Ah, the first west coast trip of the season. When we get to remember just how stupid the current alignment of the NHL is. Can't wait to be up until midnight just to watch a hockey game. Must be odd for west coast fans to watch their favorite teams play at 4 o'clock some nights. Stupid.
For the Wild, this is the first road trip since heading out on the road and dropping games to the Red Wings and Blues. They need to prove to themselves, and to the rest of the league, that they can take games on the road, or no one is going to take them seriously. The defense has settled down a bit since the last roadie, and maybe that's all it is going to take to make these games winnable.
Mike Yeo said he did not feel good about yanking Josh Harding very early in the game against the Blackhawks. When the team wins, he can feel as bad as he wants, but it is clear the decision was the right one. Regardless of if the move fired up the team (I hope it did), or if Harding was angry about it (I hope he was), a win is a win, and that's all that matters at this level. The coach made the right move, and it was proven in the standings.
Other improvements include Ryan Suter finding his game a bit after being paired with Jonas Brodin, Tom Gilbert looking better with Clayton Stoner, and Marco Scandella and Justin Falk not looking anywhere near as bad as Nate Prosser. Improvements on the blue line allowed the Wild to run a three man forecheck at times against the Hawks, something that made them very difficult to play against.
Secondary scoring has also come into existence for the first time this season. Goals from Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck helped the Wild snatch victory from the Hawks, and the Blue Jackets fell on goals from Gilbert and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. That type of production will take the heat off of the top line, and hopefully get them clicking again.
All in all, the Wild's game has been decent, but not great. Improved, but not perfect.
There is no reason the Wild can't beat the Ducks tonight, so long as they can find a way to slow down Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, and Cam Fowler. Oh, and then solve Jonas Hiller, a goalie that has found great success against the Wild.
The Ducks have had a solid start to the year, and are coming off of two straight shootouts, winning against the Predators, and dropping to Sharks. They will, unlike recent Wild opponents, be well rested. And living in SoCal, so you have to figure they are relaxed.
If the Wild can avoid the distraction of warm weather and Hollywood, they can pull a win out of this game. If they play like they normally play in Anaheim, I fear for the sanity of the Wilderness.
See you tonight for the game.