Friday, March 30, 2007

Slow Start Costs Wild

The Calgary Flames defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Thursday Night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Wild dug themselves a hole they couldn't climb out of, falling behind 2-0 just 90 seconds into the game prompting the exit of Niklas Backstrom.
Backstrom’s been playing great and he’s played a lot of games and he had a couple bad bounces, so I said let’s take him out,” said Lemaire. “I wanted to see if the team would respond and I didn’t want him back there if they couldn’t."
Brent Burns answered for the Wild taking a pass from Marian Gaborik and blasting it past Calgary net minder Mikka Kiprusoff for his 8th goal of season, this coming on the power play. After the horrendous start, just a one goal deficit going into the 1st intermission would have meant a whole new ballgame, but Calgary captain Jarome Iginla made sure that didn't happen, taking a great pass from Daymond Lankow and burying it with only 12 seconds remaining in the 1st period. After a scoreless 2nd, Calgary jumped to a three goal lead in the third period when Iginla completed the hat trick taking yet another great pass, this time from Craig Conroy. The Wild cut the deficit in half yet again with just under 7 minutes to play when Mark Parrish tipped home a Kim Johnsson shot for his 18th goal of the season. Mikko Koivu also picked up an assist. Jacque Lemaire said "The Kick in the Pants" may just be the eye opener the Wild needed as they prepare for the playoffs.

One Man's View
Unfortunately I had to work so i missed the entire game. Basing my opinion on highlights and the write up on, the Wild played sluggish for most of the night and when you play a team like Calgary you cannot play bad and win. Maybe this IS what the Wild needed. Prior to the game Minnesota had picked up points in 16 of 18 contests. This sluggish performance hopefully can open Wild player's eyes, have a good Friday practice before taking on Colorado in Denver on Saturday. Lets hope Lemaire can get them back on track, which i don't worry about for a second.

Looking Ahead
The Wild travel to Colorado on Saturday for their final road contest of the season before returning home for a 3 game home stand against the Oilers (2) and Blues, two teams who are guaranteed to miss the playoffs. When you trail a division the only thing you can do is win. Do not worry about that first place team take care of your business. Problem is the Canucks seem to pick up a point in every game as of late, which makes it difficult to catch them, however not impossible. If the Wild take care of the games they should win, we could see a division race come down to the final Saturday of the season.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wild fall to Flames 1-0 in a Shootout

In a game that was completely dominated by the Minnesota Wild in every aspect except on the scoreboard, the Calgary Flames won 1-0 in a shootout Tuesday in St. Paul. The Wild out shot the Flames 38-24, including 14-5 in the first period which featured a Mark Parrish goal being disallowed and complete domination by the Wild. Flames goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff was the obvious number one star stopping anything and everything the Wild threw at him. Niklas Backstrom was as impressive, stopping all of Calgary's 24 shots, including an incredible toe save with under a minute to play in regulation to help Minnesota gain at least a point. Despite the loss, the Wild clinched a playoff spot with Vancouver defeating Colorado. The Wild currently sit 6th in the Western Conference with a franchise record 98 points. Calgary and Minnesota will play again Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.

One Man's View
A few things upset during the review of the Mark Parrish goal in the first period. First off the game had tremendous flow and pace. You not only blow the call (and given the replays we were shown on television i think you all can agree) but you slow down the game and ruin a teams momentum (which in this case happened to be the Wild's). Secondly why should a call need to be forwarded to Toronto (who ends up making a final decision) to determine whether a goal should or shouldn't stand? Football has a simple system; you need conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field. Shouldn't hockey do the same? At least if there was a replay which showed obvious and conclusive evidence to overturn the goal show the fans. We should have a right to know and see why a call was overturned. If there was no other view, and the replay officials made a decision based on the replays we were shown on television, then I'm sorry but the replay officials should be fired because there is absolutely no way you could tell me you saw that puck hit off of Parrish's stick and that his stick was over the crossbar.

Looking Ahead
The Wild will play host to the Calgary Flames again Thursday before traveling to Colorado for their final road game of the season. They then finish up with two games at home against division rival Edmonton. The season finale will be Saturday April 7th against the St. Louis Blues. The Wild have a real shot to take down the division. Their final three games are against non-playoff teams, all of which are home games. The Wild are 26-11 which ranks towards the top of the western conference. Some keys down the stretch for the Wild is to get their special teams rolling. Special teams play a huge roll in the playoffs and can make or break a team. The Wild rank 10th in the NHL on the power play and are 2nd in the NHL when it comes to penalty killing. Obviously home ice advantage would be ideal, but the Wild have played solid on the road the past month and will be a force to be reckoned with regardless of the venue.