Out of the frying pan, into the fire. The Minnesota Wild played a late game last night, and played up to fan expectations. It was a bit slow at the start, but after a lazy first period, the Wild turned on the jets and left the Colorado Avalanche in the dust. The top line of Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, and Zach Parise looked polished and unstoppable. Crashing the net, working for pucks, setting up chances, and scoring goals. In other words, doing everything they were supposed to.
The other nice thing to see was limited PK time for Koivu and Parise. Both are among the top penalty killers in the league, but it was really nice to see them save their energies for the power play and even strength play. Never under estimate the power of having real NHL level bottom 6 players.
Coming in tonight are the Dallas Stars. The team that Minnesotans pretend not to like because they used to be the North Stars. After 13 years of Wild hockey, most of that has gone away. Screw Norm Green.
The Stars beat the Phoenix Coyotes last night 4-3, and from all reports looked decent. They did surrender 40 shots on goal, though, something that could bode well for the Wild if they continue to shoot the puck as they did in the second and third periods last night. If the Stars want to let teams shoot, the Wild need to take advantage of that.
The stars made a few changes over the off-season. They rid themselves of Steve Ott and Sheldon Souray, and lost Adam Burish, Radek Dvorak, and Mike Ribiero. In their stead, the Stars, like the Wild, added actual hockey players. Derek Roy, Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, Cody Eakin, and Aaron Rome make up a new cast that looks to have improved the team. At least on paper.
This should be a good game tonight. The Stars own the Wild in Dallas, but the Wild have traditionally done well at home against the Stars. It will give fans another chance to say hi to former Wild player Eric Nystrom, who last year was on a tear when he came through. If the Wild can bring a second day of play like they had yesterday, they have a solid chance of winning this one.
Both teams are going to be tired, with the Wild playing late, and the Stars traveling. That could lead to lazy penalties and lead to special teams becoming more important than ever. Shoot the puck, crash the net, stay out of the box. The team that does these things will be the winner tonight. In other news, water is still wet.
We'll see you tonight for the game.