Monday, December 17, 2007

Gm # 32: Wild @ Kings (2/4)

The Wild had every reason to lay down in this one. Played the night before, half the team still getting over the flu, last night of a road trip... That they didn't, and indeed played an almost text-book road game, is perhaps more encouraging than the 2-1 outcome in their favor.

Compounding the difficulty of the task at hand, the refs (McGeough and Joannette) decided to hand out a grand total of 18 penalties (nine power plays for each side). This rendered the top-end guys nearly catatonic from exhaustion by the end of the game.

Gaborik continued his strong play of late with a first period goal off a breakaway set up by Skoula and Johnsson. He takes a lot of heat for his ineffectiveness on the shootout, and this is why - he can clearly beat goalies 1:1, so why doesn't he do it when there's no threat of being checked? Weird.

Perhaps not to the extent of the night before, but I thought Johnsson and Skoula both had solid games, including some timely pinching and a couple nice hits.

The biggest story line of the night was that Brent Burns had to play wing since the team was still so sick, and at the max allowable number of players. He was very, very strong - which might incite another round of "he's struggling on defense, move him back to wing" from the pundits - though it shouldn't. It is very nice to have the option of playing him there, but I think he has a higher ceiling as an all-zone defenseman than as a winger.

The other big story was the excellent play of Josh Harding, after his strong game the night before. Even moreso than in the Fowl game, Harding was square to the puck with great anticipation of when and from where the shot was going to come. He was very poised, and it was too bad he didn't get a shutout for his efforts.

I know the Kings aren't the Red Wings, but heading home with a 3-2 record on this road trip - the longest of the season, and when the two losses were SO bad - is a minor miracle. Now, with 6-of-8 at home and the rest of the division hot on their heels, the Wild needs to find that home attitude and keep up this new-found strong team play.

Season series
Overall: 1-0-1 (GF 6, GA 6)
In Minny: 0-0-0
In LA: 1-0-1 (GF 6, GA 6)

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: How 'bout dem Vikings?!

POLLYANNA SAYS: These last two games are arguably more satisfying than the season-opening 7-0-1 run since we're playing better overall.

BOTTOM LINE: Textbook road game, beating a team we should beat, despite some adversity.

STUD: Harding. B2B wins for the kid, a better goalie game the second night. Made a strong case to get more starts immediately.

DUD: Moore continues to underwhelm. Nothing positive to mention, and 3-10 on the dots. If we ever get a couple centers I hope he's on the first plane out of town.


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