Game Five: The Hangover
Posted by Nathan Wells on Monday, January 28, 2013
Wild.com recap (St. Louis 5 - Minnesota 4 F/OT)
Despite having a 3-1 lead in the second period, the Minnesota Wild dropped to 0-1-1 on their road trip when Vladamir Sobotka tipped in an Andy MacDonald shot 2:16 into overtime to give St. Louis a 5-4 win Sunday night. It's the third straight loss for Minnesota and raises this question: is it safe to say the Honeymoon is already over for the Wild?
In a shortened 48-game season everything is going to be hyper-sensitive. There is less time for players to get acclimated with one another and with raised expectations, any stumble is going to be put under a microscope. That may not be fair - remember how bad Minnesota was at its lowest point last year - but the goodwill of July 4 and the end of Lockout now has to compete with the on-ice product.
And going 0-3 is going to bring out the Monday Morning (Power Play) Quarterbacks.
-The good news for Minnesota is that they are still in first place by virtue of getting one point against a tough St. Louis team playing their sixth game in 9 days.
-The bad news is that despite the final score, the Wild looked like a team out-matched against the Blues on national television. If I'm honest, while it speaks to their adversity of being able to come back from a 4-3 deficit, they didn't deserve a point. That's weird to say for a team who led 3-1 at one point, but it's true. St. Louis out-muscled them, controlled the puck, and were the more disciplined team. At times last night's game felt like an early one from last year where Minnesota took advantage of their opportunities (scoring on three of four shots in the second period) at a unsustainable stat pace and tried to hang on in the third.
-Dany Heatley's game-tying goal was both a thing of beauty and a heads-up veteran play. The forward knew where both the puck and crossbar (anything hit with a stick higher than the crossbar is high-sticking and a no-goal) were and made sure he batted the puck out of midair only after it was legal to do so.
-The stretch of penalties in the third by the Wild were tough to watch. A too many men call followed by Pierre-Marc Bouchard shooting the puck over the glass and an interference call by Marco Scandella all happened in a 6 minute stretch when Minnesota was holding to a 3-2 lead. You can't give a team like St. Louis that many chances with the man-advantage (especially with undisciplined penalties) and eventually being so shorthanded caught up to a tired D.
-Jonas Brodin continues to look good in brief stretches. The 2011 first round pick hit a post early in the first period and wasn't afraid to get physical. I also though Scandella looked okay in his season debut outside of his penalty (and it seemed like Yeo benched him for it).
-Ryan Suter is starting to hit overpaid player doghouse territory. It takes time for a player to adjust to a new defense (remember Tom Gilbert last year?) but with so much riding on his shoulders and playing 30 minutes a night, it's. He was on the ice for the tying goal (coming off the end of an almost 2 minute shift) and left Sobotka open for the game-winning goal. That's tough to swallow.
I doubt Suter is happy with his performance and there are valid reasons to expect more. The Minnesota blue line was out-played by St. Louis plain and simple. Still I'd rather have Suter playing 30 than Scandella.
-Zach Parise getting two goals and being the Wild's best scoring option probably doesn't make Suter look better in comparison.
-More than anything, Minnesota's lack of scoring depth is worrying. Entering the season one of things we were most excited about was having an actual top-six yet no forward outside the top line has scored since opening night. Guys like Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck...even Finnish Baby Jesus have been underwhelming when it comes to goals and scoring chances. 9 of 13 goals being scored by 2 players is frightening
-The Blues neutralized the Wild's attack and speed by using their size and being the more physical team.
-Mikko Koivu scoring a goal no one sees is the most Mikko Koivu scoring goal possible.
-A day after being the subject of trade rumors, Devin Setoguchi came out and played a physical game.
-If the Honeymoon isn't over, at the very least Wild fandom is back. My Twitter feed from when St. Louis made it 4-3....
....and when they tied it back up at 4.
-Overall, Minnesota showed that they can stand with a top team like St. Louis, who shut out their first two home opponents. I don't think they showed they were at the same level; at least not yet. It isn't time to hit the panic button, but there are questions that need to be answered. With the short season there isn't as much time to settle and sort things out - if we're still wondering about Ryan Suter and scoring depth in a week then we'll talk about the panic button.
For more Minnesota Wild and other hockey thoughts, follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.