What must be frustrating for their fans is that they pay some big dollars for Heatley and Setoguchi, amongst others, and they just cannot score. They certainly have problems scoring at Rogers Arena. And, lately, on Roberto Luongo. He shut them out the last time they met, and he did it again tonight.
This was a game in which the home team and it's stars were the difference. Luongo was dialed in from puck drop, the Sedins and Alex Burrows, especially in the first period, were the difference offensively, and Ryan Kesler lived up to his nickname of "Bull". His line saw a lot of the Mikko Koivu line and did a fine job on them, in addition to being a threat in the offensive end.
More things to ponder after the break.
- For all the good things the team did tonight, about the only aspect of the game that was not humming along was the power play. It went 0 for 2, and though there were a few times where it was dangerous looking, the level that we are perhaps spoiled by was not reached tonight. Credit the Wild and it's penalty killers. More than one of their 19 shot blocks ( Prosser had 6 ) was a big help to the penalty kill, which at least kept the team from Minnesota in the game to the end.
- This game was a great example of how this team has a different attitude and focus. With the media clamouring to ask the players, coaches, and each other about "the Boston game", to a man, they were all about the two points available in this one. Even with the Wild and it's difficulty scoring, that team was only 3 points behind the Northwest division leaders coming into this one. There was no talk of anything other than this game. ( AV played with the media in his presser tonight...telling them he will announce his starter on Friday, because "we are flying to Boston tomorrow". As if he and the guys would not share at least a word or two about that on a six hour plane ride )
- The first goal tonight was a more subtle example of Sedinery. We get so spoiled by the fact that these two identical superstars can do things with the puck that few others can. From the delay by Henrik to let the play develop, to the shot that Daniel Sedin also delayed just enough for Burrows to get in front for the screen, it was another example of how well those three guys play off of each other, and an important goal. The Wild like to play a grind it out defensive game, and that is just easier to do when they are either at 0-0 or ahead.
- The second goal tonight, well, that was a more obvious example of what we like to call Sedinery. Just another "wow" play. Again, Henrik Sedin went right to the right place to give him the time to get the guys in their places, and then, with pressure on him, made a slick pass to Daniel Sedin. Meanwhile, Alexandre Burrows was busting to the net, and had Justin Falk on the wrong side of him from the start. The pass from Daniel was perfect. Just out of the reach of Harding, right to the stick of Burrows, who just had to slam it into the empty net before Falk put him into the net with the puck. Beautiful. Henrik Sedin now leads the NHL with 48 points, and Daniel is tied with Giroux for second. I know august media personage Steve Simmons called them boring recently, but I think I speak for all of Vancouver's hockey fans when I say that they can bore me like that anytime. All the way to another Art Ross, and perhaps a Hart or Pearson to boot.
- Ryan Kesler had an assist on Manny Malhotra's empty netter that sealed the game ( and got me two points in the SPW standings!) that was a perfect example of the "secret animal nickname" he has. "Bull" aptly described that play, as he engaged the defender well inside his own blue line and basically overpowered him to get the puck out. It was how he was playing along the boards as well. He had 5 shots on net himself, a hit, a +1, an assist, and while he was only 5/14 on faceoffs, he was also just giving those away ( I loved the set play they tried in the second where he ignored the draw and went to the front. It did not quite work, but it showed some panache and originality from a non Sedin player ). His line did their job, and it was no accident he led the forwards in ice time (20:22, with 2:37 on the PP, and 2:38 on the PK ).
- That being said, this was a total team effort. The third and fourth lines both had strong games ( Maxim Lapierre had a team high 6 shots on net!) While Cody Hodgson's ice time of only 10:42 will get Tony Gallagher percolating again, he was effective ( even with his first penalty in a long time tonight...a slightly weak one ). AV knows his team, and Cody Hodgson only won 1/7 draws. In a game where situational zone starts were all given to the fourth line ( mainly Lappy and Weise, though Hansen was out with them late ), they came through very well. Manny was Money with 12 of 19 draws won, Dale Weise was effective in his 10 minutes, especially in the offensive zone, and every line was solid at both ends of the ice.
- All the defensemen had a solid game tonight, and while it would be easy ( and apt ) to laud Hamhuis and Bieksa, Salo and Edler, I really liked the third pairing tonight. Both Andrew Alberts and Keith Ballard performed well under pressure, got pucks out and up the ice effectively, and cleared out the front of the net as well as clearing out rebounds. Big Alberts was a beast in his 1:50 of PK time, he led the team with three hits, and blocked a shot, in addition to getting better at pinching every game. Ballard blocked 2 shots and had 2 hits, and complimented his partner very well all night. That is not to take away from Sami Salo and his usual effective, understated game. It was solid. Dan Hamhuis had a team leading 3 blocks, and he was his usual defensive stalwart self. Like I said, they were all good. The Wild were trailing and supposedly trying to push, and had only 7 shots ( after an 11 shot first, and a 10 shot second ) in the final period. That is the whole team, but you have to think that the blueliners had a fair amount to do with that as well.
- For all of that, the MAN tonight was Roberto Luongo. He was so good tonight. A couple of two on ones ( played well by Bieksa and Salo, giving the goalie the shooter each time ) were played so well by the goaltender that on one ( I want to say PM Bouchard ) the guy gave up and just hauled off and tried the slapshot. All 28 shots were handled very well. You know he is on when he makes it look easy. Not to say that it was. But he certainly was in the Wild team's head tonight. Devin Setoguchi was probably the best and most dangerous of the Wild team tonight, and while he had 5 shots and 4 good chances from them, the Wild had very little sustained pressure. They had 4 power plays and looked anemic on it. Part of that was the guys in front of him, who were fantastic on the kill. As they say though, the best penalty killer is the goaltender. A well deserved first star, and a nice touch to give the stick to Rick Hansen. The man went a hell of a distance in a wheelchair, and was honoured tonight for his efforts to show that a handicap is not a "handicap". Well done Rick. And well done Roberto as well. His rebound control was awesome tonight, and when he was not freezing a puck, he was turning them over the ice or directing them to guys on the boards for the breakout.
OK. You can commence with the build up to the Boston game, and for shits and giggles, feel free to start your rosterbation fantasies ( Bob Murray said everyone but Selanne and Koivu are available ) for the Duck star players.