image from espn.com
Well, I had a bad feeling about this game, and it was well grounded, but not the way I expected. I thought that the Wild had some great defensive specialists still on the team despite a change in philosophy. Well, the Wild didn’t play a good defensive game at all. I guess the game plan made much more of a difference than I thought. But, that’s what you get from a western conference team I don’t see very often. We certainly had our chances, but Nik Backstrom came up huge for the Wild tonight. Any time you out-shoot a team by 14 and still lose, you have to tip your cap to the opposing goalie.
But more specifically than not just cashing in on chances, the power play was the biggest reason we lost today. We went 0-6. 0. For. 6. That’s just inexcusable. Now, the power play is a well documented problem this year, and everyone seems to be chipping in their ideas as to how to fix it. That’s why I’ve been keeping a little mum with suggestions. But something has to change. I haven’t noticed any kind of mix-ups to try to fix this problem, and it’s beginning to be a gaping achilles heel. The only other major complaint I have from this game in Gonchar’s major penalty in the third period. Cal Clutterbuck gave him a nasty hit that he didn’t like. So, Sarge took a run at him and of course got caught for a major penalty and possibly a suspension for a hit to the head. Now, I’m aware of the hockey code, but that’s just dumb. He really hurt his team doing that. Luckily, the Wild couldn’t put it in the net on the ensuing 5 minute penalty, but it was still 5 minutes in the third period of a one goal hockey game that we weren’t able to really attack. Not to mention that a suspension is probably forthcoming which will hurt us even more. I know you can’t let stuff like that go or else it will keep happening to you, however, you have to pick your spots better. One last downer is that Malkin continues to disappear (he’s on a huge scoring drought if you’ve been living under a rock), but I’m not too worried. He’s always been hot and cold. He’ll be back eventually. Hopefully it’s in time for the playoffs.
Overall, it wasn’t a great result, but I liked the effort. We got a decent amount of pucks on net. We probably deserved the W. We just got some bad breaks, and the power play deserted us. That happens. Malkin will get better. That I’m sure of. The power play has no reason to be playing as bad as it is. I’d like to see some experimentation just for the sake of trying, but I haven’t the first clue of what to try. Just a bad day in general. It happens. But there was one bright spot. At least I could smile picturing how the Wild looked minty fresh in their alternate jerseys.
image from espn.com
Oh, wow. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. We just got through the second straight game where we had literally no spark on offense. We were just a non-threat. Period. I realize that we are dealing with some serious injury problems right now, but it’s time to call it like it is. This team has some serious problems right now. Coach Bylsma saw it. Hence all the line changes going into this game. Well, those didn’t work, either. We’re severely limited in our talent right now, and we’re going through a tough part of the schedule. That’s not a good combination.
The stats are just as ugly. We lost the faceoffs 19 to 34. We only had 27 shots on goal. We went 0 for 2 on the power play. There’s just not much you can hang your hat on here. The power play is honestly what’s worrying me the most. We’ve gone 23 straight now without a score. That’s terrible. Especially for a team with our offensive weapons. It can’t happen. Crosby is also struggling, going 5 straight games now without a point. That will change. Trust me. I’m not at all worried. We just need to get some more guys back around him. We’re literally half Pittsburgh and half Wilkes-Barre players in the lineup right now. But, this is something every team goes through at some point in the year. It’ll pass. Then we’ll be back to the dominant hockey we were watching a few weeks ago. Man, I miss that.
image from espn.com
Oh, man. Remember when I said “I almost wish they would pace themselves a little more” a few posts ago? Well, I must be some kind of psychic or something. We played fairly well for the first half of this game, and then totally ran out of gas. Now, I want to give the Kings a lot of credit for this game. They’re much better than any Los Angeles team I’ve seen since some guy named Wayne was skating around. They played fantastic defense. They crowded the front of the net and got some blue-collar goals. That’s what you have to do to win consistently in the NHL. They played fantastic. But make no mistake about it, we were tired at the end of this one and we surrendered the win.
I think an underrated reason that the Kings won this game was faceoffs. They had the advantage 35-23. I can’t remember the last time we got it handed to us like that in the faceoff circle. When you’re controlling the puck from the start of the play like that, good things usually come your way. Especially when you’re winning them in your offensive zone. The Kings took full advantage.
The final point I’ll make about this game is that the power play was again 0-3 and looking abysmal. It’s not that we’re not scoring, it’s that we’re not getting many shots with the man advantage. Or able to set up a cycle for that matter. I’d like to see us be a little bit more aggressive with the man advantage. Or maybe the return of Sarge will make a difference. Who knows? But this unit needs some help. Stat.
This definitely wasn’t our best effort. We laid an egg. But, I guess it’s about time we did that, anyway. Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you they got distracted by the warm weather (I’ve actually heard that explanation today). They’ve been playing with a lot of energy, and they ran out of steam. It also didn’t help that Tyler Kennedy was out. I bet Bylsma would have loved to send him out there in the third period to spark the team again, but hey. It happens. Lets just get rested up and get back at it against San Jose.
image from espn.com
Well, this was an ugly game to start out our west coast swing, but a win is a win. The game started out pretty rough. Anaheim came out really physical in the first period (hence the 4 penalties), and we just kind of took it. It also didn’t help that we failed to capitalize on any of the power plays. That might have made them back off a bit. In the second period we started to match physicality with physicality and the game went much more smoothly from there (on the scoreboard, at least).
Couple of minor points about the game:
-The power play was once again anemic. 0 for 6 on the night. I realize we’re missing some pieces, but I keep waiting for improvement that’s not coming.
-Fleury let in a bunny. He didn’t get his pads tight enough against the post, and Koivu snuck one in to tie the game in the third period. I guess Fleury is human. If he’s going to do something stupid every once in a while to keep himself humble, I’m glad he did it in a win.
-The Ducks were cycling the puck the best out of any team we’ve played so far. Not even close. The scary part is that I have no idea how they did it. I’m leaning towards this just being an off night defensively, but I’ll have to see.
-Tyler Kennedy is the man. He’s the ball of energy that’s so helpful to have on the bench sometimes. We’re lucky to have him.
-Lots of goals from the points. That’s turning into a trend. We’re getting traffic in front of the net, so this isn’t a problem at all. It’s more of a wakeup call that our defensemen without Gonchar aren’t bad.
We continue the west coast swing up the freeway in LA tomorrow night. If we win, I believe we tie the NHL record for most consecutive road wins to start the season. Just goes to show how well we’re playing right now.