Today we introduce another of our weekly series, this one intended to give you a look back at the week that was and a look at the week ahead. As always, we hope you enjoy it.
Early in the season, yet. That has to be the mantra, right? It's early, no need to panic, nothing to see here. Five games in the books in an 82 game season is too small of a sample size to judge where everything is going to shake out. Hell, right now, Colorado is tied with Dallas and Detroit for first place in the West. What's the likelihood that holds up?
With so few games in their pockets, it is difficult to judge if the mistakes are long term or short term problems, but the best thing about hockey is that we get another slice of data almost everyday. Four games last week, three games this week. Last week finished with a strong opponent that highlighted some of the team's weaknesses, and the coming week features two powerful foes that will highlight if the issues were addressed.
Make the jump for a look back, and a preview of the week ahead.
The Wild had, let's just say, an interesting week in the first full week of action. Three overtime games, two shootouts, and a loss to the vaunted New York Islanders.It is unlikely anyone is too upset when the Wild lose to teams like the Red Wings. Hell, it's expected at this point, right? However, losses to the likes of the Ottawa Senators (who were smoked by the mighty Colorado Avalanche) and the Islanders are going to give fans pause.
As you read in the Walk this morning, the first line is not clicking. Three goals and four assists through five games is good, but it's not going to be good enough. The silver lining is that the top line is being checked hard by the opposition, giving the second line a chance to shine. Matt Cullen is red hot, Guillaume Latendresse leads the team in points, and Pierre-Marc-Bouchard is clicking well with his linemates. If the second line continues on this pace, opposing teams will be forced to lighten up on the checking of the top line, and maybe that will free them a bit.
Not everything went perfectly in the first week, certainly. The cynic says "Oh my goodness, the Wild are terrible, they are falling apart, we better just watch the Vik- never mind." There are positives, however. The forecheck is unbelievable when it is on. Unstoppable at times. Now, they just need to make it a 60 minute effort.The defense is playing well, despite being the "worst defense in the league." The chemistry on the forward ranks is good, and improving. The system is working. The coach is getting through.
The biggest bit of good news? The Wild have six points out of a possible 10. That is a pace for 98-99 points at the end of the year. That would mean playoffs. Just a bit of perspective.
The Coming Challenge
This week is not an easy one. Last week was filled with some lightweight competition (save for the Wings), and the Wild struggled a bit. This week sees the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town, with a "quick" trip to Edmonton and Vancouver before coming home. Is the Central Division available yet?
The Pens will be an interesting game, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both out of the game. The Wild have fared well against the Pens in the past, but that should not give anyone cause to relax or sit back on their laurels. They have one of the best teams in hockey, and made the playoffs without Crosby or Malkin last season. As with the Wings, if the Wild take a shift off, the Penguins will make them pay for it. That said, if the Wild play their game, they have a very good chance to win this one.
Then the trip out west, with fun events like customs and late starts for everyone to enjoy.
The Oilers came close to beating the Wild here at home, but the Wild found a way to continue the dominance that has spanned the length of Niklas Backstrom's career and beyond. Again, the Wild play their game, this one is in the bag. Dip to the level of their competition, and it will be ugly. Always fun to see how the "kids" are doing, but with an 8:30 start, who knows how many Wild fans will care.
Finally, the week closes out with a trip into Vancouver, and a chance for us to stoke the "big rivalry" with the Nucks. These games are always entertaining, and Wild almost always get up for the games, so this one should be interesting. An altogether too enjoyable 3PM start on a Saturday will make for a light audience, I am guessing.The keys to beating the Canucks haven't changed in years. Shutdown the braineaters, survive the penalties that are likely to occur from players doing the Crappie Flop all night, stand up for yourself against the high class players in the lineup, and you know, shoot the puck. Not like Luongo is going to stop them.
The week ahead will give us another piece to be able to judge where this team is at, and see if the new coach can get the team to learn from its mistakes.
Bold prediction: The Wild win all three games.