The Minnesota Wild is not a good NHL team right now. But, it’s becoming evident that the players are, in fact, starting to assimilate to head coach Todd Richards’ new system. As that continues, the endless odd-man rushes against will continue to drop off, the ill-timed pinches from the defense will curtail, and, theoretically at least, the sustained pressure in the offensive zone with increase.
Imagine that, Wild fans: sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
Under old coach Jacques Lemaire the thought was that the team wasn’t talented enough to commit more than a winger down low on the attack for fear of unimpeded access to the Wild’s goalie should the opposing team assume control of the puck. The center stayed high, the defense were virtually glued to the blueline and you broke out of that mold only at the risk of a prolonged stay on the bench when you returned to face Lemaire’s wrath.
Yet, despite those shackles, the Wild never got off to a start as poor as the one they’re in this season. Call Lemaire a lot of things, but he delivered Ws where no other coach arguably would have.
Back to the present. The Wild simply can not suffer injuries of the magnitude (in terms of whom is getting injured and their place on the depth chart) they have in the early going this season and expect to amass any kind of “comfortable” lead in a game. Yes, Sykora, Bouchard and Clutterbuck are still out; but Havlat returned last night against the Avalanche which clearly helped the Wild.
As it was, a plucky, better-than-we-thought-before-the-season Avs team batted away a 1-0 Wild lead after 1 period as though it was so many flies to King Kong, and put the Wild in the second period sleeper hold that has been their MO in the early going of the 2009-10 season. The Wild does not have any margin for error given their lack of overall talent and the fact that they’re still climbing up the learning curve. And when a team with no margin for error takes a whole period off, bad things should happen to them.
The only differenece between insurmountably bad things happening to the Wild and a game that was salvageable after 40 minutes was Nicklas Backstrom who turned in a game-saving performance when his team mates most needed him.
But, it was a double-bonus night at the Xcel Energy Center with the unveiling of the new third jersey and Mikko Koivu’s first game as perma-captain. And, as happens from time to time, the hockey Gods visited a bit of Serendipity on the home team, as Mikko garnered an assist on the first goal, scored the GTG and then scored the GWG (in the SO.)
Some claim the presence of the “C” on his chest will raise his level of play. I happen to disagree with that, the inference of course being that he hasn’t played up to his full potential to this point because he has NOT had the “C” on his chest. But then again, I’m one of those people that hates it when people say they want to give 110%.
In any event, the Wild is still undefeated at home. Too bad two of their next three are on the road.
*Credit to the Avs who just completed a 7-game roader, going 4-1-2 on the trip. Craig Anderson is looking like a brilliant signing.
*Bouchard is now on LTIR with post-concussion symptoms. You’ll recall he originally suffered a concussion last season, was thought to be sufficiently healed heading into camp, took a check early this season and is still looped from it. Serious questions as to whether or not the Wild medical staff is doing their job satisfactorily must be raised. Mikko’s broken leg was under-diagnosed originally, Burns’ concussion was under-diagnosed last year, now this with Bouchard. These guys have to be perfect (or darn close to it) and they’re simply not.
*Andrew Brunette has to be among the best most under-appreciated players in the league. The guy just has amazing vision and is a great passer.
*Despite suffering from the dreaded high ankle sprain, which originally had caused the team doctors to think he would be out for over a month, Cal Clutterbuck was back on the ice yesterday.
*Chuck Kobasew debuted for the Wild last night as well, and played a good game, despite finishing with a -2 rating. He drew two penalties and brought good energy on Benoit Pouliot’s wing. Possibly as a reward for his strong play, he started OT as the other forward on the ice for the Wild with Mikko Koivu.
Nick in New York