What is it with the Caps? The only team yet to win at the X. They’re good, no doubt about it. Considerably better and more upper-end talent than the Wild. No one in their right mind would challenge that. They just…can’t win in St. Paul.
Tonight’s game had several smaller storylines that were interesting to me, but the one big one was the play of Niklas Backstrom. Er, the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom. The Finnish one. The one in the big leg pads with the trapper on his left hand. Speaking of that trapper, it was but one manifestation of his complete unconsciousness last night. A couple ridiculous side-to-side saves on good shots, a couple filthy glove saves. Good rebound control all night. Made all the easy saves, and all-but-one of the rest of ‘em too (Ovie’s goal was from the top of the circles, but dude shoots so hard I’m not willing to say any of his shots are “easy” saves.) Bax has been carrying the Wild since they got back from Finland (I thought he let in a couple softies over there – pressure of playing on “home” turf perhaps?) and has deserved a better fate overall – including last night when he certainly played well enough to earn the goose egg.
Know who else had a good game? Mikko. Huh.....let’s see, what was different last night that…..Mittens wasn’t in the lineup/glued to Mikko’s side! No, multiple Art Ross finalist Chuck Kobasew made a re-appearance with Mikko and Bruno and got right back to his goal-scoring ways with those two. Funny.
Look, I’m sure Mittens is a great guy, sure is a snappy dresser and all. But he has no business being on any NHL #1 line. Well, as a Wild fan, I wouldn't mind if he was on, say, the Avs #1 line. Or the Flames? But they only sign guys they've signed at least once before, so that wouldn't happen. So, yeah, the Avs.
Mittens simply isn’t offensive enough. Well, I mean, he’s offensive. His lack of offense is offensive. I understand he and Mikko are BFFs (how do you say “bosom buddies” in Finnish?) but Mikko, as the captain, has to look out for the best interests of the team. If he and Mittens have all this chemistry, it sure ain’t amounting to much right now. So it’s time for Mikko to let his friend go – even if it means Mittens falls to the 2nd, 3rd or 4th line….in Houston. Or in Finland, I don’t care. Eventually Rose had to let go of Jack’s hand, and it hurt, you know? To watch him sink down into his icy grave? You just don' t forget pain like that, you guys. So maybe Mikko can go out and buy Mittens a really, really, nice necklace and then nod at Richards and wipe a tear from his cheek as he watches his friend – his brother, really – slide on down, down, down into the briny deep. To his destiny. [cue the French-Canadian chanteuse. "Near….faarrrrrrr….."] When Kobasew actually finished one of Bruno’s golden opportunities, Bruno had to have been thinking “finally.”
And Wellman. I just went off on this over at GTRCMBSHP. I like Wellman. I really do. But I think Wild fans are letting their overwhelming need for something, anything to come along and engage them with this team again over-state Wellman’s actual abilities at this point. He’s basically a mirror image of Havlat out there right now. (Hint: that’s somewhat less than the end-all, be-all.) If he can be put into situations where he can develop (his shot, for one thing) with the big club, great. Keep him, play him and we’ll all deal with the growing pains because he’s a fun player to watch and he seems like a good kid with his head screwed on straight. But, if Richards can’t get him enough TOI – and in the “right” situations – then send him back to Houston where he has a better chance of that. If the Wild’s going to be a mediocre team with or without him, and he CAN’T get the experience he would need to develop like we want with the big club, then, when everyone's healthy again, send him down.
Zanon. Man do I respect that dude. He’s earned it during his tenure with the Wild. But…..he has really struggled on balance this season. He’s flubbing clearing attempts, he’s taking or leading to penalties. He’s just….not on top of his game. He nailed OV and Mike Green last night, so I was hopeful he was finally back. But then there was that brutal shift in the third (IIRC) where he blew not-one-but-two clearing attempts that kept the Wild pinned in its own zone for a loooooong time. We need him to get back to his awesome, dominating, block-a-shot-with-his-last-tooth ways.
Finally, Martin Havlat was still a non-factor.