By Michael Russo
Good morning from Vancouver, where I finally have a flight home today.
To use the old Brian Rolston line, “It is what it is.”
There’s not much more I can say about this road trip. The Wild returned home after Saturday’s 2-1 loss with a 1-6 record, an 0-5 string on the 11-day trip and an 0-6 road record this season.
If you watched the game, it’s obvious what happened. Wild was outshot 39-18. It lacked any sort of energy after the first period. It seemed everything (the road trip, the fact they are so depleted with so many injuries, the fact they had to kill three penalties in the first 30 minutes) caught up to it and the energy was just drained.
No legs. They’re forwards, especially. The Wild couldn’t get on a forecheck and got into severe chip-it-out, change mode. The one time they couldn’t chip it out and change was when fourth-liners Nathan Smith and Derek Boogaard got trapped on the ice with dmen Greg Zanon and Marek Zidlicky.
And sadly for Nik Backstrom, as good as he played (he was unbelievable and would have been annihilated if not for him), Ryan Kesler’s shot from the side of the net caromed in off his pads because he was covering the far post with his stick. He said if he had his stick in front, no chance the puck gets in.
Then, James Sheppard took a roughing penalty, and Mikael Samuelsson scored the winner on an early third-period power play. It wasn’t a very good penalty by Sheppard. I always find merit when you clear guys in front of the net, but two problems with this clear: 1) The puck was nowhere near the front of the net. It was in the corner. 2) He punched him three times in the back of the net and finally to the ice.
It’s nice to see Sheppard get a little mean on the ice, but you’ve got to pick your spots, and the spot wasn’t with the puck not around the net.
For instance, Benoit Pouliot took a roughing penalty earlier in the game. The big difference? To me, it was a good penalty. Maybe Pouliot got a little overly aggressive, but three Canucks were swatting at a loose puck in front of Nik Backstrom. You’ve got to clear bodies. Pouliot did the way players do it umpteen times a game. He just got nailed. The Wild killed the penalty, and like I said, from my standpoint, good for Pouliot. He’s played two real good games in a row because he’s skating, parking in front of the net in the offensive zone and being physical.
But the difference between Sheppard’s penalty and Pouliot’s was there was no scramble on the Sheppard penalty. No puck. In other words, he wasn’t protecting his goalie on a scoring chance. He just wanted Bolduc out of the crease, which is again OK, but not with the puck not there and not by repeatedly punching him until he falls.
It was mistake, and regardless of the power-play goal though, the Wild had three cracks on the power play to tie it in the final 16 minutes and couldn’t.
I’m not sure exactly when the Wild got its 10th shot, but it had eight at least through the first few minutes of the third period.
So, again, no legs. Now what? I don’t know. Hopefully the team gets Marty Havlat and Petr Sykora back Wednesday. Both skated earlier Saturday.
The team took a day off Sunday. Then, back to the drawing board with Colorado — red-hot Colorado who also is on a very difficult road trip only the Avs actually won games — coming to town.
I am off until Wednesday thank goodness. I need it after 11 days away. You’ll hear from Rachel Blount on Monday and Tuesday.