To open the third, Vancouver came out flying. James Sheppard took a roughing call as he was trying to clear the slot, and Vancouver was buzzing on the ensuing power play. Just as Sheppard stepped onto the ice, Alex Burrows fired a shot that Backstrom deflected, but unfortunately all four penalty killers were on the strong side of the ice as Mikael Samuelsson crashed unabated to the net and buried the rebound over a sprawling Backstrom.
At that point, the Wild took more and more chances and turned up the pressure, but Roberto Luongo was up to the task. He made numerous nice saves on power play shots by Brent Burns, Antti Miettinen and a game saver on Andrew Brunette as the puck trickled just past the post.
The Wild power play was seriously deficient tonight, but it looked to be a result of chemistry, comfortability and personnel more than anything else. I'm not sure why Nick Schultz is on the power play, nor do I get why Marek Zidlicky (he was responsible for covering Samuelsson on the weak side on the goal) is on the penalty kill. But, chalk this one up to Richards becoming better acquainted with the team. I'm not horribly disturbed by this trend, so long as it is rectified. They had good chances, but didn't connect on the passes down low and spent too long looking for the pretty play as Owen Nolan and Brunette were getting manhandled in the low slot.
Positives from tonight:
- Nathan Smith on the PK. I was wondering what the hell a career AHLer was doing on special teams, but Smith was fantastic on the kill. Played great positionally, didn't try to do too much with the puck and cleared the zone.
- Shane Hnidy down low. He was one of few Wild defensemen who hit everything he saw in the slot, and the Sheriff did a great job keeping the Canucks from creating too many problems for Backstrom.
- Benoit Pouliot. This is two games in a row where I've liked what I've seen from Pouliot. He played physically in his own end, made smart plays in the offensive zone and gave good effort on each shift. He was rewarded for his good game in Edmonton (career high TOI of 15+) with 14:23 time on ice and will likely get more as he continues to show his worth. I also liked what I saw on the bench. Pouliot and Koivu were talking and Mikko did a great job of keeping Pouliot's head in the game and pointing out what went on during his shifts. That's why no matter who has the C, Mikko is the captain.
Time for the Wild to get home, watch tape of these five games, learn from their mistakes and get up for the Avalanche on Wednesday.
Please read the game recap over at Nucks Misconduct.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars
- Ryan Kesler (1 G)
- Niklas Backstrom (37 saves)
- Alexandre Burrows (1 A)
Questions to Answer
- In the battle of underperforming teams, which one performs to their expectations? Frankly, both teams looked as if they were out of sync and missing major components. That said, the Wild didn't look horrible tonight, nor did the Canucks. Were it not a back to back, the WIld may have had some more gas at the end, but they looked exhausted.
- Can the Wild take advantage of the large number of shots and turn some into scoring chances by crashing the net? Well, they didn't quite match the # of shots from last game in Edmonton, and didn't have a huge # of scoring chances, but it looked to be because of miscommunication and lack of chemistry rather than lack of effort. There were some nice plays around the net, but lots of centering attempts going into areas where someone should be, but there was nobody there.
- Which Roberto Luongo shows up tonight? The good one. He was very tough tonight. Played the angles well, was great with the puck and kept the rebounds to a minimum.
- Can Brent Burns find his game? Burns looked lost out there. It's like he's trying to do everything himself. He needs these few days off to get himself settled down and play within himself.
- With no Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the ice, who will Alexandre Burrows try to kill? I guess with no PMB, Burrows stops playing chippy.