This was exactly not the way to start a West Coast road trip. In just over three minutes, the Wild did everything wrong. They were out of position defensively, allowed the Kings to roam free, screened Josh Harding on seemingly every shot and didn't clear anyone from the low slot. The result is that, once again, the Wild found themselves down 3-0 at the end of the first period.
Tonight, there would be no comeback. While Martin Havlat finally got his first goal in a Wild uniform, the Wild had no answer for Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and the rest of the Kings. Nick Schultz got the Wild to 4-2 down at the end of the second period with a power play goal, and Kim Johnsson fired a nice shot under the crossbar 6:34 into the third period to get them within one at 4-3, but once again the Wild fell asleep in the defensive zone, allowing Teddy Purcell and Ryan Smyth to score just 36 seconds apart to blow it open at 6-3.
So, what went wrong? Well, Josh Harding can't be entirely to blame, though he was very not good tonight, stopping only 17 of 23 shots. The Wild forwards did their job in the offensive zone, playing a reasonably decent game, getting adequate pressure and scoring three times, but they were nowhere to be found in their own zone. They were almost too aggressive on the forecheck, then couldn't get back to play the proper positioning in the defensive zone. It was as if they worried entirely too much about playing the system correctly, but only one way. Time and again they left it up to the defense to handle the entire job of stopping the Kings and starting the transition.
If they want this new system to be successful, they cannot forget that there are two ends of the ice. Let's hope tonight was an anomaly, because if it wasn't, the sellout streak will end before Thanksgiving.
Oh, and Benoit Pouliot again was absolutely terrible. Seemingly uncaring with and without the puck. His 7:07 TOI was second lowest, with only John Scott (who cannot play forward at all) behind him at 4:13. And as much as they may want to be together, Petr Sykora and Martin Havlat are absolutely terrible together if they don't have the puck.
Hockey Wilderness Three
Questions to Answer
- Will the Wild build on a solid 3rd period? Nope, if anything they regressed below where they were before the 3rd period Tuesday night.
- Will Martin Havlat continue to be an assist machine? Havlat is fantastic with the puck and in the offensive zone, but he needs someone who backchecks like crazy because he may be worse defensively (at least tonight) than Marian Gaborik ever was. He needs to be with Koivu and maybe Clutterbuck.
- Can the Wild get the Kings monkey off their back (0-4 last season against L.A.) Nope. They cannot handle this team for some reason.
- Does Josh Harding begin showcasing himself tonight? Definitely. I think the Florida Everblades scout was drooling.
- Can they kick off the West Coast Swing with a win? Nope. Crap fest.