For the enemy perspective, please visit Jewels From The Crown
I picked a heck of a game to break my recap-less streak, which lasted a little over a year.
What an atrocious start to this game. Two quick goals 3:07 into the game chased Backstrom from the game after having saved exactly as many shots as I have tonight. First goal came off a Mikko Koivu near-miss with Brett Clark pinching way too far up, leaving Tom Gilbert behind on a 2 on 1. Justin Williams got an easy shot and put it past Niklas Backstrom to extend his goal streak to 5. Second goal was another line rush, again with Gilbert and Clark on the ice. Mike Richards fed Jeff Carter behind Gilbert and from there, he basically had a 2 on 0 and elected to push the puck past Backstrom. The ejector seat button was pushed by Mike Yeo and in came Darcy Kuemper, the winner of the ''Wild future goalie'' sweepstakes with Matt Hackett gone. Kuemper was sharper than Backstrom, but the defense tightened up around him too. The Wild would head to the dressing room down 2-0 with the shots even at 6 apiece.
The Wild wouldn't fare much better in the second period. A poorly timed line change led to Justin Williams' second of the game, a blistering slapshot off the post. The opportunity came after newcomer Jason Pominville missed a blind pass and gave it straight to Robyn Regehr, who gave it to Anze Kopitar, who sent it to Williams. All three Kings goals came on team miscues, which is alarming and shameful, considering the Kings, one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league, only had 14 shots (!) the entire game. The defense was fine otherwise, but unforced mistakes led to easy goals and killed any chance they had to be in this game.
The third period can also be described as ''meh''. No goals in the period, but there were some close calls. Tom Gilbert made another strange play in the third when Zach Parise touched the puck with a high stick, meaning if the Wild touched the puck, there would have been a whistle. Gilbert elected to stay close to the puck without touching, which would have been fine if he weren't deep in the offensive zone. What happened next was a 2 on 1 for the Kings with Gilbert way the hell into no man's land. Darcy Kuemper came up with a nice pad save, but really, the Gilbert-Clark duo is not one I want to see ever again. Two d-men with a bias towards offense should never be put together if you ask me.
The rest of the game was rather uneventful and Jonathan Bernier got an easy 23 save shutout in a 3-0 Kings win. The Wild held the Kings to 14 shots. I still cannot believe that.
Tonight, we got our first look at Jason Pominville in a Wild sweater, completing a scary 1st line with Koivu and Parise. That line was dangerous all night long. In fact, it's pretty surprising that they didn't get on the board. They were far from perfect though, as Koivu and Parise are getting used to a new linemate and Pominville to a new team, but I liked what I saw. Unfortunately, Pominville was one of the only traded players that was held pointless in his first game with his new team and is therefore a bust. Oh well, better luck next time. (Before you comment on this, be sure to turn your sarcasm detector on and save yourself some embarassment)
We also saw the return of Mikael Granlund and sadly, it was underwhelming. The entire 3rd line was invisible tonight and Granlund is still fighting the puck a lot. It's a little strange that he was able to dominate in the Finnish League, is a great player in the AHL, but suddenly becomes very average in the NHL. It's not yet time to wonder if we're dealing with a bust, but let's just say our expectations will need to be lowered for a bit. Then again, it's his first game back and he was playing on the third line, so it's not fair to expect an immediate impact.
The Wild will have a day off tomorrow before getting a practice session Saturday in Columbus. They will face the Blue Jackets Sunday, so ''the team was tired'' excuse will no longer apply. I always hated using that excuse; The Wild play as much as any other team in the league, they're professionals who are supposed to be in peak physical shape. The Wild are tired? Please. The Wild are LAZY. There's a difference. Save for the first line, there's no more puck hunger. The players are letting themselves get beaten puck battles and are starting to skimp on the dump and chase again. No bueno.
Anyhoo, the Wild have now lost 3 of their last 4 after going on a 7 game winning streak, which still makes them 8-3-0 in their last 11, but they have slowed down considerably. They have also surrendered the Northwest Division lead to the Vancouver Canucks, who had a bit of revenge on the Edmonton Oilers by clobbering them 4-0. The Wild need to figure things out immediately and what better way to do so than against Marian Gaborik, right?
- Jonathan Bernier had his 6th career shutout tonight, his third against Minnesota. I'll go out on a limb here and say he likes playing the Wild.
- Jason Williams extended his goal streak to 5 games.
- From @mnwildpr:
Heatley (out tonight) has skated in 362 out of 364 games last 5 seasons, and in 597 of 610 games since 2005-06 season
Jason Pominville has played 520 of 529 games since beginning of 06-07 season including a 336-game ironman streak snapped Oct. 2010
HW's 3 stars:
#1 Jason Williams (2 goals)
#2 Jonathan Bernier (23 save shutout)
#3 Jonas Brodin (By far the Wild's best defenseman tonight and one of the team's few bright spots. -1 rating unfairly came on that poorly timed line change in the second period)
1. Will Pominville have an instant impact on the top line tonight? No points, so he's a bust. Seriously though, got some good chances, a few puck steals, but had a few passes that went absolutely nowhere. Just a matter of getting used to playing with two new linemates in a new system. He'll come around. Liked what I saw.
2. Can the Wild put last night's mess behind them and get a win on the road? Could you repeat the question, please? *Runs away*
3. Will Ryan Suter remember how to play defense tonight? Haven't seen last night's game, yet I can still say he played infinitely better in his own end. Haven't seen much offensively though.
4. Can we score first for once? To score first, you have to actually score, first.
5. Can the Wild shut down Anze Kopitar? (23 pts in last 22 games, 6-17-23) Make that 6-18-24 now. Kuemper had a nice save on his breakaway in the first period though.