Minnesota Wild 3 -4 Vancouver Canucks (OT)
This game was not as close as the score would suggest, let's make that clear right from the get go. The Canucks owned this game from the first face off, and save for one fluke goal for Cody Almond after the Canucks had scored the empty netter, and a bit of pure luck with 18 seconds left, the Wild were atrocious.
On the first Wild powerplay of the game, a pass back to the point went to Alexander Burrows. Rather than attempt to make a play, Martin Havlat simply watched as Burrows skated away with the puck, and Marek Zidlicky completely ignored Ryan Kesler skating in behind him. A quick pass from BUrrows to Kesler had the Canucks up 1-0 on another Wild shorthanded give away.
Niklas Backstrom would make save after save, yet again, to keep the Wild within reach, but few players on the team felt any desire to do anything with Backstrom's superhuman effort. In fact, on two separate occasions Backstrom was run over by Canucks players, only to have his defensemen stand and watch as Backstrom was man handled. The first incident, James Sheppard stood and chatted with Kevin Bieska, even flashing him a smile or too as two other Wild players shot the breeze with Pavol Demitra.Good to see they were so cordial.
The second time, Mikael Samuelsson layed on top of Backstrom for a good ten count while Nick Schultz and Shane Hnidy both looked on and did absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Not a shot to the chops, not an attempt to pull him off, nothing. Just a pathetic look around and a skate back to the bench.
As Ms. Conduct said on Twitter: "You can suck but don't suck and not defend your goalie, Wild. That makes you pathetic."
Bieska put a shot off of Kyle Wellwood as Backstrom was screened and not a defenseman to be seen for the second Canuck goal. Andrew Brunette would score just before the Wild's ninth power play expired to pull the Wild within one, and with Backstrom pulled for the extra attacker, Edler would add the empty net goal before all hell broke loose.
The list of Wild players that attempted to save face is a small one. Owen Nolan, Guillaume Latendresse and Backstrom all had solid games. Even Casey Wellman played well, creating chances, and setting up Almond's goal. The other guys on the team seemed to be content with doing just enough to not ride the pine.
Antti Miettinen, despite the game tying goal, played one of the worst games I have ever seen from a Wild player. Until that moment he seemed completely uninterested in putting forth even a minimal effort. How he continues to skate on the top line boggles the mind. Any other team, and he's a fourth line checker, if not a healthy scratch most games. Instead, he skates with Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette and lives vicariously through them, all the while making $2.5 million a season. Shameful, really.
Other Wild players deserve at least as much credit for the loss. Zidlicky had multiple give aways, Havlat seemed disconnected most of the game, and the team defense was void. There was little or no toughness or physical play against on of the Wild's most hated rivals. Too many times checks were pulled up on, and added to the lack of protection for Backstrom, the Wild looked to be a defeated team not wanting to do anything too mean to the guys going to the playoffs.
If you were to look at the box score for this game, you would get only about 10% of the story. The Wild were a group of pathetic puppies, devoid of any heart, passion, or professional work ethic. Embarrassing, even if they did rally back to make it interesting.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
1. Niklas Backstrom (36 saves)
2. Alex Burrows (1A, +1, perfect 10 dive)
3. Sammy Salo (GWG, 1A)
Five Six Questions to Answer:
1. Can the Wild muster up some honor and play hard tonight? Not even close. They showed just what a pathetic group of non-professionals can look like.
2. Henrik Sedin is leading the league in points. Can the Wild find a way to shut him down? Not so much. Only one assist, but that was enough.
3. Roberto Luongo has not been sharp as of late. Couple this with the fact that the Wild own him. Can the Wild actually score tonight? Oh, they scored. They didn't much deserve to, but they did.
4. Over / under on Wild SOG is set at 15. Can they put the puck on net? Only 3 SOG through the first period, but they mustered up something and finished with 27, though not even one in the OT.
5. The up one game down the next routine tells us this should be a down game. Does that streak continue? Sure did. Watch out Oilers. They will be back on their game tomorrow. (Yeah, or not.)
6. Can BTE, Alex Burrows, and Kevin Bieska account for 10 PIMs, 4 assists, and 15 SOG to win me a fantasy hockey championship? Nope. Second place sucks, too.