Just when you're ready to count out the Minnesota Wild, they come back with an A+ performance like they had last night against the Oilers. It's like the roles were reversed from the previous matchup. The Wild came out strong, scoring two goals in the first ten minutes of the game and went on to score a goal shorthanded, on the power play, and at even strength. Defense was more or less solid, as were the line combinations as Lemaire didn't do nearly as much juggling as he usually does.
Tangle's game puck is awarded to: Center Mikko Koivu. Talk about being unselfish, the guy acted like Pierre-Marc Bouchard last night. His assist to Sean Hill was great - he could have tried to jam the puck in the net but made the extra pass to give Sean Hill the open net. His saucer pass to Brian Rolston on the shorthanded break was a thing of beauty. The only part of his game that was flawed was getting inexplicably kicked out of the faceoff circle time after time, and for what, I have no clue. The refs were pretty inconsistent on those faceoffs, and Koivu wasn't too happy about it. Other props go to Hill, getting back to back goals after going 90+ without a single one. Backstrom stopped 31 of 32 shots; that is, if you count how much the posts bailed him out. Sometimes you get those kind of breaks. The final prop goes to Coach Lemaire (who I will get to more fully later), he kept his line combinations pretty consistent AND broke up the Dildaphonic Duo of Martin Skoula and Kim Johnsson. Surprise, surprise, the defense suddenly got better (though Skoula finished with a -1, I believe...it's hard to tell using CBS's stats because they also say that Hill finished with a -1, which is impossible considering he scored a goal (+1) and the Oilers only scored one goal total (-1) so the worst he could do is even).
Tangle's "WTF?" award goes to: Coach Jacques Lemaire. Now you may be thinking, "Tangle, what kind of Kool-Aid are you drinking, you just gave Lemaire props earlier." Well, here's my response. While I'm glad he kept lines consistent last night, there was one line combination I didn't like - Derek Boogaard, Aaron Voros, and James Sheppard. Huh? How is Sheppard going to excel with two enforcers on his wings? Second, Lemaire had Branko Radivojevic on the 5-on-3 power play. I like Radio but I don't think he's power play material, and had we scored with the two-man advantage, we would've put the game away much earlier. Finally, where was Benoit Pouliot? He's been playing incredibly well, and he was the odd man out last night with a healthy scratch. I know Bouchard and Pavol Demitra are better players but you ride somebody when they're hot. The other harassment award goes to the Oilers' power play unit. Granted, we've got the third-best penalty kill in the NHL, but Edmonton is now 0 for their last 21 power play chances. For a team fighting for their playoff lives, that's a shot in the foot. Finally, Zack Stortini - why would you even try your luck against Boogey? The ref got in front of the camera so the angle wasn't great but Boogey leveled him with a left, then picked him up and started donkey punching him. Serves you right.
I'll be coming to you again Friday night, either covering the game against the Canucks or watching my Badgers take on upstart Davidson in the NCAA tournament. Picture in picture, anyone?