Good evening State of Hockey,
So yeah...it's been nearly two weeks since my last game analysis. A combination of applying for grad school and a needy girlfriend can really put the kabash on watching my Wild. Anyhoo...
Once again, the Wild looked great for the first two and a half periods. The power play was clicking - scoring on one, getting another goal as the power play expired. Andrew Brunette's goal gave the Wild momentum going into the second period, which again, they dominated. Versus network put up the stat that the Wild have outscored opponents 9-3 (now 11-3) in the middle frame this season, best in the NHL. The Antti Miettinen 3-on-2 goal was great, and the feed to Brent Burns for the power play goal was a thing of beauty. Despite a late third period goal by the Blackhawks, the Wild held on for the 3-2 victory and remain the only unbeaten (in regulation) team in the NHL.
Tangle's game puck is awarded to: Center Mikko Koivu. What else can you say about this rising star? Assists on all three goals (two of them were beauties), and his two-way game continues to impress. He did have a bad pass leading to the Duncan Keith goal, but that was overshadowed by his otherwise dominant performance. This AMA line is one of the best in hockey this season. Minor awards to Niklas Backstrom minding the net. He gave up another third period goal, yes, but his 30+ saves made up for it. The power play, as said before, is creating a lot of opportunities, and let's not leave out the penalty kill, silencing a 5-on-3 'Hawks power play opportunity. The Wild have yet to give up a power play goal this year. Finally, Cal Clutterbuck gets a nod for playing a very physical game. He landed several solid checks and provides a lot of intensity on the fourth line.
Tangle's "WTF?" award goes to: Defenseman Martin Skoula. Dammit, I hate this guy. His back was consistently turned when the puck got near him, he had a couple of turnovers in the defensive zone, and his "defense" on the two-on-one opportunity early in the game made me wonder whether if he was doing his best "Stephen Hawking tries to ice skate" impression or if he just gave up. He refused to commit to the puck OR the trailer, and ended up just going down to his knees. In the process, the only person he ended up blocking was Backstrom. I'm thinking the only reason Chicago didn't score on that play was because they were utterly shocked by Skoula's complete lack of defense. Minor harassment goes to Jacques Lemaire for not playing the third and fourth lines enough - I think Derek Boogaard has made leaps and bounds this season in his overall game...amazing what you can do with a healthy back. And finally, though this doesn't need mentioning, a thumbs-down to Marian Gaborik for continuing to be an injured and selfish douchebag.
Wild grade: B. Power play was great, penalty kill was great, but we still can't play a full 60 minutes yet. These third periods are getting way more tense than they should be. Luckily Backstrom is undefeated when leading after two periods but it's still frustrating to know that your team can't seal a victory.
It's good to be on top of the NHL, isn't it, Wild fans? For the second straight year, we're the last team standing without a regulation loss, and for the first time in over 40 years, there has been a team to not allow a power play goal through the first seven games of the season (the Leafs were the last to do it).
Keep your stick on the ice.