The Wild got up early, played tight, then held on for dear life at the end to get the two points in a big 4-3 win over the Blues. Tonight's story was the great play of Guillaume Latendresse, scoring twice and giving him six goals in 14 games since the trade with Montreal. The Wild have to be pleased with what they're seeing from him.
Aside from Latendresse, the other big story was the defense. The Wild's other two goals came from Shane Hnidy and Kim Johnsson, and the defense only allowed 18 shots on Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom, however, still seems to be getting used to his replacement gear. Three goals on 18 shots in not exactly what we are used to seeing from Nik, and he needs to get things right in a hurry as the Wild head on the road.
The Wild power play once again failed to connect, going 0/4 tonight. This has become a major problem for the squad, as they don't seem to be able to find that big target. Maybe Latendresse can be that guy. We know how good Andrew Brunette is with the man advantage. Maybe the second unit should be centered around feeding Lats.
Conversely, the penalty kill again pitched a shutout, keeping the Blues off the scoreboard on four attempts. The pk has always been a source of pride for the Wild, and it's great to see it clicking. Now, let's see if they can do that at Staples Center, where the Kings have owned the Wild over the last few years.
This was a big win for the Wild because it continues to push them up the standings in the Western conference, instills confidence not only in the team, but the fanbase as well, and it proves many pundits right, who were saying "just wait until December." Well, December has come (and almost gone) and the nine wins tie a franchise high, with a trip to Southern California to play the Kings and Ducks, then back on New Year's Eve to host the Kings still on the docket for the month. This month could very well be the turning point for the season. A couple more wins, and this team has to be feeling awfully good heading into 2010.
Please read the game recap over at St. Louis Game Time
Hockey Wilderness Three
Questions to Answer
- Anyone else surprised to see the Blues have the same number of points as the Wild? They were off to a hot start, but seem to have come back to the pack in a major way. I guess I was totally off the mark here as a Blues fan was so gracious to point out.
Owen Nolan has scored in both games since coming back from a lower body injury. The Wild succeed when the Irishman scores. Can he keep it up tonight? Unfortunately not. Nolan was a +1 tonight though.
- Can Clayton Stoner continue to assimilate nicely to the pace and grind of the NHL, or will tonight be his letdown game? Stoner again put in a nice effort, doing what was asked and didn't look out of place. The kid is making it tough to send him back to Houston.
- Does the Guillaume Latendresse - Andrew Ebbett - Martin Havlat line continue to apply pressure and find themselves on the scoreboard? Not sure what happened to this line, but Latendresse ended up with Belanger quite a bit tonight. Richards still seems to be shuffling all but the top line.
- Can the Wild find another two points on home ice before another brutal West Coast swing? This was a big win. Not only because it was a game they should win at home, but it gives them confidence heading out onto the road.