Game Three: The Hangover
Posted by Nathan Wells on Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Wild.com Recap - Nashville 3, Minnesota 1
I'll get right to it - this loss obviously is my fault. Not Niklas Backstrom for a giveaway that deserves the "Yakety Sax" treatment nor the lack of scoring, mine.
Despite spending most of the off-season writing about the Wild, it took until Game 3 (or January if you really want to get at it) to finally see the fruit of Chuck Fletcher's labors. Sure, there were five minute stretches in each of the first two games but they don't really count.
And let me tell you it was worth the wait.
Maybe my memory of watching last year's injury-prone version has been warped with time, but Minnesota's first line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley looked like they were on a different level. There isn't any panic with the puck in the offensive zone, the Wild are able to move the puck well and most importantly PEOPLE SHOOT THE PUCK. Minnesota out-shot Nashville on Tuesday 30-26 and while that may not seem like much, it was a rarity last season. Zach Parise on his own attempted 8 shots in the first two periods while Ryan Suter seemed just as comfortable taking a shot from the point than moving around and setting someone up.
Unfortunately all the chances also resulted in one goal, which allowed Nashville to hang around and eventually get the go-ahead goal with an empty-netter to boot. Given that this was the first time Minnesota lost this year and it's the first time I've seen them, it's obviously my fault.
-It's easy to rail on Backstrom for giving up the go-ahead goal, but there was a world of fail on that play. While a more athletic goalie could have made the play and a better puck handling goalie (aka Alex Stalock) wouldn't have thrown it right onto Erat's stick, the play began with an out-of-position Spurgeon being unable to take a Parise pass. Even if Backstrom stayed in net he would have been facing a breakaway.
-At the same time Josh Harding has a good chance to earn himself more playing time against Detroit. He's (according to Dan and others) looked better than Backstrom did in his two starts.
-Zenon Konopka sweaters are going to be popular around the Xcel Energy Center soon.
-There were times during last night's game (especially during the second period) where responsible defensive hockey ruled the ice. As someone said on Twitter, Jacques Lemaire would have been proud.
-Mikael Granlund has a knack for finding himself in front of the net. Twice during the first 2 periods Finnish Baby Jesus was all alone in front of Predators goalie Chris Mason and came close to getting Minnesota's second goal. I also thought he played well with Devin Setoguchi.
-The third player on the second line, Matt Cullen, found a way to fall down a lot.
-Jared Spurgeon left the ice following Nashville's first goal when the Wild defenseman blocked the initial shot with the body. It appears that he'll get a couple days off yet shouldn't miss any games.
-Despite the loss to a Predators team playing their second game in as many nights, I still thought the effort was there from Minnesota. Mason played a solid game in net for Nashville - stopping a few key chances - and although there was no secondary scoring from the other lines to compliment Parise-Koivu-Heatley, it's early in the season. With no preseason and a plethora of new players, it will take time to gel. (Hell today was the first practice of the season for a team that had already played 3 games in 4 nights.)
They can't have too many nights where they score 1 goal in a 48 game season, but if the Wild can keep the effort up night-in and night-out things will go their way more often than not.