This is my 73rd post-game report of the year. I keep trying to think of different and unique ways to capture the feelings going into the game from the fans that follow the team as closely as I do. I have little doubt sometimes it appears to be very random or eclectic and that’s just fine. Games and seasons are that way, not everything makes perfect sense and events even within a period can appear totally random. Losing in overtime on a foolish whiffed pass after a great team effort to forced a tie does that to you. It leaves you at a loss for words and makes one feel almost ambivalent to covering the next game. In that way you could say my mind is still loss on Brent Burns‘ turnover and Antoine Vermette‘s goal. The ending personified the team’s season. One of a bad start, then rallying back from deep deficit only to throw it all away in the end. Ever feel like you’ve said it all? That’s sort of where I’m at.
The Wild come into this game having lost their last 5 games, and now the playoffs are a world away. Good riddance, time to end the illusions and just worry about playing good hockey. The Habs are playoff bound but they want every point they can get to get a better match up in the post-season. The Wild now must relish the role of being a spoiler and do their best to take something away from Montreal. Can the Wild end its losing streak with a win this late afternoon over the Canadiens?
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1st Period Thoughts: Ever get the feeling you’ll know it will be a long day? That would describe my feelings pretty well when I tried to watch this game on NHL Center Ice, only to find neither the CBC or the Ch.45 feed not working. Just a blank black screen, an omen of the Wild’s chances in this game perhaps? It sure seemed like it as Greg Zanon gets caught pinching and former Wild draft pick Benoit Pouliot steps around him and he bears down on Jose Theodore who makes the initial stop but Brandon, Manitoba’s Ryan White is there to jam home his first goal of the season to put Montreal up 1-0. I was listening to the game on 830 WCCO via streaming audio, and it was crazy as you could hear the crowd where there were lots of Habs fans in attendance making it almost sound like a Montreal home game. Minnesota tried to claw its way back into the game as they tried to go on the attack but the Canadiens were backchecking well to support their defenseman and whenever the Wild got a little space it would quickly disappear. The Wild were having trouble getting shots through to force Alex Auld to make saves. One player who tried to get Minnesota back into this game was Clayton Stoner who crushed Ryan White with a big clean hit, and a few moments later he put the boom down on Aaron Palushaj. The hit on Palushaj prompted White to drop the gloves and go after Stoner and the Wild defenseman was going to make him pay for it; as he started throwing big right handed haymakers that were landing pretty well as White held on for dear life. To White’s credit he hung in there throwing a few left handed punches of his own but it was Stoner who was really in control and the clear winner in the fight. The fight got the home crowd back into the game, but unfortunately it did not yield better hockey from the team. A bad turnover in the neutral zone by Cal Clutterbuck led to a breakaway for Andrei Kostitsyn and he rifled a shot that beat Theodore to make it 2-0 Canadiens. Just off the next faceoff, Kostitsyn would get his stick to the face of Chuck Kobasew earning him 2 minutes in the sin bin. Minnesota went on the attack early in the power play as Andrew Brunette tried to jam a puck by Alex Auld and as the flurry ensued but Marc Joannette blew the whistle even though the biscuit was just sitting there in the crease. The Wild had a few more nice chances but could solve Auld. After the power play was killed off, the Wild found itself again under siege and Theodore was forced to make a number of great saves. Not a great start with a hostile non-home crowd at home. Ugly.
2nd Period Thoughts: Well, can it get much worse? Oh yes it can. Just 51 seconds into the 2nd period, P.K. Subban decided to put on a show and he made the Wild look foolish chasing him about their own zone before he wrapped a shot by a stunned Theodore to put Montreal up 3-0. Subban would celebrate by jumping against the glass to the sound of astonishment and the cheers of a few thousand Habs fans in attendance. It just continued to get worse, as a killed power play turned into an immediate counter attack for Montreal and Mike Cammalleri threaded a pass to James Wisniewski and he ripped as shot by Theodore to put the Habs up 4-0. The Wild were getting outworked in their own zone, it was embarrassing as Montreal simply outbattled the Wild near the crease and Scott Gomez fired a shot from the slot that Theodore stopped but he was unable to cover the puck and it squirted out to Travis Moen who stuffed it home to make it 5-0. Todd Richards had seen enough and pulled Theodore and sent out Niklas Backstrom. With the game very much out of hand, the Wild tried to go on the attack firing every shot they could on Alex Auld but he was up to the task. Montreal’s defense was doing a fine job of tying up sticks and preventing the Wild from having 2nd chance opportunities. A foolish roughing call would add more insult to injury as the Montreal power play moved the puck without much difficulty before Wisniewski gave a perfect set up pass to Subban who stepped into a one-timer that blew by Backstrom. The Wild would go back to work looking for a “pride” goal but Auld was standing tall and Minnesota was greeted with a well-earned chorus of boo’s from the home crowd as it left the ice.
3rd Period Thoughts: The horror show would end wouldn’t it? Only when the horn sounded to end regulation but the debacle would carry on into the 3rd period. Again the Wild would suffer a goal scored early in the period as Ryan White dropped a pass back to P.K. Subban and he took his time and ripped a laser of a shot by Backstrom to make it 7-0 giving him a hat-trick, the first time a defenseman has ever had a ‘trick against the Wild. The goal brought the Habs fans to start cheering “Ole’ ole'” and you could see many of the Wild fans had left already but their chants were met with boo’s from the few die hards in attendance. Cal Clutterbuck tried to get involved a little by taking a big run at Brian Gionta. The attempt did not impress the Canadiens who were becoming annoyed with his hits and after a brief exchange of words with Paul Mara and Ryan White the officials moved in and the NHL’s Chris Rooney throws out Mara and Clutterbuck with 10-minute game misconducts. Probably a smart move since Clutterbuck’s hitting was only begging for a much uglier situation to take place. The Wild continued to work for a pride goal and they were starting to pinch and create all kinds of shots on goal but Alex Auld was sharp, but on one play by Mikko Koivu to get a shot on goal a flurry near the crease had Alexander Picard cover it up with his glove for a penalty shot. Mikko Koivu would take the penalty shot for the Wild and he would race down the ice where he went to his signature forehand to backhand deke where he roofed it just underneath the crossbar to spoil the shutout for Auld. As good as it felt to get a goal, there was another dose of salt to be placed on the wound as Tom Pyatt took off after a failed Wild rush and he fired a bullet by a disinterested Niklas Backstrom to seal an 8-1 victory.
Normally I would talk about the play of the goaltenders right here. Not tonight. Its time for my angry side. This was by far, the most pathetic effort I’ve ever seen from any Wild team in any given year. That is saying a lot. That’s 10 seasons of hockey and this was the worst yet, and on home ice no less. If this organization has any pride in itself, the players should pony up the money for the hardworking Wild fans that paid to see this game and refund the money they blew on tickets. I said from the start I am not expecting the playoffs from this team at all; in fact that was my position before the season started but that does not excuse the poor effort tonight.
I don’t care if this was the 2nd game in as many nights. I don’t care if Montreal has better speed or a lot of fans cheering them on. Want to silence them? Do something that will silence them; score, work hard, outplay the Canadiens. The Wild coaching staff did not meet with their team after the 2nd period; how did that work out? When are you ever going to say something to your team Todd? When are you going to start calling people out or is the kid gloves approach working for so well for you over your last 10 games? Where is the heart? I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine. I know one thing, I never want to write about a game like this EVER again. PATHETIC!
~ Wild roster for tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, Kyle Brodziak, Eric Nystrom, John Madden, Matt Cullen, Brad Staubitz, Chuck Kobasew, Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, Andrew Brunette, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser, Clayton Stoner, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon and Brent Burns. Niklas Backstrom shared goaltending duties with Jose Theodore. Warren Peters, Cam Barker, Guillaume Latendresse and Marek Zidlicky are the ‘healthy’ scratches. Marco Scandella (broken right index finger), Josh Harding (knee) and James Sheppard (knee) are on injured reserve.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were: 1st Star P.K. Subban, 2nd Star Ryan White, 3rd Star Benoit Pouliot
~ Attendance at this early evening’s game was 18,565 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate the North Dakota Fighting Sioux on being 2010-11 WCHA Champions after defeating Denver in a game for the ages in a 4-3 double-overtime victory on a goal by Hobey Baker Award finalist Matt Frattin. The State of Hockey News would also like to congratulate University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Head Coach Dean Blais on being selected the Coach of the Year and Denver’s Jason Zucker as being named as WCHA Rookie of the year.
~ NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament match ups have been announced. #1 seeded North Dakota will play RPI and there could be a quick rematch of the WCHA Championship as #2 seeded Denver is in the same region as they play Western Michigan. Other WCHA qualifiers were Nebraska-Omaha who plays against Michigan and Colorado College who faces defending NCAA champion Boston College who are the #1 seed in the West Regional. The last WCHA qualifier is University of Minnesota: Duluth as they battle Union in the East Regional in Bridgeport, Connecticut where in-state favorite Yale is the #1 seed.
Houston Aeros Report:
2010-11 Record: (40-25-1-5) 86pts 2nd West Division
Top 3 Scorers:
1. #14 Jon DiSalvatore ~ 21G 30A = 51pts
2. #26 Maxim Noreau ~ 10G 38A = 48pts
3. #17 Robbie Earl ~ 19G 27A = 46pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #42 Matt Kassian ~ 130 PIM’s
2. #29 Drew Bagnall ~ 108 PIM’s
3. #12 Cody Almond ~ 99 PIM’s
1. #31 Matthew Hackett ~ 37GP (18-13-4) 2.20GAA .920%SP
2. #41 Josh Tordjman ~ 5GP (3-1-0) 2.18GAA .919%SP
~ The Houston Aeros dominated in their most recent contest in the first game of a home at home against in-state rival San Antonio on Saturday at Houston’s Toyota Center. After a scoreless 1st period, the Aeros offense started to pour it on with goals from Patrick O’Sullivan and Robbie Earl. Late in the 2nd period, Carson McMillan decided to get in on the action by scoring twice in just 20 seconds which is good for second fastest two goals in franchise history. Former Aero Mathieu Beaudoin scored mid-way through the 3rd to cut Houston’s lead to three, but Jean-Michel Daoust buried a shot off the rush to seal a 5-1 Houston victory. The game would get real chippy late as the Rampage’s Dane Byers lost his cool and he went after Houston’s Drew Bagnall. Bagnall sort of ducked and took the punches yet somehow he earned a game misconduct as well. Matthew Hackett was not all that busy making 14 saves in the win.