Minnesota Wild 3 - 1 Calgary Flames
For the enemy perspective, please visit Matchsticks and Gasoline
Welcome back Kaptain Koivu.
Led by Mikko Koivu's 3 points, the Wild survived a combined 50 minute onslaught to win 3-1. Sure the number of shots against wasn't that outrageous, but believe me, the Flames owned the Wild's zone for the majority of the game. There were a few instances of great forechecking by the Wild, but as evidenced by the 16 (!) shots on goal, they were few and far between. All three of the Wild's goal were beauties, check out the highlights.
It took a while for the game to actually get going, with both teams exchanging chances like in a game of tennis. It was also a game with an abnormally low number of shots until the third period came along. At the mid point of the game, barely 20 shots were fired total. So, it was a kind of boring first half, but after that came some pretty exciting hockey.
The curse of the second period didn't catch the flight to Calgary tonight, with the Wild scoring two goals on 4 shots in the period. The first goal came on the powerplay off a ridiculously well placed pass from Koivu to Antti Miettinen. Funny, seems like every time Miettinen gets taken off the first line, he scores on the powerplay with Koivu as the helper, always forcing him back on the first line. I bet Mittens will be back on the first line next game, mark my words. The second goal came with under a minute to play in the second period with Koivu finding a way to deflect a Brent Burns shot (who was an absolute horse tonight) despite being surrounded by red jerseys. It was a very Sorry Tom play. Yup, I'm not even going to say ''Hard Work'' anymore, I'm jumping straight to ''Sorry Tom'' (If you don't know what the fuss is about yet, read this)
In the third period, the afterburners were on for the Flames, as they were relentless in their attack, outshooting Minnesota 15-4 in the final 20. The Wild still found a way to augment the lead to 3-0 with a majestic passing play ended by Chuck Kobasew's shot between Mikka Kiprusoff's pads. Niklas Backstrom was doing great, preserving his shutout bid until Matt Stajan scored on a carbon copy play of a play that happened in last night's Flames game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (seriously, they showed the replay, it was the ABSOLUTE same play, except last night, Stajan miraculously missed the wide open net). That's when I lost all my faith in Backstrom. I'm tired of his poor play. Trade him. Now. Find a way to waive his NTC and his humongous contract and move him. Now. Get us Zach Parise. Go Fletch. Doesn't it amaze you that some people actually think like this? In all seriousness, his recent numbers may be terrible, but it's not all on him and Backstrom came up big in the dying minutes of the game and he got a well-earned W for it. He's got to be happy about this performance with his starter status in the balance.
Overall, the Wild won a very important game tonight, which would make you think there's not much to complain about, but to me, it felt a lot more like they were just surviving rather than playing. They did well to bounce back from a heart-breaker against Ottawa but even though they capitalized on three Sorry Tom plays, 3 goals on 16 shots won't happen very often and they can thank their lucky stars that Kipper was in a giving mood so close to the holidays. The leaders were firing on all cylinders tonight, especially MK, which is good after the talk they had with Richards.The d-men played a top notch game, taking care of rebounds and limiting the number of shots, giving Backs much less work than he could've had to do. Also, tonight further proved my hypothesis about Martin Havlat and Mikko Koivu's physical biorythym cycles (look it up) being exact opposites because they just can't seem to both produce at the same time. Either Koivu has a big night (Koivu high, Havlat low), or Havlat has a big night (Havlat high, Koivu low), or they both do nothing or assist on the other one's goal (both in the middle).
The Flames will get a shot at revenge Monday in Minny, let's hope the Wild give us a better effort. For now though, the Wild have a one game winning streak. Let's hope that number multiplies 20-fold.
- With Kobe Bryant out (or Cam Barker to those not familiar with the HWRG2000), Clayton Stoner was back in the lineup after a 9 game absence. He was -1 with 12:23 TOI.
- Matt Cullen was back in the lineup as well after missing 3 games with a groin injury. He was -1 with 13:25 TOI
- The Wild scored 3 goals on 6 shots. They also fired their lowest number of shots of the year at 16, marking the third time they've shot this many this season. Yup, you read it right, your eyes do not deceive you. They fired 16 shots in their 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks, 17 shots in their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals and 18 shots in a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Wild are 4-1-0 (loss was 6-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers) in games in which they've fired less than 20 shots. Boggles the mind, no? I also think it's sad that the Wild have fired under 20 shots 5 times in 31 games.
- Nick Schultz left the game in the third with an upper-body injury, he's questionable for Monday, meaning Barker and Stoner may both play.
- This Wild are 2-2-0 in games in which I wrote the re-cap. I guess they'll have to fire me since playing .500 hockey in the Western Conference gets you in 14th place.
Hockey Wilderness 3 stars:
1. Mikko Koivu (3 very pretty points, played like we know he can, let's hope this Koivu is here to stay)
2. Brent Burns (Was a beast in all zones, 2 assists, 23:39 TOI)
3. Niklas Backstrom (Trade him...Of course I kid, the man kept the Wild in the game, stopped 28 of 29 shots, held on to the lead and the starting job for dear life)
I feel like I should give an honorable mention to Tim Jackman. I thought he played a great game, constantly on the puck, and was actually an offensive threat. Kudos Jackman.
1. The Wild discussed having resolve. Can they show some tonight? Well they certainly found a way to get the 2 points and the leaders came up big, so I'll say yes, but it may just be a result of a Flames team struggling offensively.
2. How does Backstrom look tonight? Other than that goal which should get him shipped back to the place from whence he came, he did a marvelous job. And no, it wasn't a bad goal, in fact he had no chance in hell of stopping it, I'm just messing around as a jab to those who wrongfully blame Backstrom for our losses and because Bryan told me to .
3. Can the defensive forwards play some, you know, defense? Everyone did a top notch job in the defensive zone tonight, which was likely to Backstrom's delight.
4. Can the Wild hold Iginla in check? He was buzzing all over the net tonight, but the Wild-killer was held at bay. Don't count on it happening again Monday though.
5. On a scale of Suck to Great, where do the Wild land this evening? The goals were great, check the highlights, but overall, 1 being Suck and 10 being Great, I have to give them a 6. 60% means you passed, but barely.