The Wild, 4-1-1 in its previous six and winners of two in a row, couldn’t make it three in a row for the first time this season tonight when it lost 3-1 to the Calgary Flames.
I said to a few people the last few days that I would believe the Wild’s hot streak was for real if it found a way to get four points against the downtrodden Calgary Flames in a home-and-home. But this is the Wild, and its M.O. as long as I’ve covered them is to not take advantage of the teams it should take advantage of when it must.
Tonight was just so typical. Get into the top-8 with a great second and third period in Edmonton, strut into Calgary like you’ve actually accomplished something and then completely abandon what made you successful in Edmonton. Now one loss later, it finds itself in 11th again because every team in the West is basically jammed around the same spot in the standings.
Coach Mike Yeo was ticked after the game. The game started well even though the Wild found itself down 1-0. It played a good first 14 minutes of the first period, got the puck up ice well, buzzed line after line, actually created some sustained attacks. Then a momentum-killing power play for a team that is now 3 for 34 the last 12 games, and the game went south in a hurry.
Yeo felt the Wild tried to get into a skating game with the Flames, and that’s not the Wild’s game. It’s not going to win track meets with star-studded teams, let alone Mike Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay, Jiri Hudler and even speedsters like Curtis Glencross.
Yeo wants more discipline like Nashville and Phoenix does it. Just look at the amount of odd-man rushes and breakaways the Wild gave up tonight. That is not typical of the Wild.
When the Wild is good -- and when the Wild was good tonight – it’s because it gets pucks in behind the D and begins to go to work. The Wild’s fourth line was by far the best line tonight, and that, with all due respect to them, is not a good thing.
Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, who are in mammoth dry spells the last dozen games, each had one shot tonight and Koivu a bunch of turnovers. Dany Heatley was a minus-3 and was taken off the first line for Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who had a good first half of the game and set up Charlie Coyle’s first NHL goal. Yeo defended Heatley after the game despite struggles (legs and hands have slowed) that are evident to everybody watching.
After jumping out to a 13-5 shot lead and earning that first power play, the Wild stopped doing all the things that made it successful. It stopped shooting pucks and that filtered into a poorly-played, scoreless second. The third actually started OK, but then you could feel the game turn. A couple bad shifts, especially one by the second line, created that track meet again and boom Matt Stajan made it 2-1 against the third line (Brodziak, Heatley, Coyle with defensemen Suter and Brodin).
The lowest scoring team in the NHL would not recover. I’ve got to wake up in 4 ½ hours for a flight, so that’s it for me. The Wild is off Sunday. Talk Monday barring news.