KiPA's best efforts notwithstanding, Niklas Backstrom continued to keep a tidy goal last night against the powerful and recently-hot Sharks. And, and this is perhaps THE critical distinction from Bax' previous great efforts this season, the Wild played strong team defense in front of him. Top to bottom, for more or less the whole night. Yes, the Sharks got a ton of rubber in on Bax, but most of those shots were from low-percentage areas and few of them were the deadly secondary or tertiary chances. The Wild did a great job of forcing shots to the outside and mitigating interlopers to the slot. And, against the Sharks that's no small feat.
It's tempting to use the Sharks overall offensive prowess to blow this game up to where it looks better than it should, if you're a Wild fan. And the Wild absolutely played well - you don't shut out the Sharks if you don't.
But, frankly, the issue with the Wild is that they needed a "special effort" to put this kind of game together. If they consistently played this well in their own zone, their offensive shortcomings, and a lot of the bitching directed at the Wild for them, would go away.
So now we know. We know Richards and his staff can prepare the team to play this well. We know the players can execute this kind of game plan, on the defensive side. Okay, we don't know if they can score enough to consistently WIN a game with this kind of defensive effort, but you can't have everything. But the point is that we KNOW the Wild possesses the building blocks on which good teams are based.
What we don't know is if they can utilize those building blocks to become a GOOD team.
Shutting out the Sharks shouldn't be a laurel on which the team or its fans rest. It should be a galvanizing moment for demanding consistency.
If I hear anything from the team that indicates they are "satisfied" with last night's game, I'm going to be disappointed. And, from the fans? Come on, shirley enough of you Minnesota sports fans have been burned by Minnesota teams by now to know better than that, right? Right??
Nega-tweaking Mikko. He's pressing or something. He's over-compensating or something. He's missing Antti or something. Something's going on though.
Posi-tweaking Justin Falk. Solid game last night. And he's got a do-si-do with Clowe in the bank for next time, having slipped on a stick at the outset of their set-to last night. As a matter of fact, for the Wild's supposed dearth of young talent, last night's roster included Falk, Wellman, and Gillies. And Stoner was manning the popcorn machine. Okay, so it's not LA or Colorado, but it's not all-bad either.
Posi-tweaking Cal. Had a more-effective game lats night than he's had in a while. He even got a solid hit in the NZ - his hallmark.
Quasi-posi-tweaking Havlat. His work feeding Bruno on the 5:3 was great. But he's still soft on the points in our zone, and half-assing it on the forecheck too often for a full posi-tweak. It's too bad he's got all this extra attention being paid to his game by casual fans (with a blog and a twitter account) like me.