MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Wild players did not hold back Monday, speaking with reporters for the final time at Xcel Energy Center before departing for their offseason.
That’s the problem, they’re entering the offseason while the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue for eight other teams. For the third straight season and sixth time in the last seven years, the Wild is out of the playoffs after the first round. This year felt different. A team that won 53 regular season games, set a franchise record with 113 points.
But 10 days and six games later, their season is over after losing to the St. Louis Blues.
"It doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season, how good your regular season is. Once you get to the playoffs and you’re not performing, you’re out. It’s just disappointment," defenseman and captain Jared Spurgeon said. "We did have a really great season but at the same time, right now it feels like a failure."
Spurgeon, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Matt Dumba, Nic DesLauriers, Cam Talbot, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jacob Middleton all spoke with media on Monday.
TALBOT ‘DISAPPOINTED TO NOT PLAY MORE’
One of the biggest talkers in the series with the Blues was Dean Evason’s decision whether to play Cam Talbot or Marc-Andre Fleury in net. With Talbot struggling earlier in the season, the Wild made a splash, trading for Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champion. Talbot went 13-0-3 in his last 16 games, but Evason gave Fleury the Game 1 nod.
Evason said at the time it was an "easy decision," in that he felt he had two solid options.
"I think that was blown out of proportion to be honest with you. What he told me and what I believe is that it would’ve been an easy decision either way. There’s no ill will on my end, and definitely not on his end," Talbot said. "I’m still here for one more year, I want to be here for one more year and I want to be a part of it."
Evason made a move, but not until Game 6. The popular argument was Talbot should’ve started Game 2 after the Wild lost 4-0 in Game 1. Talbot’s only game of the series was the final game of the Wild’s season.
"Obviously disappointed I didn’t get to play more in the playoffs, but who’s not? We’re competitors, you want to play. Was I disappointed? Obviously. Probably a little pissed off, but the coaches had a decision to make, and I don’t think there was a wrong decision," Talbot said. "You trade for a guy like that with his pedigree and his past, why wouldn’t you start him Game 1? Obviously I wanted to play, but I understood their decision."
KEVIN FIALA’S OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES RETURN
Kevin Fiala was one of three 30-goal scorers for the Wild in the regular season. He was second behind Kirill Kaprizov with 85 points. But as the pressure turned up in the playoffs, Fiala disappeared. He finished six playoff games without a goal, and had three assists.
He was at a loss for words on Monday trying to explain it.
"I don’t know. I tried my best, tried to get it going and playoffs are playoffs. You can’t score every game," Fiala said. "It wasn’t horrible, but obviously not very good. Such a shame to go out like that."
Fiala now faces an uncertain future with the Wild, after he played this season on a one-year deal so the team could sign Kaprizov long-term. He was asked about that uncertainty Monday, and doesn’t know if he’ll be with the Wild next season.
"I knew you were going to ask me that. There’s no other answer than we’ll see, I don’t know," Fiala said.
MATT DUMBA PLAYED THROUGH PUNCTURED LUNG, BROKEN RIB
It didn’t take long to figure out Matt Dumba was not at 100 percent entering the playoffs. The defenseman, known for his heavy shot, didn’t let it fly for the first five games of the series. Finally in Game 6, he scored the Wild’s lone goal in an elimination game.
He said Monday that last month in a game at Nashville, he suffered a punctured lung, dislocated rib and fractured rib. He worked with the training staff to be back on the ice for the playoffs.
"It was tough to go through. I was going to play no matter what. Felt good enough to play," Dumba said.
JOEL ERIKSSON EK’S TRIP TO THE DENTIST
Joel Eriksson Ek added injury to insult in the Wild’s Game 6 loss to the Blues. He lost three or four teeth after taking a high stick to the face from teammate Dmitry Kulikov. He left the ice a bloody mess, and the Wild didn’t even get a power play out of it since he got hit by a teammate.
Ek, who was the only Wild player with more than one goal in the series other than Kaprizov, was missing a few upper teeth on Monday. He also says he has a hole in his lip, and it would all be getting fixed at an afternoon trip to the dentist.
"I lost three or four teeth and my jaw line was broken. It doesn’t look that bad, but it got me pretty bad. On the flight and the next day was pretty painful," Ek said.
Now, the Wild is left to wonder what might have been after the best team and the best regular season in recent memory ended with the third straight first round exit from the playoffs.