Minnesota Wild Beat Rangers: Sykora's Strong Performance a Lose-Lose Situation

Blake BenzelCorrespondent IOctober 31, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Petr Sykora #17 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Philadelphia Flyers in preseason action at the Wachovia Center on September 29, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Justin Bourne mentioned the other day in his blog that there is nothing worse than a player playing well after he has been benched.  Essentially, he said, the only thing that it does is defer the credit from the player’s play to the coach. 

That’s exactly the position that Petr Sykora was put in on Friday night and while not coming out and explicitly saying it, that’s exactly the position that head coach Todd Richards took with reporters after the game. 

“I think Petr had something to prove,” he said.  “I thought his battles in the corners, his battles for loose pucks, those are the things that were talked about.” 

To be honest, Sykora’s performance on Friday wasn’t due to any extra motivation that being scratched might have given him.  He’s a sniper who hasn’t been scoring.  He already has the fire burning underneath him to score. 

Sykora’s performance against the Rangers was because, wait for it, Sykora is a good player. 

Sykora looked fantastic in the win, scoring the opening goal of the game and assisting on Eric Belanger’s.  He skated hard, he had a nose for the puck and, most of all, he played a smart game, something that he had not done for the Wild yet. 

But instead of Sykora getting the credit for his play, it will now be deferred to Richards for “motivating” him by scratching him in favor of Derek Boogaard. 

You want proof?  Just look at Sykora’s response to questions about being scratched, after the game. 

“Let’s not talk about it,” was all that he said. 

What we have now is not a super-motivated player, at least not any more than he already was.  What we have in front of us now is a slowly growing rift between coach and player. 

They won’t say it, certainly.  But I can guarantee you that Sykora’s respect for Richards has waned a little even if Richards’ respect for Sykora has grown. 

Sykora even came out and said that he didn’t do anything differently in preparation for the game. 

“I prepared the same way,” he told reporters.  “I played a little hockey with my boy before the game, before I came to the rink.  I got a couple two, three goals against him and it carried over to the game.” 

So now, what was likely the natural progression of a good player getting back on track will be seen, not as that, but as a brilliant move by the coach to motivate his players.  Meanwhile, the rift between coach and players just grows larger.

Game Notes: Antti Miettinen’s goal marked the first time that he had scored a goal in 21 games, dating back to March 25.…Martin Havlat broke a seven game point drought with his assist on Belanger’s goal.…Mikko Koivu’s two assists gives him the team points lead with 12.…Niklas Backstrom made 18 saves for the Wild and is now 12-1-4 in his last 17 games at home.…Derek Boogaard received consistent shifts during the third period, even after the Rangers had pulled within one.  He finished the game with five hits and had two scoring chances.  Boogaard has not scored a goal since Jan. 2006.