Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wild Begin Sharp, End Dull

Give the Minnesota Wild a three goal lead and history shows they will not lose. That was before Wednesday night when the Calgary Flames became the first team to beat the Wild in franchise history when trailing by three goals or more. The Wild jumped out to a wicked fast start, scoring three goals (two power play) in the first ten minutes and took that lead into the intermission. Brian Rolston and Mark Parrish both added a power play goal and Wes Walz shipped a goal in as well. This was the best period I think I've ever seen the Wild play. The play was completely dictated by Minnesota and they really had their way. Anything they wanted they got. Oh how quickly a game can change. The Flames exploded for three goals in less than five minutes near the mid point of the second period and you could feel the momentum swing. The Flames came out in the 3rd period and really dominated, and added two goals in the final frame to take a 5-3 victory from the Wild.
It had to happen sometime. The Wild were bound to lose eventually, but you wouldn't think this would be how. The Wild have been one of the leagues best defensive clubs in recent years and to give up five unanswered goals in only two periods is ridiculous. Hopefully this is a wake up call to the Wild and anyone who thinks any kind of lead in any sport is safe. I would never recommend sitting on a lead, and I think the Wild did this a bit as they backed down on their attack. I hope the Wild realize now they're not invincible and that a hockey game is 60 minutes long, not just 20. Minor bump in the road we'll have to see how the squad responds tonight in Edmonton.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wild Continue to Roll

The Minnesota Wild continue to be the NHL's hottest team defeating the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 sunday night in St. Paul. Dispite giving away a two goal lead late in the 2nd period, the Wild managed to score with three minutes left in the 3rd to get the victory. The final goal was really a fantastic individual effort by Mikko Koivu, who intercepted a clearing attempt along the boards, looked as though he was going to take the puck behind the net and drove hard to the front and jammed the puck past the Avs goaltender. Head coach Jacque Lemaire has really praised Koivu's play this season. I definately agree, Koivu has been one of the Wild's best players. One minor note, Pavol Demitra left in he 3rd period with an undisclosed injury. Lets pray it's nothing serious.

As the Wild continue to play they only look to be getting stronger. Behind the solid play of Backstrom and Harding, the powerplay which was in a 1-22 slump has caught fire, adding two goals in five chances last night and really moved the puck well. The penalty kill, which has been near the top of the league year in and year out, continues to look good. However having said that the Wild have been taking too many penalties for my liking. Brent Burns needs to clean his game up. Too much stick work and lazy play has left him in the penalty box more than actually on the ice. Last week against the Kings, Burns received five minor penalties and added two more last night against Colorado. That is the only knock I have on the Wild at this point; too many undisciplined penalties, extremely odd for a Lemaire coached team. Lets hope we can get it fixed before it comes back to really hurt us.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Watch Out; The Wild Are For Real

Through the first seven games (6-0-1) the Minnesota Wild have failed to score more than three goals in a game. However with the one-two punch of Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding (who?) carrying the team that's not a problem. When a team like the Minnesota Wild only have to score only two or three goals per game to get the W it's really scary. With offensive weapons like the Slovakian duo of Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra, goals shoudn't be a problem for these two. Then you have Brian Rolston. So far only two goals on the year, but he's added five assists for 2nd on the team in points behind free agent Eric Belanger who continues to impress. Belanger's three goals is tied for the team lead. The line trio of Rolston, Belanger and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have been pheominal. The three have accounted for almost half of the Wild's offensive production (nine of the 19 team goals). Another offensive bright spot has been the play of defenseman Brent Burns. Burns has played solid defensively but has also shined in the offensive zone, adding three goals.

The story so far this season has definately been the play of the goaltenders Harding and Backstrom. Together they own a save percentage near .960 and have given up a toal of eight goals in seven games including three shutouts (two for Backs and one for Harding). Lets give a little credit to the defensemen as well. The play of the defense has allowed Backs and Harding to make that initial save and clear the puck from the front of the net. Nick Schultz continues to impress me. I always thought of him as an OK player, but in the playoffs last year and from the beginning of the season this year he has shown me that he has a rock solid defenseman. Together Schultz and Kim Johnsson draw the task of shutting down the opponents top line. Judging by the scores, I'd say "Mission Accomplished"

The Wild are at home today (Sunday) against Colorado before traveling to Canada to face Calgary and Edmonton.