Wild, in a game tabbed as "must-win," crushed on Long Island
- Blog Post by: Michael Russo
- March 3, 2011 - 8:22 AM
Update with Gillies video on bottom:
OK, forget everything I said the other night.
Got lot of tweets tonight with people saying in a similar way, "You can't expect to make the playoffs and lose to the Islanders."
Hey, I get what you're saying.
But that's too simplistic. Pittsburgh got humiliated by the Islanders a few weeks ago. LA, a team 13-2-3 in its past 18, lost to the Islanders. They're a team with no pressure coming together like out-of-playoff teams often do annually at the end of seasons.
But this is a team with great, dare I use this word, "chemistry" right now, and they're a young team, a fast team, and a team that has a chance to be real good down the line. John Tavares will be a star. Frans Nielsen, I've heard how good he was. Tonight I saw it. Kyle Okposo, I felt, was one of the best players on the ice tonight. Not only did he score a goal and assist, he destroyed the first minute of the Wild's 3-minute major PP. Blake Comeau looks to me to be a great player. Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, these are good players, although they weren't very noticeable tonight.
So as I walked over to the rink tonight, I thought, boy, if the Wild thinks this will be easy, it won't.
But the Wild didn't even put in the effort. For a team I usually feel puts in the effort, if Wild players think their work tonight was anywhere close to what they put in last week in LA and Anaheim, they've got to review the tape.
At least the players all admitted after the game they stunk.
The Wild, the first couple shifts, had long forechecks. But each time they couldn't score, New York flew out of the zone with speed. I felt the Wild, maybe pressing because of the pressure to get off to a good start, was cheating offensively.
But then the Isles scored a couple goals and the Wild unraveled.
It didn't help that Niklas Backstrom probably helped destroy any hope of a comeback with a horrible goal 41 seconds into the second. Like the second goal against Chicago, Backstrom just dropped a harmless shot and Comeau made it 3-0 with his second goal.
Todd Richards, even though Jose Theodore is scheduled to start against the Rangers, had to pull Backstrom for Jose Theodore.
Then Trevor Gillies, in his first game back from a 9-game suspension and on his fourth shift, checked Cal Clutterbuck from behind, was given the boot and the Wild got a 3-minute major (less 2 because Clutterbuck first boarded an Islander whose name I'm tired of spelling).
The check from behind was, by the way, a direct blow to Clutterbuck's head, one that should earn Gillies another suspension. I've said it often, so I'll say it again. The guy's a thug and shouldn't be allowed to play hockey. More on Clutterbuck near the bottom of the blog.
Regardless, the major was a disaster.
So while everything was looking some good a week ago, the entire complexion of this team looks different now:
1. Their goalie has struggled the last 2 games.
2. They can't score.
3. Mikko Koivu is out another 2 weeks probably, they look dead without him (2-3-1, losers of three of four) and his linemates, Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen, are doing nothing offensively (Richards said that line, with Matt Cullen, will be broken up vs. the Rangers).
4. And, the Wild did nothing to add at the trade deadline. We explained why the other day, but it's still a fact regardless.
Now it seems like doom and gloom, which makes Thursday's game at the Rangers an absolute must. As Kyle Brodziak, who was not good tonight, said, the slide must end now.
Players have to play better. Another guy who has just struggled the last couple games is Marek Zidlicky. He looks tentative, has been defensively all over the place and has one assist and no goals in seven games from coming back from a shoulder injury he probably couldn't be playing with.
I'll be interested to see if Clutterbuck is OK. He finished the game from the Gillies hit, but he looked off to me after the game and said he wasn't feeling the greatest. And remember, concussions symptoms often show later. See: Antti Miettinen from the Dustin Brown hit earlier this season. Did I mention Gillies is a thug?
The Wild is having an extremely optional skate in the morning with few coaches even, so I'll blog most likely before the game next and update the blog if there's any news.
I'll be on XM204 and the NHL Network live in-studio Thursday at 12:20 CT, 1:20 ET.
Huge game now with a team who looks a shell of what it was just a week ago. This is a conference where the Wild can put itself out of it very quickly with a few more losses. Times are critical now.
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