The Minnesota Wild limped into Edmonton to take on the Oilers in the battle of the bruised and beaten. Edmonton was missing five regulars while the Wild were missing four. Unfortunately for Wild fans, it certainly didn't appear that Edmonton was missing anyone the way they took advantage of every single scoring opportunity en route to a 5-2 win at Rexall Place.
Portly Dustin Penner broke out tonight scoring twice, as did Gilbert Brule and Hilary Duff's boytoy, Mike Comrie, added another for the reeling Oilers. Patrick O'Sullivan continued his nice play this season, adding an assist on a Penner goal and going +2 on the evening.
The Wild continue to not understand how to play defensive hockey. I said it in my season preview and I'll say it again. The up-tempo system is a nice idea if you have the right guys. We still don't see that the Wild have the guys to play that system, and it's only a matter of time until the lack of scoring, combined with a GAA over 4 has fans reminiscing fondly for the "boring" system of Jacques Lemaire.
One wouldn't know to look at the final, but the Wild outshot the Oilers 31-19 tonight. No, that's not a misprint. They only allowed 19 shots (a 73.7% save percentage for Josh Harding, if you're keeping count), but the Oilers had the guys to take advantage of the scoring opportunities they created (or were created for them by continued defensive miscues).
Sure, this was not exactly a high-quality NHL lineup out there, and Michael Russo said on Twitter that the Wild can't play any better with such a depleted lineup, but that was when it was 2-1. After that, the team seemed to have simply given up. They continued to take shots in hopes that they could create offense, but they weren't crashing to net to get rebounds, still have little chemistry in the lines and all too frequently abandoned any defensive responsibilities.
They'll likely be able to pass this off as a result of injuries and learning the new system, but they need to show progress, and aren't exactly instilling hope in the Team of 18,000.
- Brent Burns (-3 in 14:02 for the best all-around defenseman on the team)
- James Sheppard (-3 in 13:58 for someone who needs to start performing or he'll find himself in Houston or worse)
- Josh Harding (14/19 tonight and 73.8% SP with a 5.50 GAA this season in two starts)
So, who is playing well?
Andrew Brunette. Bruno has five goals this season and has points in six straight games. This bodes well for trading him near the deadline to a playoff team.
- Erik Belanger. Belanger had an assist tonight to give him eight points on the season and is performing up to his expectations, and should continue to center the second line. Belly looks awfully good so far.
- Benoit Pouliot (tonight at least). Pouliot had a nice game. Worked on every shift and scored a pretty goal on a great shift by the entire team.
Take a read of the game recap over at The Copper & Blue
Hockey Wilderness Three
Questions to Answer
- Which inconsistent, injured team can prevail? Edmonton skated circles around the Wild in the third to pull away.
- Does the closed-door meeting after the first period in Anaheim have an effect? While they played better in the first period, as soon as they got down, you knew it was over. I don't see any growth.
- Can any of the forwards find the defensive zone with GPS? Clearly not. They're brutal in their own end.
- If Havlat is healthy enough to play tonight, will he be benched again for half-assing it? Not healthy tonight, but I wouldn't have been surprised to see him benched. We'll see what happens with his papier-mache groin.
- Does anyone miss Marian? I do. Yes, yes. A thousand times yes.