There is also a small minority of people who forgot a get a gift for someone prior to the holidays. This could actually be said about the Minnesota Wild. Yes, they got the big win in Colorado prior to the Christmas break, but there has been lack of wins, lack of shots, and in some cases, lack of effort in the games against Detroit and in Columbus. Those two games are akin to receiving the ugly Christmas sweater from grandma or being forgotten completely. It was important for the Wild to do whatever they could to turn that all around.
Fans really had to wonder after the first period of play if this game was going to get ugly. As we all know, the Minnesota Wild are not known for peppering a goaltender with a plethora of shots. In the first period, the Wild managed a meager five shots on goal. The other thing that had me concerned was the fact that the team's first and only goal of the period came from Kyle Brodziak. Yes, as a fan of a low-scoring team I have to welcome goals from whatever quarter they come from, however we all wish we would see more goals coming from the players who have the salaries of players who score more than they do. Another concern I know I had was that of the power play. In the previous game in Columbus, the Wild had seven power play attempts, yet not one power play goal. The Wild had three attempts with the man-advantage in that first period. Thankfully the Wild broke their power play drought at the very end of their first power play by that very goal by Brodziak.
The Wild also had to continually fight their way back into the game. That alone is dangerous for an often offensively deficient team like Minnesota. Just under three minutes into the second period, the Wild found themselves down a goal when Devin Setoguchi found the back of the net. While the San Jose Sharks are not the offensive juggernaut that they've been in previous seasons, they're still not a team that the Wild can afford to be behind on. They have size, speed, and much better hands than the Wild. And with the rash of terrible second periods that the Wild have had, I know I was holding my breath for much of the period. It took almost a full ten minutes for the Wild to even up the score on a goal by Mikko Koivu. Yes, Koivu has been showing up on the boxscore a little more often in recent times, however I sincerely hopes he finds a way to increase that even more. Especially, before his new contract goes into effect next season. Unfortunately, the emotional high of that goal lasted less than three minutes as Patrick Marleau put the Sharks ahead once again.
The third period started with a four-minute power play for the Wild. That alone should have put the fire under the Wild. You're down a goal, you're at home, and you have four minutes of power play time. However that didn't seem to inspire the team as much as it should have. However, the failed attempt seemed to inspire the team more than perhaps scoring a power play goal could have. Just over a minute after the power play ended the tying goal came from Chuck Kobasew. That goal seemed to kick off a period that belonged to the Wild, something that fans have wanted to see in some time. The game-winning goal just under half way through the third period from Brent Burns. With just over ten minutes to go, and playing the Sharks, I know I was on edge. It was simply too much time against a team we all know has the ability to score. Thankfully, Kyle Brodziak added another goal just over a minute later. However, even with that additional goal, I still wasn't comforted. Looking at the final shots on goal for that period, I know now that I had reasons to be concerned. Once again, the Wild had under ten shots on goal with only eight. If there's a silver lining to the abysmal number of shots, is that for once they made them count, scoring three goals on only eight shots.
The Wild still have some post-holiday "shopping" yet to do for their fans. There is still the home game on New Year's Eve. Historically, the Wild have played well on New Year's Eve. However, this year's opponent is the same as the one on Black Friday, the Nashville Predators. I'm sure they'd like to round out their holiday season with a win as well. It would be wonderful to see the Wild take the positive feelings from last night's win, combine it with holiday good cheer, and continue the wins into the new year. Sounds like a beginning to their New Year's Resolutions list.
~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, Andrew Brunette, Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak, Martin Havlat, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brad Staubitz, Eric Nystrom, Cal Clutterbuck, Chuck Kobasew, John Madden, Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky, Cam Barker, Nick Schultz, Marco Scandella and Brent Burns. Jose Theodore backed up Niklas Backstrom. Clayton Stoner and Patrick O'Sullivan were the healthy scratches. Guillaume Latendresse is still healing from surgery he recieved nearly two months ago.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let's Play Hockey were: 1st Star Kyle Brodziak, 2nd Star Mikko Koivu, 3rd Star Brent Burns
~ Attendance for tonight's game was 19,131 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW - Brett Bulmer ~ Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
2010-11 Stats: 34GP 12G 15A = 27pts 52 PIM's -8
Perhaps the holidays was just what Brett Bulmer needed to refocus and keep his game simple after having a 2 assist evening in a 4-0 win over the Everett Silvertips. The 6'3" power forward helped on two power play goals by linemate Evan Bloodoff to get the Rockets out to a quick 2-0 lead. He is slightly behind a point per game pace but his play has been less erratic and he's stopped trying to do too much which really sort of haunted him early on this season. Any good power forward should also be able to create some scoring chances for linemates with their big frames as much as they do for themselves. Bulmer has the skill and talent to be an offensive catalyst and there are plenty of signs that the Rockets are ready to climb back amongst the WHL's elite.