Monday, December 3, 2007

Gm # 25: Wild vs. Blues (3/4)

Back in the old days of the Norris Division, the North Stars and Blues enjoyed a healthy rivalry born of frequent regular season matchups and playoff battles. Though perhaps not to the vitriolic extent of the Red Wings or Blackhawks, the Blues were a common and disliked opponent.

In the modern era, the Blues have not been either as frequent or as worthy an adversary for the Wild. Several years of being in different divisions and sub-par hockey will do that.

That's all changing.

The Blues are much better than they have been basically since the Wild were born. They have the veteran leadership (Weight, Tkachuk, Kariya), the contingent of skilled youngsters (Erik Johnson, Brad Boyes, Lee Stempniak), and the solid netminding (Manny Legace) that you need to compete these days.

That the Wild needed an OT goal from Gaby to beat the Blues on home ice for the first time this season (second game at the X), tells you all you need to know about just how far this Blues team has come.

In particular, Brian Rolston shook off the burden he's been playing under since the injuries started piling up (possibly related to his having to play some center, and getting checked tighter without Gaby and/or Demo in the lineup). He unleashed his patented cannon to open the scoring in the second period - just nine seconds in, which is a new Wild record for fastest goal to start a period. Rolston also assisted on Burnsie's first period 5:3 PPG.

But the plucky Blues tied it up on two second period goals, and then both teams tightened it up in the third.

Gaborik has had well-documented struggles in the shootout, so it's fitting that he prevented the game from going that far with a great, look-off of Demo on a 2:1 and then a perfect shot just inside the short-side post after Legace might have bought the pass instead. Game over, turn out the lights, drive home safely.

Backstrom was again very strong, poised and calm - good to see him back to his play from last year.

Barrett Jackman punched Sheppard in the gullet, and Todd Fedoruk responded by taking a "holding" penalty. Shep is fine, good to see Fedoruk endear himself to his teammates and the fans.

Season series
Overall: Wild lead 2-1-0 (Wild 8 GF, Blues 6 GF)
In Minny: Wild 1-1-0 (Wild 5 GF, Blues 5 GF)
In St. Louis: Wild 1-0-0 (Wild 3 GF, Blues 1 GF)

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Would like to see more of a killer instinct, particularly in these intra-conference games, like earlier in the season.

POLLYANNA SAYS: The BBR Me ASAP Line was back with style!

BOTTOM LINE: The Wild earned their first-ever winning November with the win - which is amazing considering how the month started.

STUD: Rolston is a huge cog in the Wild's wheel. Without him it's ugly, with him...well it's a win over St. Louis.

DUD: Moore was, again, worthless. 2-for-7 at the dot, nothing noteworthy anywhere else either. It stinks that we're forced to play him with the injuries at the center position.


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