Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gm # 6: Wild @ LA (1/4)

The Wild rolled into Hollywood on top of the world (not to mention various NHL power rankings lists) and promptly dropped a deuce on the ice at Staples Center, and their winning streak with it. Yes, they got a point in their 4-3 SOL, which is good, but they again played down to the level of their opponent - and it finally stung them.

Without taking anything away from the Kings, the Wild were sloppy and undisciplined all night. They gave the Fowl 8 man-advantages the other night, and followed that up with 9 (including 2 in OT) against the Kings. The PK is clicking at a 90% success rate (4th-best in the NHL) and that's great, but you can't play with fire that many times without eventually getting burned.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, the Wild power play is downright awful. 1-for-22 (4.6%, 29th in the league) and this from a unit that was absolutely on fire during the pre-season.

I once heard Scotty Bowman explain that he wanted to see the percentages of his team's PP and PK add up to more than 100. I don't know if this is a universal coaching thing or not, but it has stuck with me as an easy barometer of a team's overall special teams acumen. 90% on the PK is great, but you're not going to go a whole season at that rate. So it would seem that you've got to be able to get more than 5% from your PP if you're going to compete in the NHL.

Anyway, the Wild just struggled all game. They had trouble clearing the zone, they had trouble generating solid scoring chances. Brent Burns spent 10 minutes in the box all by himself - all minors - and generally had a brutal game. Mike Cammalleri drew about 4 minors himself in a gutsy effort for Los Angeles.

They were fortunate to get to OT, and then Backstrom, who has never been good in the shootouts, saved their bacon in the extra session only to get light up in the shootout.

Clearly the Wild were going to lose sometime, and getting a point IS a good thing. But they absolutely must get their discipline under control, and start playing THEIR game (and preferably for 60 minutes).

BOTTOM LINE: They've been playing with fire by playing to the level of their opponents, and it finally bit them six games in.

STUD: Rolston with another bomb from the face off circle. That's two games in a row for the big guy.

DUD: Burns was just awful. Awful. He'll bounce back, but this was a sobering reminder that he's not exactly Nik Lidstrom yet.


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