Wild shock Wings in overtime

I’ve been waiting for a few games this season to say this in a good way but, tonight, the Wild got what it deserved.

After a shaky first period, they came out and played with the Wings in the second and third. They didn’t dominate play, but they didn’t look outmatched either.

In the second and third period, what they looked like was a team that was finally understanding their system and finally understanding what it was that they have to do to win.

It still wasn’t a complete game, but the Wild’s penalty kill was effective and their power play wasn’t a momentum killer like it has been in past games (though it still wasn’t perfect, or good for that matter). Basically, it was the best game that they’ve played within the system so far this season (in my opinion, anyway).

It wasn’t perfect, but it was darn sure a start.

There are still a lot of things that need to be fixed.Minnesota’s power play is still horrendous. They seem to be allergic to shooting the puck when they have the lanes and, instead, hold onto the puck and try to find the perfect play.

The Wild also need to stop taking freaking penalties late in the game. Honestly, there’s rarely a good penalty to take, but with five minutes left in a one-goal game? That’s the kind of thing that just kills a comeback.

So, with no burning questions for tonight’s game, I’m just going to throw out a few random thoughts at you:

  • The power play continues to be a troubling part of the Wild’s game and a big part of that is their play from the point. Their defensemen aren’t getting shots through, they’re forcing the issue (not in a good way) when they try to be aggressive and when they’re not forcing the issue and trying to be aggressive, they’re just playing pitch and catch between two players and not getting anything towards net. So, basically, they’re either trying to pretend to be aggressive, or being too passive. Either way, that’s bad news for the Wild’s power play.
  • My God Josh Harding was great tonight. That’s three straight games where Harding has absolutely stood on his head and kept the Wild in the game. You all know that I am a HUGE Niklas Backstrom supporter, and I’m always going to be. But, right now, Harding is making the decision to go back to Backs in the cage a very, very difficult one. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there’s a goalie controversy inMinnesotayet, but Hards is doing his best to create one.
  • How good has Justin Falk looked? He’s been an absolute beast on the blue line for the Wild, and it was evidenced tonight by the fact that Falk was on the ice with the goalie pulled and the Wild pushing for the tying goal. He’s positionally sound, he’s physical and he’s showing that he actually has a bit of offensive acumen at times too.
  • On the same token, how bad has Marek Zidlicky continued to look. He’s a complete liability defensively (like usual), only he’s not getting the production to make up for that. He’s the Wild’s power play quarterback, the Wild had eight power plays and Zidlicky had zero shots on goal. That says it all. It’s getting to the point that, when Stoner and/or Zanon are healthy, Zidlicky may find himself the odd man out (and should, in my opinion).

The Wild are off until Thursday, when they face off against the Canucks. Laterz!

Wings down Wild 3-2 in OT

It was all within our control.

That’s what Mike Yeo had to say to the media after this game, and he was completely correct in saying that. The Wild were their own worst enemy in this one.

They got out to a 2-0 lead, scoring two quick goals (one to end the first and one to open the second), then, in typical Wild fashion, decided that they had done enough and just stopped executing the way they had been.

Halfway through the second period, the Wild were actually outplayingDetroitdespite the disparity in shots, and everything looked like it was coming up roses in Josh Harding’s first start since March of 2010. The Wild just couldn’t keep it together and, after all of their play in their own zone, they were just exhausted by the time the third period rolled around.

Despite being outshot by a large margin in the first, the Wild were controlling the tempo and got on the board with Greg Zanon’s one-time goal with 11.3 seconds left in the first.

Minnesota came out guns blazing in the second and, just 16 seconds in, Cal Clutterbuck gave them a 2-0 lead after a strong forecheck by Colton Gillies caused a turnover and Gillies fed Clutterbuck out front of the net for a one-timer.

That was all Minnesota would get in the middle frame, as it would quickly turn into your typical second period lull.

Josh Harding was the only thing keeping the Wild ahead (well, him and some solid defense by the blueliners), and the Wings finally broke through with 47.7 seconds left in the period with a goal from Ian White.

The Wings struck again 3:46 into the third with a tally by Jiri Hudler to tie the game and, at the end of the period, the Wild were feeling lucky to have escaped the game with a point.

Overtime started with a strong effort from the wild, but quickly turned into the Detroit show again and, with time running out Johan Franzen potted the game winner, sending the Wild home disappointed.

So, some thoughts:

  • The Wild truly did look like the better team through part of the second period. They weren’t getting shots, but they were grinding Detroit down and were controlling the tempo of the game. One they got up by two, though, they took their foot off the gas and by the time they realized it, it was too late.
  • Guillaume Latendresse looked good once again. He was held to one shot but, then again, so was most everyone else. Latendresse got his fourth assist in five games and he looks more engaged than I’ve seen him look since being inMinnesota. In other words, I think someone wants to stay here a while.
  • I’ll be honest, with the way that Colton Gillies is starting to play, I don’t see Brett Bulmer sticking with the squad past his nine games. Bulmer played just over eight minutes in tonight’s game and I think he benefits more from playing more minutes in juniors than eight to ten in the NHL, especially with players like Matt Kassian and Nick Johnson scratched who are more than capable of filling in the slot where Bulmer is playing.
  • Josh Harding was absolutely unbelievable tonight. The entire locker room should be apologizing to him for this one, because he deserved ten times better than this and you could tell that everyone knew it. Every shot they showed after the end of the game was telling – especially the one of Harding kneeling on the ice, looking like he was near tears.

Burning Answers

How will Harding look tonight? Harding made 38 saves and was the reason that the Wild got a point out of this one. There’s absolutely no question that he looked like he was back to form.

Can the Wild’s role players pick it up? They did. The problem was that no one else came with them. The Wild had 14 shots, and their bottom six accounted for six of those.

Will Matt Cullen’s hot streak continue? Cullen didn’t look that great tonight but, in fairness, neither did anyone else.

Can the Wild’s special teams be special? Minnesota was 0-for-1 with the man advantage and 1-for-3 short handed. The problem was that one was the winning goal.

Three Stars

1)      Josh Harding – Hards was fantastic tonight in defeat. He stopped 38 shots and, again, was the reason the Wild picked up a point.

2)      Johan Franzen – The Mule tallied a goal and an assist and was the Wing that notched the game-winner.

3)      Cal Clutterbuck – Clutterbuck scored the Wild’s second goal and led the team with three shots.

That’s all for tonight. We’ll be back tomorrow with our in season schedule.

Gameday thread: vs. Detroit

I know it’s early, but the Northwest is just complete and utter chaos right now. Human sacrifice, cats and dogs living in harmony…Mass hysteria!

What I’m talking about of course, is the fact that Colorado and Minnesota, picked by many to be the two bottom dwellers, are the top two teams in the division while the teams most thought would be atop the division have struggled.

To date, the Wild’s opponents have had a combined record of 4-7-2. Not necessarily a tough schedule to start the season. Tonight, though, we’ll see if the wild can hang with one of the NHL’s elite. The Red Wings are perfect through three games and have allowed just three goals in their three games, compared to 10 scored. That’s just a little better than who they’ve played so far.

So, who is going to be in the line up for this first test among the NHL’s elite? Here’s Wild.com:

Unless Latendresse is held out of the lineup, the forward lines should remain the same as on Thursday:

Setoguchi-Koivu-Heatley
Bouchard-Cullen-Latendresse
Gillies-Brodziak-Clutterbuck
Bulmer-Powe-Staubitz

The defensive pairings will remain unchanged:

Zanon-Zidlicky
Schultz-Scandella
Stoner-Spurgeon

Harding makes his season debut tonight.

The big key here is going to be Josh Harding, who is making his first regular season start since the 2009-10 season, and its going to be a big test for him.

He’s had success against the Wings in the past, so that’s the rationale in starting him over Backstrom tonight. That, and he had to get a start sooner or later.

Burning Questions

How will Harding look tonight? Will he be tentative and nervous, or will he show the confidence he’s shown in the past?

Can the Wild’s role players pick it up? Their bottom six forwards have just two points so far this season, and they’ll need to pick it up for the Wild to be successful tonight.

Will Matt Cullen’s hot streak continue? He’s looked great alongside Bouchard and Latendresse so far. Can he keep it up?

Can the Wild’s special teams be special? So far this season, they’ve been mediocre. Can they step it up?

That’s all for me. The puck drops at 7 pm CST tonight from the Xcel Energy Center.