ST. PAUL, Minn. — It almost looks like a misprint when you look at the box score from Tuesday’s game between Minnesota and Chicago. But there it is, by Wild defenseman Ryan Suter’s name, and it is not a typo.
Suter played 41:08 in the Wild’s 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1, nearly seven minutes more than the next-highest total for Minnesota — fellow defenseman Jonas Brodin, who skated for 34:20.
The next day, the 28-year-old Suter was back at the Xcel Energy Center along with several of his teammates, even though the Wild didn’t practice Wednesday. It was almost as if he had to prove he could still walk after playing 41 minutes in a playoff game.
“I just tell everyone I’m a good glider,” Suter joked Wednesday. “You don’t think about it. You’re just going out and playing. I enjoy playing a lot of minutes. I feel the more you play, the more you’re into the game, so it might be easier than somebody who doesn’t play as much.”
Suter’s ice time of 41:08 set a Wild franchise record for a single game. The veteran defenseman has proven to be a wise investment after he and forward Zach Parise signed with Minnesota for matching $98 million deals this past July. Suter is making his case to win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman. He finished the regular season averaging the most minutes per game with 27:17 and had 32 points in 48 games.
Nights like Tuesday should strengthen Suter’s Norris Trophy argument. If nothing else, his ice time impressed his teammates.
“It’s unreal,” Parise said. “He comes off the ice after what seems like a two-minute shift and he’s not even breathing heavy. I don’t get it. I wish I was the same way. He played a lot of hockey (Tuesday) night, and he comes in (Wednesday) and he looks like he had a day off. I can’t say I’m surprised.”
Suter finished Tuesday’s game a minus-1, as he was on the ice for Bryan Bickell’s game winner in overtime. Then again, he was on the ice for seemingly the entire game.
“I thought he was great in the game,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said of Suter. “I mean he was a horse. His execution, he was a part of a number of our scoring changes and defensively, obviously, he was a horse.”
Suter took away several Blackhawks scoring opportunities and helped goalie Josh Harding, who was thrust into the starting role when Niklas Backstrom went down with an injury during warm-ups. Harding was brilliant despite his short notice and stopped 35 of 37 Chicago shots.
Having Suter in front of him certainly helped Harding.
“It seemed like he was out there the whole game,” Harding said. “He played great. As a goaltender, playing with Suts, he makes things easy back there. It’s a privilege playing with him.”
Prior to Tuesday’s 41 minutes of ice time, Suter had surpassed the 30-minute mark 10 times this season — six of those within the last month. Yeo certainly didn’t enter Tuesday’s game with the plan of playing Suter for that long, but the Wild defenseman went on to easily have the highest time on ice total of any player in the playoffs so far. After Suter and Brodin, the player with the most minutes logged in a Game 1 during the playoffs was Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who was on the ice for 31:38.
That seems like a walk in the park compared to Suter’s night.
“He probably thinks that he could’ve played more,” Yeo said. “What’s important is (assistant coach) Rick Wilson does a good job of this, is reading first off the guys play when he’s on the ice, but you can also see his recovery on the bench and there’s no signs that he’s slowing down.
“Obviously he’s a great player and if he’s able to go, then we want him on the ice.”