The way it’s looking now, the Minnesota Wild have a long way to go to even be competitive.
Once again, the team spoiled a terrific performance by goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 33 of 36 shots, with defense that would make any self respecting coach cringe.
The team’s poor defense caused them to fall behind early again off of two Corey Perry goals and, despite their best efforts, they couldn’t catch up.
The team was ineffective with the puck, couldn’t win a battle and often was mindless in its own zone and in the neutral zone. Quite simply put—they stunk.
In just a few short months, the team has forgotten absolutely everything that was pounded into their heads day after day under Jacques Lemaire and, contrary to what many may thing, it isn’t a good thing. Not only that, but they are forgetting things that have been pounded into their head since they began playing organized hockey.
In addition to the poor play, the team’s most talented scorer, Martin Havlat, is now day-to-day with a groin injury.
Here are some of the big storylines from last night’s game:
The Six Million Dollar Benchwarmer
For the second time in three games, Havlat was benched for an extended period of time due to poor play.
Ryan Carter, who scored the eventual game winner, was Havlat’s man as Havlat was streaking out of the zone. When Kyle Brodziak fanned on the pass out of the zone, Carter was left uncovered for the rebound.
After the defensive gaffe, Havlat didn’t see the ice again in the second period and saw the ice for just 26 seconds in the third before going off with his injured groin.
Which leads me to…
Where Are the Stars?
Havlat, Mikko Koivu, and Brent Burns. A combined two goals, seven assists, and a collective minus-18.
If the Wild are going to be a winning team, they need their best players to be our best players.
I don’t mean any disrespect to Eric Belanger and Andrew Brunette, both of whom are playing marvelous hockey at the moment, but if they are going to lead the Wild in scoring, this team is in trouble.
Havlat, Koivu, and Burns all have looked horrendous on the ice for the Wild for the majority of this season thus far and they will be the center of things needing to turn around if this team is to going to get going. Plain and simple, they need to be better. They need to step up and take control and they need to be the dynamic players that they can be.
A Little Help Please?
Look. We all know that a goalie’s job is to stop the puck.
It’s as simple as that.
But what this defense has done to Niklas Backstrom this season is absolutely criminal. On each of Anaheim’s three goals, he was absolutely, 100 percent hung out to dry. In fact, it was the same way on the majority of the goals he gave up against San Jose and against Anaheim in the teams’ first meeting.
He needs to make big saves in order for us to have a chance to win, but come on people. He shouldn’t be facing as many odd-man rushes as he’s been facing. He shouldn’t have to deal with the team making a line change when the puck is in the neutral zone. He shouldn’t have to watch every single botched pass or clearing attempt turn into an unimpeded scoring chance.
This is exactly what he has had to do this season and you’ve got to wonder how much longer it’s going to be before the normally calm, cool and collected Backstrom lights his teammates up in the locker room.
This defensive unit has taken a goaltender just one year removed from a Vezina nomination and given him the numbers of a goalie still trying to find his game.
This isn’t about the Wild allowing higher quality shots than they did under Lemaire’s system. This isn’t about the team giving up one or two more high quality shots. This is about the team giving up shots that would be considered gifts to any player in the NHL that doesn’t have a set of 2x4s for hands.
They’re a Ragtag Bunch…
But who is leading this ragtag bunch?
On the ice, it’s certainly Brunette and Belanger.
But off the ice?
When is enough, enough? When does this get so bad that someone steps up and tries to emulate a Toby Keith song on the players who aren’t playing?
In the movie “The Rocket,” there is a point in time where the Habs coach, Dick Irvin, tells Rocket Richard that he’s scratched for the game. Richard promptly turns over a couple stick stands and storms out of the locker room. Irvin looks at his players and points at Richard, saying “That’s what I want.”
When does someone step up and do something this dramatic in the locker room—something that will throw a spark into this team.
They need someone to step up and show the team that they hate to lose because, right now, I’m not so sure anyone on the team does.