And the funeral march, indeed, starts for the Minnesota Wild.
Led by Martin Skoula and his two give-aways which wound up in the Wild net, the Wild succumbed to the aggressive forecheck of the Calgary Flames and lost 3-2 in the Pengrowth Saddledome late Saturday night, running their record on 'Hockey Night in Canada' to a dismal 1-3 and forcing the Wild to face reality:
No playoffs for the 'Team of 18,000' this spring, as the Wild lose their fifth straight to the Flames (0-3-2) and are within one game -- tonight's game at Edmonton's Rexall Place -- of going 'O-fer-Alberta' in 2008-09.
Skoula's brain fart sequence, in which he cleared the puck directly onto the stick of Calgary's Jamie Lundmark who scored the first Calgary goal, then lost the puck to Todd Bertuzzi who set up Daymond Langkow for the second Calgary goal, was classic 'Skouba' in all its' glory. Then, in a crowning 'achievement' of 'Skouba' proportions, the change on the fly between Skoula and Nick Schultz somehow got fouled up, allowing Wild killer extraordinaire Jarome Iginla and Eric Nystrom in, 2-on-1, against Kim Johnsson. Iginla's pass to the streaking Nystrom was spot on, and Nystrom wasted no time in beating Backstrom for the eventual game winner. If this 'effort' by Skoula doesn't convince Wild management that Martin really needs a change of scenery, I really want to know what pictures he has, of whom, in what compromising positions.
How bad was it last night? In the third period -- when the Wild should have been the most desperate -- they went the first six minutes with only one shot on goal against Mikka Kiprusoff, who once again had another easy win vs. Calgary's favorite chew toy. The Wild only managed 15 shots against Kiprusoff, who recorded his 24th win vs. his favorite opponent. By contrast, Niklas Backstrom -- who really didn't have a heckuva lot of help in front of him a good part of the evening -- had to face 40 shots, many of those second and third chances as the Wild defense looked totally out-of-place as wave after wave of the 'C of Red' washed over the Wild crease.
Chicken Little: No Burns, no Koivu, no wonder Bouchard said he had a headache and couldn't play. I wouldn't play either if I knew my best two players were both on the shelf. And then, there's 'Skouba' rearing his head again.
Pollyanna: Wasn't Backstrom great?
Bottom Line: The Wild are, indeed, done like dinner. Time to clean house. No playoffs, no more excuses. DR and Tom Lynn need to go. Get someone in who will actually give Jacques Lemaire (if he'll agree to stay) the talent necessary to compete, not just be on the cusp season after season.
Stud: Backstrom. The only player who showed up ready to play.
Dud: Martin Skoula. 'Skouba' is back, everybody! Woo-hoo! Now we all can plan tee times!
Next: at Edmonton, Sunday (today), 7 PM Central (6 PM Mountain) Time, Rexall Place. (TV: FSNorth (including FSWisconsin), Rogers SportsNet-West (in HD); XM NHL Home Ice, Ch. 204)
WRT (planning his non-hockey spring vacation)