Boudreau calls out Wild’s top players after tough loss

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These are the types of nights that will make Bruce Boudreau’s skin turn extra-red.

As scrappy as the Detroit Red Wings can be, there’s no denying their low spot in the NHL this season. If that wasn’t enough to set the table for a Wild win, consider that the game was taking place in Minnesota, and the more-rested Wild were taking on a Detroit team that lost to the Jets the night before.

A back-to-back against a cellar dweller should be easy points – on paper – but instead, the Red Wings beat the Wild 5-2 on Saturday, with Tyler Bertuzzi registering his first NHL hat trick.

The Wild dropped what Boudreau called a clunker, even as they looked up at the out-of-town scoreboard and realized that other bubble teams were losing. Minnesota failed to add a little playoff cushion on Saturday, and Boudreau was clearly unhappy after that loss.

“That was the worst game we’ve played since I’ve been here as coach,” Boudreau said early in his presser. ” … I’m really disappointed in tonight’s effort.”

As The Athletic’s Michael Russo notes, Boudreau called out top players such as Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund, while giving Joel Eriksson-Ek such a backhanded compliment, you’d think it was delivered by Vincent Damphousse.

“If your best players aren’t your best players, you’re not going to win a game,” Boudreau said. “It’s as simple as that. When I look down and Ek’s line is the best line that we have out there, then we’re in trouble.”

Slamming your best players while sort of insulting lesser first-rounders? Is Boudreau hanging out with Jim Lites, waiting for Lites to throw barbs at Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin?

The Wild really fell apart in the second period of this game, with an especially painful surge happening considering that Detroit got two goals from former Wild rental Thomas Vanek; via Natural Stat Trick, Detroit controlled the game to the tune of a ridiculous 88 Corsi For Percentage.

via Natural Stat Trick

Were Staal and Granlund that bad? Staal’s possession numbers were indeed abysmal in this one, so it’s not shocking that he admitted that he was “fighting it” all night, according to Russo. Staal ended the night with a minor penalty, zero points, and one shot on goal, while Granlund was a -1 with two SOG.

It’s been tough sledding for Staal and others overall, though. After being remarkable since signing with the Wild (including a surprising 42[!] goals and 76 points last season), Staal’s been limited to 27 points in 43 games. In all honesty, expecting a point-per-game from Staal – now 34 – might be asking a bit much, but the Wild need him to move the needle.

Wild players owned up to their tough outings, at least.

Either way, the Wild find themselves in a grinding mode. Consider that they’ve averaged the exact same 2.82 goals for and against per game, and you can see how slim the margin of error can be.

That tightrope-walking style will probably lend itself to frustrating nights like these.

Minnesota’s still in a decent position to squeeze out a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it probably won’t be easy. Don’t be surprised if you see Boudreau bare that strain throughout the rest of 2018-19, even if he’s unlikely to provide such pointed criticisms all that often.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.