Matt Cooke addressed the media following a disappointing game three shutout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
“You think change, try something different,” Cooke said, referring to the way media often suggests a roster shakeup following losses. “We — the players — think simplify.”
The Minnesota Wild had been lights out over the second half of the season, watching as newly acquired netminder Devan Dubnyk recorded elite-level stats night after night and the team as a whole shut down all levels of competition with ease. They’d started out the year strong, but poor goaltending had seen an early winter slump — both in play from the team’s netminders and in performances from the team’s skaters. It took Dubnyk’s arrival in St. Paul to turn the team around.
Now, though, they’re struggling again. 4-3, 4-1, and 1-0 losses to the Blackhawks in their first three games of the Western Conference semi-finals suggest a team that’s all over the place — the Wild can’t seem to post consistent numbers in more than one or two categories a night, leaving them vulnerable and susceptible to losses.
Cooke suggests they just need to clear their heads.
He’s not the only player who places such emphasis on keeping things consistent when addressing problems — Washington Capitals forward Jason Chimera said something similar when talking about the team’s forward line consistency.
“You go home to the same wife every day. You know what she’s all about. It’s the same thing.”
Some might argue that the Wild’s season, in itself, is a testament to change being a good thing. Dubnyk’s arrival — by and large one of the biggest changes the team has undergone to date this year — was a positive influence; a number of skaters admitted that the newfound confidence in net affected their game as well.
While that may be true, though, hockey players are still creatures of habit. Most athletes are. From peewee football to the NHL, nearly every athlete craves consistency — whether it’s a pre-game nap or knowing that your linemates won’t change day-to-day, order and continuity are oftentimes part of the solution when busting a slump.
Simplifying the game, though — Cooke, a Stanley Cup Champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, probably knows a bit about this.
The Wild are at their very best when they play clean, simple, smart hockey. They aren’t a team that utilizes a ton of physical force or crazy fast speed — their biggest asset is the classic style they manage to not only play, but play effectively. The Minnesota Wild are an easy team to watch, because when they’re on their game they play picture-perfect shifts.
Maybe a tweak here and there are needed, but Matt Cooke thinks it’s more about the mental game. The Minnesota Wild won’t move on unless they stop trying so hard to beat the Blackhawks at their own game — they’ve got to stop overthinking it, and just play what they know.