Friday, November 20, 2009

Game #22: Minnesota 3, Islanders 2


I've never really entirely bought into the "injuries can't be used as an excuse" theory. If it's one injury, maybe two, then it's a little more valid. It takes more than one player to make a team, after all.

But there's a point where injuries become a reason if they're plentiful enough. For a team that's already low on offensive talent, missing players like Petr Sykora, Martin Havlat and late-scratch Brent Burns makes for an even lesser lineup. Call-ups from the AHL can go only so far.

When that happens, contributions from role players are even more important. And at this point in his career, that's what Owen Nolan can best be described as, and he came through with a very good overall game, netting two goals, including the winner with 1:07 remaining to lift the Wild over the Islanders, 3-2, Friday night.

Wild offense: Mikko Koivu's power play goal probably helped the masses forget a woeful Minnesota power play that went 1-for-5 but failed to convert on a lengthy 5-on-3 in the second period. The losses of players mentioned above certainly results in a less-than-dangerous power play.

Wild defense: On the other hand, Minnesota's penalty killing was stellar, stopping all six New York chances, including one that came with four minutes remaining in the third. Nick Schultz and Marek Zidlicky each blocked three shots overall.

Isles offense: Puzzling. Matt Moulson leads the team with 10 goals but I didn't see him out there on the top power play, especially late in the game. Yes, I'm a disgruntled fantasy owner. Moulson still had five shots, but New York's only contributions on the score sheet came from role players Jon Sim and Josh Bailey.

Isles defense: Eek. Don't leave your man until the puck for sure gets out of the zone. On Nolan's second goal, there was nary a soul around him. He had time to discuss with Martin Biron where Nolan would shoot, and predict the exact spot and hit said spot.

Leader: Nolan without a question. Not only did he score twice, but he had a key blocked shot on a late penalty kill.

Lagger: Kyle Okposo's return to St. Paul went less than ideal. He had three shots but also had several good scoring chances and missed each one. Bury one and it's a different game.

Stud: Not sure how popular this choice will be, but Kim Johnsson logged 31:48 of ice time, a good 5:59 more than anyone else in the game. With the absence of Burns and the 17 minutes Shane Hnidy was off the ice, Todd Richards needed someone to log big minutes.

Dud: He is just a kid, but whither John Tavares? Did not notice him much.

Turning point: Hard not to say Nolan's second goal. It came off a bad giveaway and it came late enough that the Islanders didn't have much time to make a comeback.

Key play: Eric Belanger's keep-in - or Blake Comeau's giveaway, depends on perspective - at the blue line that set up Nolan's winner.

The Assembled Multitude spoke:

Chicken Little: So we beat the Islanders. Barely. On home ice. Color me not so impressed.

Pollyanna: But we did it without a lot of regulars! And the Islanders have played some good hockey lately. Gritty, character win. Doesn't have to be pretty.

Bottom line: And it wasn't pretty, but it's two points in the books. No Havlat, no Burns. A fickle, cynical fan might say their absences helped the team (that is a collective minus-25 not in the lineup, after all) but it's not easy winning games when a lot of players relied upon to produce offense aren't playing.

Next: Some lengthy time off to prepare for Boston coming to town Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. CT on KSTC and XM 238.

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