Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gm # 33: Wild vs. Predators (2/4)

On November 23rd, the Wild was spanked by the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 in St. Paul. That loss dropped their record to 11-9-2. That's significant because it was the closest to 0.500 the team has been since the season started. At that point, they had lost nine-of-fifteen and squandered every once of momentum from a 7-0-1 start. There were injuries and inconsistencies, and the team was playing mediocre-at-best hockey. In the eleven games since then the Wild has played three awful games, losing to the Flyers, Red Wings and Sharks. But...those three losses have been largely mitigated by the eight wins the team has to balance out that time frame.

Last night the Wild beat the swooning Predators 3-2, coming back from a 2-goal deficit to win for the first time in twelve opportunities this season. In fact, of those twelve times where the Wild trailed by two goals in a game, they had only come back to tie it up twice before this. It was also only the Wild's second win of the season when the opposition scored first in the game (thirteen opportunities). Coming into the game, the Wild's record when trailing after one period was 1-7-1. Trailing after two periods: 2-9-1. Trailing anytime in the game: 3-12-2. In short, when the score was 2-0 Preds after the second period, this game should have been over. But it wasn't.

Gaborik continued his hot play with a goal one-second after a third-period-starting forty-second power play expired. Belanger would tie it up, and then Rolston would pick up the GWG, for his 600th NHL point, no less. The BBR line played pretty strong all game, and the Mario Bros. line also had a few strong shifts. Josh Harding was solid again, and Skoula made up for an horrendous gaffe that lead to the Preds first goal with a better effort as the game went along. Only Foy and Moore stood out to me as not really contributing, but that's nothing new.

So, what does all this mean? Hopefully it means that the Wild are starting to find the same kind of mojo that launched their incredible second half last season. Being able to come back and win games is hugely important to a team that scores as infrequently as they do. The belief that you're not out of it regardless of the score or how much time is left - call it magic, arrogance, whatever - can be a powerful force on the bench. It's that kind of confidence that this team has been lacking all season. If last night's game is a sign that it's starting to come around, then that would be the best Christmas present Wild fans could hope for (besides the return of a healthy Koivu).

Season series
Overall: Wild lead 2-0-0 (GF 7, GA 5)
In Minny: 1-0-0 (GF 3, GA 2)
In Nashville: 1-0-0 (GF 4, GA 2)

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Giving up a PPG to the 29th-ranked PP unit stings.

POLLYANNA SAYS: Not a lot to not like in that one.

BOTTOM LINE: It's only two points in the standings, but the how is very encouraging.

STUD: Scoring the GWG for a milestone career point is always good enough to get the stud, Rolston.

DUD: Foy took two stupid penalties, one of which lead to a PPG for Nashville. Not good enough, kid.


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