Vancouver Canucks 3-2 Minnesota Wild
The Wild seemed to have control of tonight's game, earning the lion's share of puck possession and had the ice tilted toward the Canucks' end for most of the 60 minutes tonight. However, the lack of finishers on this team once again proved to be the downfall. Niklas Backstrom was simply ordinary tonight in a season where he has had to be extraordinary to win, and typically has been. Combine the inability to finish with a league average goaltending performance, and you have a 3-2 loss to a division rival, in a game you really needed to win.
After the Wild controlled the first period, but let Vancouver off the hook time and again, and only amassed 8 shots, none of which looked too frightening for backup goalie Curtis Sanford, the feeling was all too familiar. We have seen this play out before. The Wild look promising, controlling the flow of the game, but can't finish. Then they finally break onto the scoresheet, only to have that lead erased minutes later, and have to do it all over again. With so few "goto" options on the offensive side of the ice, and the biggest one still out with the ubiquitous "lower body injury", every goal the Wild gets is a huge one. Their one remaining offensive power scored twice, but even that wasn't enough to propel the rest of the team into the winners circle.
One promising aspect tonight was the Clutterbuck-Pouliot-Boogaard line. Every time they were on the ice, they provided outstanding energy, kept the puck in the zone, and forced the action. They had at least three excellent scoring chances, but Sanford caught a couple lucky breaks. I liked what I saw out of them a lot.
One thing that drove me absolutely nuts was the absence on the ice of Owen Nolan and Andrew Brunette.. These free-agent signings have disappeared. They're on the ice but seem to be a step behind the play, their passes aren't sharp and their hands have turned to stone. When you're brought in to camp in front of the net, cause problems and get garbage goals, you should be visible to everyone watching. These two, for the past few games, have not been in that position. They haven't been causing problems for opposing goaltenders, and haven't been redirecting shots on the powerplay. I'm horribly disappointed in them for the past six games at least. Boogaard and Clutterbuck have been more effective in the low slot lately. The other person who hasn't done much is Marc-Andre Bergeron. He came out of the gate hot but, like Belanger last year and again now, has fizzled. If Bergeron continues to play this way, it's time to sit him and put Burns back on the blue line.
Anyway, they need to watch this game tape and figure out why they can't seem to get quality scoring chances. Are they waiting too long to make the pass or take the shot? Making one too many moves before releasing the puck? Not driving to the net? (Oh, thank you Brent Burns, you're the one "forward" doing that on a regular basis). Either way, they need to get back on the offensive bandwagon here. They can't win too many more games only scoring two goals.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars
- Mikko Koivu (2 G)
- Daniel Sedin (1 G)
- Henrik Sedin (2 A)
Questions to Answer
- With Luongo getting a night off, can the Wild get to Sanford early and often? No and No. They had 30 shots, which was nice to see, but many came from outside the area between the dots or directly into his pads. He was forced to make probably 8-10 solid saves and 2 outstanding ones. Frankly, it was a surprise that they got 30, as it didn't look like they had that many chances.
- Does Mikko find his touch again? Definitely. Mikko looked solid every time the puck was on his stick, and was playing well away from the puck to get himself into good position. His two goals were nice, especially the snapper on the shorty, but he was the only guy who looked like he would score out there tonight.
- Does the Wild defense continue to pick up the slack for a lackluster offense? Nope. This time the Wild D did just enough to keep them in the game, but they couldn't win it, as they have been forced to do so frequently this season. It might be time to bring Burns back to the blue line.
- Will Backstrom be the backbone of the team again? Backstrom made some nice saves, a couple fantastic ones, but for the most part looked very ordinary against a very ordinary offense in the Canucks. Of course, he can't win every game by himself.
- Does Alex Burrows try to throw down with Pierre-Marc Bouchard again? There was some pushing and shoving, especially late, and you could tell they were jawing at each other, but nothing came of it. Burrows clearly has it in for Butch.
- Tonight was the first time this season the Wild have lost with Mikko Koivu scoring a point.
- He Who Must Not Be Named played yet another very solid game. I'm getting concerned.
- The win was Alain Vigneault's 100th as Vancouver's coach (100-65-19)
- This was the Wild's second loss in the last six games, both to Vancouver.
What the team is saying
"Overall, I felt that the guys, they tried, but I don't think we had good legs tonight," said Head Coach Jacques Lemaire.
"As long as you keep working hard, trying to create some offense, I'll take it. We'll take any goal that we get. I don't care how it comes." - Mikko Koivu
"You have to win at home if you want to get to the playoffs, and it's something where we didn't get it done tonight, but we'll move on and we have another one Saturday." - Nick Schultz
What others are saying
"Obviously you're a little bit nervous to play against your old teammates," Demitra said, "but this is a different feeling — this was a huge game for us."
"It armpitted me. It's a shot you stop nine out of 10 times. You have to let that go. The season is too long to carry baggage. This was a start I knew I was getting for a week so it gave me time to prepare. I just wanted to come out, forget about Buffalo and have a strong game." Sanford said.
"This team has a lot of passion and a lot of character. Tonight our character showed and we dug down, knowing it wouldn't be our best game," Willie Mitchell said. "I'm happy for the team, happy for Curtis."
The Game In Pictures
Mikko Koivu Post-Game Interview
Jacques Lemaire Post-Game Press Conference