Last week the Wild won 4 out of 4 road games, playing some of the best hockey they have played all year. What a difference a week can make. The Wild played three games this week, including a road/home back to back against the high octane Jets in Winnipeg and then the streaking Blackhawks back in St. Paul. The week ended on Saturday when the Islanders came to town to play the Wild…sort of.
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Tuesday the Wild played their first game in franchise history in Winnipeg. This was the first whole game I have watched that has taken place at the MTS center, and what a crowd they have in that building. The Wild scored the first goal in the second period off the hands off of Guillaume Latendresse, who was returning from a concussion in this game. That would end the scoring for the Wild. The Jets would tie it up at the end of the second period off of a sniper from Zack Bogosian. Watching the game, it seemed like the Crowd willed the team to this goal. I likened it to the Knicks at MSG, and how that crowd gets behind that team. If the Jest can get in the playoffs, look out for that building. The Jets would win it in the third on a Power Play goal by Brian Little. The loss ended the Wild’s 7 game winning streak, and five game road winning streak. The Wild also lost forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard when Zack Bogosian cross checked PMB from behind face first into the boards. No supplemental discipline for Bogosian, which is absolutely ridiculous. But aside from that, this was a good up tempo entertaining hockey game.
Wednesday the Blackhawks came into the Xcel Energy Center for another very entertaining game. The Wild rallied back from a two goal deficit in the second period off of goals from Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen. A quick aside, Brodziak is leading the team with 11 goals, is playing very meaningful minutes and developing into a vital part of the Wild’s special teams. He is playing great hockey, his contract is up this year, he needs to be extended. Get it done Chuck Fletcher. The game went into one of the most exciting overtime periods I’ve seen in a while. I really wish overtime lasted longer, it’s much more exciting than the shoot out. That is, unless you’re the Blackhawks and you have Patrick Kane in your shoot out line up. If you haven’t seen his shoot out goal, go check it out. He dekes at least 8 times and just makes Niklas Backstrom concede. After their game in Winnipeg, and being down 2-0, getting a point in this game felt good. The Wild would have two days off before playing the Islanders, and would be able to rest up and get healthy, or they would lose both Guillaume Latendresse and Mikko Koivu to Post Concussion symptoms and a lower body injury respectively for the game on Saturday.
The lineup for Saturday’s game with the Islanders for the Wild was a patchwork that resembled the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, about as much as it did the Wild. To put it in perspective, let’s look at the forward line combos normally vs. Saturday (*=Rookie).
The Wild dressed seven defense men. Jarod Palmer made his NHL debut. At one point, the announcers were calling a line of Palmer-Peters-Gillies the Aeros line, and there were a lot of times where they looked the part. To the credit of the Wild, they managed to get a point out of this game by losing in the shoot out. The first two periods of this game were all Islanders, and the Wild looked lost for the majority of this game. Palmer did have an impressive debut however. He had five shots on goal, and almost netted the game winner in overtime. Palmer will stay with the team on the upcoming road trip, and will be joined by another rookie who has never played in the NHL in Chad Rau. The upcoming road trip to Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton will be a tough test.
The Wild are depleted. They are missing 5 forwards, all who have spent time in the Wild’s top 6. They should get Koivu and Setoguchi back in the next game or so, but there is no timetable for the others. The Wild have been playing injured for a while now, and they have been making it work. The depth in the organization has been unbelievably good. Mike Yeo has been able to get the Wild up for every game, and has them believing in themselves and their system. If they can survive this road trip, they should be in good shape. They will get people back, and they will get better. This is the hardest stretch for the Wild. If they can survive these next 2 weeks, they will be alright. This next week may be the biggest test as they are hurt, and they have to play 3 divisional road games.
In some good news for the Wild this week, Zack Phillips, the 28th overall pick in this year’s draft, signed his first NHL deal. This means the Wild have both of their first round picks from this year signed. The Wild will also be watching prospects Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Johan Larsson, and Mikael Granlund at the World Juniors in the next few weeks. The future is bright.
Hopefully the coming week adds some pucks to the Puck Wall for the Wild.
The @ChurchofYeo tweet of the week:
All believers have tests of faith. One loss does not a season make. Believe, my friends. Believe.
As always, thanks for reading.
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