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Yep, I'm on the recap again, for the second time in as many nights. I'm slowly taking ov.. I mean, slowly gaining more responsibilities, with Bryan in class or occupied and Nathan... wherever the heck he is all the time :P.
Just one night after completely dominating the league-leading Vancouver Canucks, the Wild were right back in action tonight in a crucial game against the Blackhawks, who were just three points under the Wild. Earlier today, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was rushed to the Hospital following a bout with ''severe discomfort'' and missed tonight's game. No one quite knows what's the cause yet, but he is in a stable condition. I'm pretty sure I can speak on behalf of the entire Hockey Wilderness family when I say we wish the very best to Quenneville, his family, the Blackhawks and their fans. Hopefully he recovers quickly without any fuss, because it's always scary when someone needs to go to the hospital, especially when you don't know what's wrong. My sister, who is six and a half months pregnant, needed to be hospitalized earlier this week. The first news we had was that she had a ''pancreatic problem'', which understandably threw me in a state of panic and fear for my sister and my unborn nephew/niece (for which I will be the Godfather). It turned out to be nothing serious, thank the stars, so we hope for the same for Quenneville. Now, on to the recap.
The game started well enough for the Wild, as they were buzzing all over the net, creating nice chances, but Brian Campbell broke the scoreless tie on a powerplay blast from the blueline in which Jose Theodore was screened by big Troy Brouwer. Once again, the Wild had the higher number of chances in the period, but no reward. Andrew Brunette scared the entire Wild establishment after receiving a puck in the kisser moments before the period ended. He started the second period in the dressing room, but came back to finish the game. 1-0 after one, 17-10 shot advantage for the Wild.
The second period started quite horribly. First off, Stoner went off for hooking at the 0:42 mark and just seconds after the Wild had killed the penalty, Brian Bickell played a trick on Cal Clutterbuck by lifting his stick into his own face, which drew blood and a 4 minute double minor on C-Buck. Spending the first 6-7 minutes in the defensive zone was one of two turning points in the game, making a team that had played the night before very tired. Jose Theodore needed to play a heroic game to keep his Wild in the game and he did just that, making 18 saves in the second period to limit the damage and keep it a one goal game.
The third period is where the Wild needed to come out on fire like they did last night. A very scary moment came towards the 6 minute mark of the period when Theo dove to poke the puck away from the crease and an unsuspecting Brian Bickell knocked him over. Theo was laying on the ice, grabbing his head, but he shook it off and kept playing. Despite it being purely accidental, Bickell got a penalty and Matt Cullen scored a dandy of a powerplay goal, assisted by Koivu and Spurgeon, who carried the puck into the zone and fed it beautiful to Cullen, who cut in front of the goal and buried it. I don't know how the Hawks fan reacted to getting a goal scored on that penalty, but wouldn't you know it, karma struck the Wild a mere 34 seconds later when Brouwer scored the eventual game-winning goal on the powerplay after Chuck Kobasew broke his stick and threw its carcass toward the puck carrier Michael Frolik (who I had actually forgotten was a Blackhawk before I noticed him in the second period), resulting in a penalty. Now, this was without a doubt the second turning point in the game, that penalty pretty much costing the Wild the game. It's doubtful that the broken stick actually interfered with the play, but to be fair, Kobasew should've known better than to throw it just anywhere without looking (according to Richards, he did not know where the puck was). The gassed-out Wild would eventually allow a second empty-netter in as many games.
Positives tonight? Jose Theodore played out of his mind, and Spurgeon straightened the ''Bench Cam Barker'' cause with a beautiful assist to Cullen's fantastic goal, making it his 4th assist in the last 5 games and assists in three straight. Stoner also played another strong game, which would make it quite hard to justify benching either of them over Barker at this point, no matter what Barker costs. The Wild have got to go with the ones who will help them win. Also, the Wild actually played a good game, but were depleted in the end.
Negatives? Antti Miettinen drew the ire of the fans by being... Antti Miettinen. Absolutely horrible once again tonight, just can't hit the net, really slowing Koivu down at the worst possible time. We expect more from our first-liners in this time of need. When you've got 2 second liners and a defenseman scoring more or as many goals as your first liners, something is wrong. I'm also disappointed in Kobasew, not only for his lackluster play, but his dropped stick penalty (which may or may not have been warranted, but he still should've picked a better spot) essentially cost the Wild the game. The other negative? We desperately need a game-breaking scorer.
The effort was clearly there for the Wild last night as well as tonight, but they just can't score a goal when they need it most. The Wild were also visibly tired in the last moments of the game and they faced two strong goaltenders in a row. This is yet another back-breaking defeat for the Wild, conceeding two points to the Blackhawks, who now sit a point behind the Wild and have Coach Q breathing a bit easier in his hospital bed. The Kings also won tonight, which means they've seperated themselves from the Wild and are now two points ahead. Calgary and Dallas are facing off and we need to pray that there won't be three points distributed in that one. The Wild need to stop the bleeding, fast, or else it'll be yet another tough uphill battle for them.
Next game, Friday night, against the Anaheim Ducks, in the 58th must-win game out of 82. Be there, or be square.
Martin Havlat played his 600th NHL game tonight. He was -1.
The Wild are 11 for 66 on the powerplay since the loss of Zidlicky
Dave Bolland's three assists tonight give him 5 in his last two games
The Wild lost two in a row for the first time in over a month (if you can believe it), when they lost 3 between Jan. 9-14.
Hockey Wilderness 3 stars:
1. Jose Theodore (18 saves in the 2nd period, 34 overall, many key saves, kept the Wild in it)
2. Corey Crawford (17 saves in the 1st period, 33 overall, many key saves, kept the Hawks in the lead.)
3. Dave Bolland (3 assists, very solid all-around play)
1. Bad night last night. Can the forget about it, or does it seep in? They certainly felt fatigue towards the end, but they still Sorry Tommed (new verb) tonight.
2. We want to see a Koivu goal. Will we see it tonight? Afraid not. In fact, Kaptain Koivu was pretty much a non-factor, despite getting an assist on Cullen's goal.
3. Can the Wild really shut down the potent Hawks offense? It did the very best it could, because it could've been quite ugly. Greg Zanon and Cam Barker each saved the day once with good stick placement and Theo was rock solid.
4. Is Cory Crawford the rookie of the year? No, stop asking.
5. JS predicted a 2-1 Wild victory. Does he have a gift? I do have a gift, but it is not foresight. I'll let you guess what it is.