Evening from the X, where I’m going to try to make this quick because I’ve been at the arena since 10 a.m.
The Wild lost for the third time in 13 games today with a 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in front of the first sellout crowd since opening night. That ended the Wild’s 17-game home win streak against the Oil -- a stretch that dated back to Jan. 2007, or a month before Barack Obama announced his candidacy for presidency.
That means the NHL’s longest active home win streak belongs to Dallas, which hasn’t lost to the Wild at American Airlines Center 14 games.
Yes, I’ve been the Wild beat writer for the Strib since 2005 and I’ve never seen a Minnesota win there.
This was actually the second time in six days in the NHL that a 17-game home win streak was extinguished.
Columbus won in Nashville on Saturday for the first time since April 3, 2006.
--As the Oilers showed today, this is a new era.
The Oilers being cemented on the bottom of the standings? That’s yesterday’s Oilers, and all that misery got them was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (two goals) and Taylor Hall (goal and assist). Jordan Eberle, often overshadowed, was great with two assists, and Ryan Smyth continued his resurrection with a goal and assist. He now has 12 goals. Shawn Horcoff also had a goal and an assist.
The Wild was simply sloppy for several stretches of this game. You’re playing with fire when you turn the puck over to the young and fast Oilers, and the Wild let them come with speed many, many times because of poor puck placement or giveaways.
That put the defensemen under attack a lot, with coach Mike Yeo saying that’s why the gaps of the Wild’s blue-liners were pretty off and why their one-and-one coverage was less than stellar.
Justin Falk and Nate Prosser had tough nights. They were on for three goals. On the first, Falk pushed Jordan Eberle wide, but he spun and centered a pass as Smyth took Prosser for a ride.
The fourth goal, which effectively ended any hope of another Wild third-period rally, Prosser couldn’t hold the offensive blue line and Falk fell as Ales Hemsky hit Horcoff.
--The first and second goals (Smyth and Nugent-Hopkins), one Josh Harding was pushed in his net, the other Sam Gagner was sitting on Harding. But the refs didn’t blow either down for impeding with Harding’s ability to make a save.
“I thought the refs could have helped me out a little bit,” Harding said. “With Smyth, I don’t know where he ended up, but I felt like I was in my net. That’s the breaks you get when you go to the net hard.”
--On the Harding subject by the way, I’m making a personal editorial judgment right now. The other night I told you I’m going to respect Niklas Backstrom’s wishes and not report why he missed the game vs. Nashville. He’s a private person and said “it’s not hockey.”
But tonight he didn’t start even though he’s 15-0 all-time at home vs. the Oilers with a 1.19 goals against average and .954 save percentage. I’ve been asked a lot on Twitter why he didn’t start, and then after the game, I saw a bunch of people were ripping Mike Yeo for not starting Backstrom.
I just think it’s unfair, so I’ll make the decision now to say Backstrom became a father Wednesday night and the coaching staff felt he didn’t have the energy to start today after a couple long nights.
Like I said, I want to respect Backstrom’s wishes, but to me now, the fact he didn’t start against the team he annihilates requires a legitimate explanation for the fans.
--Back to the game, the Devin Setoguchi-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley line had a tough night offensively and defensively. Offensively, Nikolai Khabibulin kept stoning them. Heatley was stopped five times and had 11 shots attempted. Setoguchi and Koivu were stopped twice each. They were also on for three goals each.
Like I said, Falk and Prosser had tough nights, and with Mike Lundin anxiously awaiting his Wild debut, one has to wonder if he now gets his shot. Also, Greg Zanon’s itching to return. But Lundin I believe is closer.
“We’ve been playing good hockey together and a couple bad breaks tonight where the puck ends up in the net, you learn from it but you don’t want to hinder on it too much,” Falk said. “Why let a couple bad plays drag into something bigger?”
Yeo said, “I’m not going to point the finger at [the young] guys. As a team tonight, we didn’t do enough things to deserve to win the hockey game.”
--Obviously, a huge story line in this game was the drama between Darcy Hordichuk and Brad Staubitz throughout. Hordichuk, an 11-year vet, goaded Staubitz, a four-year vet, into eight minutes of penalties in the first period. Remember, Staubitz averages six minutes a night. Edmonton scored on one of the power plays.
Remember also, there’s a rematch Wednesday in Edmonton, so that should be interesting. I got Hordichuk for a one-on-one interview after the game, so check out the notebook on www.startribune.com/wild on the Hordichuk-Staubitz duel later Friday evening or Saturday.
Anyway, that’s it for me. Kent Youngblood is graciously covering practice for me on Saturday as I take the day off and try to rev up for an insane schedule on the horizon, particularly in terms of travel.
I’ll be back with you Sunday, which will be an emotional evening here at the X as the Wild pays tribute to the late Derek Boogaard. Most of Boogaard’s family will be in attendance. The pregame video is very well put together and touching.
--One thing I did chop a good chunk of from the notebook is the below note, which made for some good pregame comedy:
Yeo wasn’t pleased with an Edmonton Sun column that took a couple potshots at the best defensive team in the NHL.
“I read one of their articles and apparently we still have a lot of work to do in changing our identity because one of their writers says that we are bad for the game and horrible to watch because of our passive 1-4 forecheck, so I really enjoyed reading that this morning,” Yeo said.
The Wild don’t play a 1-4 forecheck, but Yeo said sarcastically, “We’re going to have to adjust our 1-4 forecheck today apparently.”
Yeo later added sarcastically, “We’re going to go out and play Minnesota Wild ice hockey … as boring as that is. … I don’t think that a lot of people that have come to watch the Minnesota Wild, especially people that are fans of our team, would say that we’re boring.”
Good night everyone!
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