Maybe if he’d made the last save and the Wild had closed out a win this wouldn’t have happened.
That’s how goalie Alex Stalock processed the news that coach Bruce Boudreau was fired Friday morning after a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers the night before at Xcel Energy Center.
“I kind of wear it myself now,” Stalock said. “Blew a two-goal lead and you don’t finish a game off the right way. Obviously, that happens and you kind of put a lot of blame on yourself.”
As shocked as Wild players were to learn Boudreau had been dismissed, they had no problem finding where to direct some of the responsibility for the sudden change.
“It’s a wake-up call,” said Stalock, who explained that he and Boudreau shared a mutual respect. “A lot of the players are probably holding themselves accountable for what happened.”
Goalie Devan Dubnyk echoed Stalock’s sentiment, feeling if he’d performed better this season Boudreau still might be employed. At the time of Boudreau’s departure, the Wild’s cumulative save percentage ranked 25th at .897.
But the Wild has been on the upswing of late, going 7-3-1 to bank 15 points out of a possible 22.
“It’s been a little better,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “But at the same time, it’s not enough.”
Players looked at this decision by General Manager Bill Guerin as proof he believes they can improve even more.
And that’s where the focus is now: squarely on them.
“It always comes down to the players,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. “We’re the ones on the ice. We had a tough start to the season, and that put us behind the 8-ball and now we’re chasing. We’ve been getting points, but at the same time, we have to use this as motivation that if it’s not going the way that we want it to that there are going to be changes.
“As a group, we’re the ones that can control that.”
Up to date
Guerin kept owner Craig Leipold in the loop on his decision to fire Boudreau.
“It’s important that he knows what’s going on,” Guerin said. “He was supportive. We don’t take things like this lightly — trades, changing of head coaches, things like that. We’re talking about human beings here. It’s not just the hockey part of it. It’s the human element of it. You don’t just make knee-jerk reactions when you’re talking about somebody’s livelihood. This is something that we put a lot of thought and conversation into. Craig was brought up to speed on everything.”
On the bench
Assistant coach Darby Hendrickson will be on the bench for the entire game moving forward; he previously watched the first period from the press box.
“I’m going to lean on them a lot,” interim coach Dean Evason said of the other coaches. “We are going to be a team behind the coach’s door as much as we want the group to be a team when they step on the ice.”
Boudreau’s dismissal was the eighth head coaching change this season the NHL.
Only two of those coaches, John Hynes and Peter DeBoer, have since been hired elsewhere.
“We have a lot of respect for Bruce,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “He was a great guy and a great coach. It’s sad to see him go.”