Mandatory NHL bye weeks are getting heavy criticism from analysts and coaches alike, and the bye couldn't come at a worse time for the Wild.
After losing 5-3 to Chicago Tuesday night, the Wild hit the bye – no practices allowed – and don't play again until Monday.
The stretch run is daunting.
- 23 games in 41 days
- 3 games in four days next week, including back-to-back against L.A. and Winnipeg
- 20 games over the final 35 days
- 12 road games
- 5-game road trip Mar. 9-16
And they'll have very little time to practice.
"We've had fewer practices than any time I've ever been a coach in this league," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said before the All-Star Game last month, via the Buffalo News. "We finished nine games in 15 days (leading up to the All-Star break) and we never practiced the other six days because you can't kill the guys, especially your better players."
In addition to the stretch run being more of a grind than usual, NHL teams, as of Monday, had gone 4-12-4 in their first game after their bye, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Even scarier is that the Blackhawks could be within one point of the Wild by the time the Wild take the ice again. The 'Hawks would have to win both games to do that, but if they lose both they'll remain five points back and the Wild will have three games in hand.
Regardless of the stress the bye puts on the Wild, head coach Bruce Boudreau isn't panicking.
"They're 39-14," said Boudreau after Tuesday's loss to Chicago. "I told them, quite frankly, to get some rest and enjoy this break. But wanna get home to play hockey. I said, 'for four and a half months now you guys have done a tremendous job and we've got something special going on, potentially. It's great to get away for a couple of days but the desire to play has gotta be there.'"