By Michael Russo
First, allegedly huge off-ice news about to explode out of Montreal on Friday, so be sure to keep an eye on that.
As for this game, I’ll just repeat my lead to my gamer: Not good enough.
Sorry, but the Wild can’t be happy taking one point any more. Here’s why. Top-seven in the West are saying buh-bye.
Dallas, in seventh in the West, is now five points ahead of the Wild. Fifth- and sixth-place Columbus and Vancouver are now six points ahead of the Wild.
As those teams distance themselves, it makes the margin for error really small. The good news is eighth-place Edmonton lost in regulation tonight, so the Oilers are two points ahead of the Wild, and the Wild has two games in hand. Remember though, Anaheim is still one point ahead of the Wild (Wild has three games in hand), and people are approaching from the rear.
But the real reason why this wasn’t good enough is the way the Wild came out. Calgary scored a fluky goal early when Rene Bourque tried to hit Jarome Iginla, but Andrew Brunette put it back on his stick. But it was a sorta pick your poison moment because if Brunette doesn’t get his stick there, it’s on Iginla’s with a gaping net from point-blank.
Regardless, that goal sucked the life out of the Wild early. So in a game that needed desperation and urgency, the Wild took no shots in the first 10 minutes, and registered just one shot in the third period.
Both teams were playing real cautious in that final period. In fact, I wrote a little about this in my Sunday column, but late in the season, teams play very conservative in tie games in the third period in hopes of at least securing one point. But this was a bit ridiculous. And I know everybody always wants to blame everything on the defensive Wild, but get a game tape. In my mind, it was the Flames playing five guys back most of the time, and it was effective because the Wild couldn’t get over center-ice.
Here’s the problem: The Wild needs two points. Remember, the Wild took ONE shot in the third, yet many players in the Wild room seemed to think they played a great third. Can I have dillusional for 200, Alex?
Not Niklas Backstrom, a very frustrated Niklas Backstrom. He was not happy at all the way the team played in front of him in the third.
Most goalies give the politically correct “my job is to stop the puck” answers when asked about the way his team played, but Backstrom is increasingly going after his mates recently.
This time he said, and in my mind correctly, “I don’t know what happened, why we stayed back. We can’t be afraid about mistakes. In hockey, you rather skate wrong than stand wrong.”
He also added about the lulls, “Second period was great hockey. Last 10 of the first was good hockey. We can play some good hockey, but we have to do it from start to end. If you can play 30 minutes out of a game, there’s no reason you can’t play 60 minutes.”
I’d say he’s dead-on. Now to be fair, this was a weird game. …
It seemed whichever team scored was inflated and whichever team was scored against was deflated. For instance, there was a 15-minute span late in the first and for much of the second where Calgary didn’t register a single shot.
This, of course, was in the middle of the Wild’s rally from a 1-0 deficit to a 2-1 lead on goals by Dan Fritsche (his first with Minnesota, and shorthanded) and rookie Colton Gillies. By the way, I didn’t get a good look, but if Calgary’s telling it the way it is, the league could be looking at the Fritsche goal sequence.
Kim Johnsson left the zone with the puck after Fritsche knocked Rene Bourque to the ice. Bourque sustained a high-ankle sprain on the play, and Mike Keenan accused Fritsche of slew-footing him. If true, that’s suspendable. If true. I didn’t see it well enough.
The Flames hit three posts in the game (Adrian Aucoin before his fluky OT winner, Jarome Iginla and Matthew Lombardi); the Wild hit one (Stephane Veilleux).
By the way, some bigtime passengers tonight. Marek Zidlicky had one of his worst games. Every time he was on the ice in the first turned into a near disaster, and it was his frail check on Bourque that eventually led to the first goal. He played just a little more than 10 minutes. Also, it’s getting to the point that Pierre-Marc Bouchard might have to be scratched against Calgary. I’m saying that sorta tongue and cheek, but his one career goal against the Flames is an indictment. He played a bigtime peripheral game against the tight-checking Flames, and tonight he was dodging checks left and right.
As for Brunette, it looked to me he aggravated that right MCL strain from last month. He’s played 509 consecutive games, but after he surprisingly played last month with the injury, I won’t jump to any conclusions on here again. But his Iron Man streak could be in jeopardy. Officially, the Wild is calling it a lower body injury.
Incidentally, 2008 first-round pick Tyler Cuma, who just had left knee surgery and is likely out for the season with the Ottawa 67s, sat in the press box at tonight’s game. He’ll likely be here for awhile. He spent part of the second chatting with GM Doug Risebrough, who often comes out of his booth and talks with his players who are in the press box.
Ok, that’s it for me. I’ll be gone all weekend attending a friend’s wedding, but you’re in good hands with Stencils.
OK, Colton Gillies in for the Wild, Derek Boogaard out. For the Flames, Wild killer Daymond Langkow is out with a bruised hand and Andre Roy with a concussion.
OK, be back after the game. Good luck to the media.
If you’re interested, from the Wild:
MINNESOTA WILD FANS TO SELECT GREATEST MINNESOTA BOYS’ HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY TEAM OF ALL-TIME
SAINT PAUL/MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Beginning at this Thursday’s game against Calgary and continuing through the end of the regular season, Minnesota Wild fans will have the chance to select the greatest Minnesota boys’ high school hockey team of all-time. The winner of Minnesota Hockey Greats, presented by AT&T, will be announced Friday, April 10, at the Wild’s Fan Appreciation Night. Fans can see the full bracket via the Fan Zone on Wild.com.
There are 10 teams in the competition, which will begin Thursday when the 1996 Apple Valley Eagles take on the 2001 Elk River Elks. The other first-round match-up is 1993 Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars versus the 2004 Centennial-Circle Pines Cougars.
Teams already seeded in the quarterfinals are the 1947 St. Paul Johnson Governors, the 1966 International Falls Broncos, the 1974 Edina East Hornets, the 1983 Hill-Murray Pioneers, the 1959 Roseau Rams and the 1950 Eveleth Golden Bears.
All matchups start at noon of the date listed and end at noon on the day of the next home game. When voting opens, text the nickname of the team you would like to vote for to short code “83281”. Standard text messaging rates apply. Winner will be announced Friday, April 10.