Minnesota Wild 1 - 5 Saint Louis Blues
Please visit Saint Louis Game Time for enemy perspective.
It all started out so well. Forty seconds into the game, Mikko Koivu had a huge forecheck, breaking up a play and feeding Martin Havlat for a very nice, very quick goal. Things looked good, and the fans in the Xcel Energy Center were electrified. They were up out fo their seats, and ready to voice a full-throated support for the home team.
Then the wheels fell off.
Philip McRae scored on the power play resulting from a Brad Stubitz crosschecking penalty. The goal was the result of some solid traffic in front of Backstrom, and no one from the Wild seemingly able to clear a path for Backstrom to see where the shot was coming from. That goal was followed just over a minute later by a goal from well known goal scorer Graham Mink, again with very little defensive support for Backstrom.
Adding a third tally at the 16:12 mark from Alex Steen, the Blues were on route to a rout.
This is not to say the Wild did not create some chances. Cal Clutterbuck created more than one chance after making a big hit on the forecheck, and Havlat had a goal waived off after a very quick whistle from the referees. Antti Miettinen hit yet another post, and Blues Goaltender Ben Bishop had to make several magical saves to keep the Wild off the board.
The difference between a 5-1 loss and a victory? Goaltending and defense. Niklas Backstrom looked out of position a few times, and his defensemen just could not provide the support he seemed to be in need of. In a situation that cannot be sitting well with the Wild's number six d-man Clayton Stoner, he found himself on the ice for all five goals against.
Asked about his team's performance, Coach Todd Richards only could offer that "coming tomorrow we'll get better." He did say that he would not use the word "concerned" in regards to Stoner, and he reaffirmed that they "are confident in their six." Notingthat Stoner missed a fair amount of hockey last season, he said "There's going to be a bit of growing pains and when Pierre-Marc [Bouchard] gets back, it will be the same thing. Clayton's in good shape, but when yopu miss that much hockey, it takes some time to get that back."
All-in-all, it was a depressing night, as the team on the ice disappointed the team of 18,000, and the team of 18,000 provided the biggest disappointment of the night. Yes, tonight the Wild's sellout streak of 409 consecutive games game to an end. With an announced crowd of 16,219 (which was confirmed with plenty of heckling when I misheard it), nine years of never missing a ticket sale came to an abrupt halt.
Minnesota Sports and Entertainment COO Matt Majjka issued a statement saying:
"The Minnesota Wild is proud and humbled by the great support fans have shown for the team since 1997. Our streak of 409 consecutive games sold out establishes a new mark for an expansion NHL franchise. The Wild organization will continue our commitment to building a Stanley Cup contending team, providing fans a first-class experience at Xcel Energy Center and look forward to starting another sellout streak."
The short version of the night: when it rains, it pours. A five to one loss, a sellout streak comes to an end, and at last report, it was indeed, still raining outside.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
1. Ben Bishop - How he was overlooked in the official three stars is beyond me. He was stellar this evening.
2. David Backes - Inglorious Backes was everywhere tonight, notching two assists, and causing havoc where ever he went.
3. Cal Clutterbuck - This may seem out of place, but he played a solid game. He was hitting hard, and created several chances. He was one of few Wild players with a truly professional performance tonight.
No Five Questions tonight. We'll get to those soon, though.