What more can be said? The preseason struggles, and the weaknesses exposed, are still there. Team defense is non-existent, the forecheck is reliant on two or three players who understand it, and the special teams are ineffective. I'm all for holding on to tired cliches such as "It's only one game," but the old patterns are still there. Old habits have not been broken, and it certainly appears as though Todd Richards has lost control of this team, if he ever had it.
Following the pattern that the Wild displayed last season and this pre-season, the Wild came out sharp. Solid forechecking, faceoff wins, defense playing fairly well and supporting the forwards in the offensive zone. The Wild struck first with Latendresse taking a pass from Koivu (has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?) and burying it behind Cam Ward
. The Wild had the Canes pinned back, out dueling them in every facet of the game. Then, with just under ten seconds left, the Wild gave up a power play goal after a stupid interference penalty by Cam Barker
, allowing one of those late period goals that never haunt anyone in the NHL.
The question had to be asked. Which team would come out in the second? Would it be the team that played the first ten minutes of the game, or the one that played final ten minutes of the period. It would take just 5:58 to find out. Carolina pulled ahead after a defensive breakdown.The Canes had the Wild right where they wanted them, but Matt Cullen
continued to show that he is one of the leaders on this team as he buried a rebound to tie the game yet again.
Having momentum on their side, the Wild would use it to their advantage by surrendering another go ahead goal, and then finishing the period by giving up another late period goal. This would be what Russo would call a "trademark three period goal" for the Wild.
The third period would round out the Wild's pattern, as they started the period flat, wasted two power play opportunities, and played sloppy again for most of the period. As time wound down, the Wild would begin to show signs of life, with Guillaume Latendresse
getting into a scuffle behind the Carolina net, Havlat coming to his defense, and Brent Burns
burying a PP goal late. However, the pattern complete, the Wild came up just short, losing 4-3.
Tomorrow is another day.
Well... Carolina's offense looks good. Jeff Skinner
is going to be a very good NHLer. Anton Babchuck scored a goal, helping out all of my fantasy teams. Matt Cullen looked good for the Wild, played hard every shift, and he and Koivu won the majority of faceoffs. Brent Burns looked good, and Clayton Stoner
was not on the ice for a single goal against.
In a loss? They are everywhere. Playing old style Wild hockey is the worst. Nick Schultz
was on the ice for every goal against. The team just does not seem to have what it takes.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
3. Cam Ward (26 saves)
1. To quote some someone from the West Virginia highlands: "We ain't saw nuttin from dees here boys." Which Wild team comes out tonight? The one that can play, or the one that doesn't seem to care? We got both. Problem is, the good team didn't stick around for very long.
2. Zidlicky is listed as "questionable." If he can't go, who steps up for the Wild to lead the breakout? No one. Without him, the Wild struggle to get out of their zone. Huge source of weakness.
3. Can the Wild continue a relative dominance of the East? Nope. While they outplayed Carolina in several aspects, the categories that matter weren't among them.
4. Will Clutterbuck skate with Havlat / Cullen? If so, is he a factor in the offense? He did, indeed, skate with Cullen and Havlat, and he was indeed involved in the offense. It still just doesn't seem like the right move, though.
5. How do the Wild Finns play in one of the most exciting games of their lives? Miettinen played a solid game, with three shots on goal. Koivu was his usual self, and Backstrom showed flashes of his old game.
6. The Twins proved last night that Minnesota teams only show up for most of the game, not all of it. Can the Wild buck the trend? More of the same. Took the last half of the first period off, the entire second period off, and until the final four minutes of the third, looked as though they were ready to pack up and go back to Saint Paul.