangelo. The incident left Boudreau pining for the vigilante justice of the game’s more violent era.
“It was cheap,” the coach said. “They knew the game was over. If this was 1984 or 1978, that guy would have had a stick right in his face, you know? But they don’t do that anymore.”
Predictably, Yeo took a different view of the hit. “It’s a rough series,” he said. “I really didn’t think anything of it.”
Black Aces back
The Wild on Thursday announced the recall of more than a dozen minor league prospects, with the majority coming from its AHL affiliate in Iowa. The “Black Aces” will practice separately, though most are eligible to play.
The group includes Iowa’s two highest-scoring defensemen, Mike Reilly (five goals, 25 assists) and Gustav Olofsson (six goals, 18 assists), and forward Alex Tuch, who led the team with 18 goals. Others recalled from Iowa are forwards Tyler Graovac, Ryan Carter, Christoph Bertschy, Kurtis Gabriel, Pat Cannone, Zack Mitchell and Sam Anas; defensemen Zach Palmquist, Nick Seeler, Hunter Warner and Mike Weber; and goaltender Steve Michalek.
Two players who recently signed with the Wild after their college seasons — forward Luke Kunin of Wisconsin and defenseman Carson Soucy of Minnesota Duluth — were recalled from Iowa as well, though they cannot play because their contracts do not start until next season. Defenseman Gustav Bouramman also was recalled from Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League.
Asked about injured forward Erik Haula, Boudreau said, “I’m hoping he’s available” for Game 5. Haula did not play in Game 4 and sat out practices before Games 3 and 4. His injury has not been disclosed, but he absorbed jarring hits from Pietrangelo and Scottie Upshall in Game 2.