Saturday, October 31, 2009

Game #14: Wild 2, Penguins 1


The Minnesota Wild are really going to miss Mellon Arena, after the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins move across the street to Consol Energy Center after this season.

They obviously love the Igloo, as the Wild's win streak in Pittsburgh extended to three straight as Eric Belanger's goal with :00.6 remaining in the first period stood up, thanks to a Herculean effort by Niklas Backstrom with 34 saves as the Wild beat the Pens 2-1 Saturday night for their second straight win in as many nights. The Wild are now 3-0 versus the Eastern Conference in 2009-10.

Belanger also did his best vampire victim imitation, after ex-Gopher Alex Goligoski slashed Belanger with less than two minutes remaining, which sent Belanger to the locker room bleeding profusely from the proboscis.

The Wild are now off until Thursday, Nov. 5th after a 4-3 record while playing 7 games in 11 nights.

Leader: Backstrom, no question. Tonight, he was spot on his game. He had to be. During the last 10 minutes, while the rest of the Wild were scrambling, he was steady. Tonight, he was money.

Lagger: Sidney Crosby. Lost his cool (with Marek Zidlicky, none the less!) and was assessed 9 minutes in penalties, on a Penguins team who was already playing three men short due to injuries. Not smart.

Stud: Martin Havlat. Assisted on Belanger's game winner, but what made him stand out was his game-saving hand-clear of a sure goal in the final minutes, as the Pens were buzzing around the Minnesota goal. Who says he's a one-dimensional player?

Dud: Really, no one on either side deserved dud-ism. It was a good game by both teams.

OK, Assembled Multitude, put down the candy and tell us what you're thinking...

Chicken Little: How can this Wild team stay so lucky? How??

Pollyanna: Two good games back-to-back by 'da boys.' When these guys really want to put in an effort, they can win, even against good teams.

Bottom Line: A nice way to get the proverbial 'Monkey off your back' by beating the defending champions in their house. Did anyone think a week ago we would be sitting here saying 'Wild winning streak'? (I didn't think so...)

Next: vs. Vancouver, Thursday, Nov. 5, 7:00 PM Central (5:00 PM Pacific) Standard Time, Xcel Energy Center. (TV: FSNorth (includes FSWisconsin) in HD, CityTV (Vancouver); XM Ch. TBA)


KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

Total agreement with those leader and laggers. Havlat the stud? OK, sure. You probably paid more attention to specific Wild players than I did. I didn't see who'd made that clear. Chicken Little is also dead-on.

Jordan Staal the dud though. Two games in, he is NOT handling his #2 center duties well. In his defense, his wingers suck and our lines are all out of whack with Malkin out. The loss of Tyler Kennedy is more glaring now. Staal's playing with guys he's rarely skated with, if ever, and someone like Ruslan Fedotenko isn't as good with Staal as his center instead of Malkin.

Having said that, Staal was still awful, particularly with the puck.

I'm ready for the Wild to never come to Pittsburgh again. Three of the worst losses in six years at home that I've seen have been to Minnesota.

WRT - Wild Road Tripper said...

Kevin: An old sports adage is, "Sometimes it's not who you play, but when." I think the Wild were lucky that they played the Pens when they did. If Geno (Malkin) is in the line-up, the outcome is a lot different.

The Minnesota TV replay showed Havlat making that clear with his open hand, just before Letang got to it with the net wide open.

Staal may have been ineffective, but he really didn't have that bad a night. If not for pissing off STK, I might have given a dud to Zidlicky (again) as his play was generally ineffective as well. But Zids redeemed himself by taking Sid out of the lineup for the first 1/4 of the third.

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

Yeah, we were probably a little lucky to get that win against Columbus Friday. Malkin's injury means, except for the top line, that we're still trying to figure out who plays with whom. I think Bylsma should take Kunitz off the top line and put him with Staal, not because Kunitz isn't playing well but because he and Staal showed a lot of chemistry when Kunitz was first acquired last season. At least until Kennedy comes back, then just re-unite the Cooke-Staal-Kennedy line and have that be the "second" unit. We were surviving Kennedy's injury before, but, like I said in the first post, it hurts more now that Malkin's out.

You saw something I didn't see in Staal. I saw him losing control of the puck a lot, missing a lot of chances near the net...he wants to be a No. 1 or 2 center, and he's being paid like a No. 2, which means he needs to start producing like one, especially with Malkin out, and show that he can carry an offensive line on his own. Maybe my expectations for him are just higher.

WRT - Wild Road Tripper said...

I guess it's a matter of perception, Kevin. You concentrated on the Pens, and I concentrated on the Wild. But, if Ray Shero wants to trade Staal, I'm sure he and Fletcher could swing something...if the Pens were willing to take some of the dead weight off our hands. ;)

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

Staal for Havlat. We need wingers.

WRT - Wild Road Tripper said...

Make it Staal for Bouchard, Zidlicky and the contract of Mark Parrish, and it's a deal...

Nah. Not even Ray Shero is that dumb.