The Minnesota Wild's 2009-2010 season started with a whimper as they lose 2-1 to the Blue Jackets. In a rather back and forth, sloppy first period, each team traded scoring opportunities. Most of them coming from turnovers and players being out of position, but were saved by excellent goaltending by both Niklas Backstrom and Steve Mason.
The Wild were applying sustained pressure as time went on in the first period, and that pressure continued into the second. The Minnesota power play was clicking, and Mason had to make a couple really nice saves in order to keep the Wild off the scoreboard. This period belonged to Minnesota. Well, it did at least until the next power play. Hoping to build on the pressure applied in the first man advantage, the Wild started taking chances until Marc Methot made a nice play on Martin Havlat and chipped the puck to R.J. Umberger who was off to the races. Shorthanded on the break, Backstrom had no chance as the Blue Jackets took the 1-0 lead with a shorthanded goal.
The Wild continued to falter on the man advantage on that power play, as Rick Nash took the puck from Brent Burns on an attempt by the Wild to capture the zone, and went in alone, but took a shot from the high slot instead of making a move, and Backstrom easily stopped it. Frankly, it should have been 2-0 on that power play for Columbus, but the Wild were lucky to get out of the second only down one.
Early in the third period, again on the power play, Andrew Brunette tied things up for the Wild on a nice play from Martin Havlat and Mikko Koivu. Unfortunately, the Wild still showed signs all night of having trouble adapting to the new system, and at the 10:10 mark, Rostislav Klesla fired a slapper that beat Backstrom and would provide the game winning goal for Columbus.
The one positive I can take away from tonight is the relatively clean game, especially compared to how chippy the preseason games had been. With only two penalties, the Wild will have to maintain that as they embark on a nasty road trip after playing their home opener against Anaheim on Monday. The Wild definitely have to work harder in their own zone. Allowing 39 shots against Columbus is definitely not the way to start the season, and they left Backstrom out to dry on way too many occasions.
Todd Richards on his first game as an NHL head coach:
"Before the game there was a little bit of butterflies - it wasn't anything major," said Richards, an assistant last year at San Jose. "When you got into it, you're watching it and you block out the environment and what's going on. It was a good crowd. But quite honestly, it felt like I was coaching in Albany and quite frankly, in Albany there's not a lot of people there. For me it was just another game."
The guys need to put this one past them, realize that the offense will work itself out, and that they need to work much harder in their own zone and, most importantly, on the breakout, and they'll be ok. John Scott did not impress at wing, and only had 6:05 TOI. He looked slow and sloppy with the puck. I'm not a fan of this set-up at all.
Hockey Wilderness Three
Questions to Answer
- Can the Wild show consistency in the new system? Nope. Again, they had periods where things were clicking, but then it all broke down. Still have big trouble getting the forecheck right without taking too many chances, and have trouble taking the zone with speed.
- Who is going to be the captain? 3 A's. I don't like this.
- Who will try to take off Belanger's head? Actually, the Blue Jackets seemed to let things go.
- Will the vets perform on little preparation? They seemed to be ok, but still need time to get chemistry.
- Can the Wild win their 5th consecutive opener? Unfortunately, not.