Friday, April 18, 2008

Wild 2 - Avalanche 3 (No OT)

The Wild outshot the Avalanche last night, but not enough of the pucks got behind Jose Theodore. 40-17 were the shots. Theodore was very good, but...

The Wild controlled every aspect for the game for the first two periods, but when it came down to it, they never really got a good shot off. Theodore was seeing the puck extremely well and the Wild never really got a shot off that had a chance of getting by him. Backstrom was good too - the three goals that were scored on him were on outstanding shots. The only way either team was going to score on either goalie was through the backdoor. So let's look at the first three goals.

(0 - 1) On the power play, Brunette parks his ass in front of Backstrom and when Foppa throws one out front, Bruno backhands the deflection past Backstrom who's ass over teakettle in the blue paint. Pretty much a carbon copy of his other two goals (both of which started the scoring in the previous two games).

(1 - 1) Wild power play and the boys are working it around the perimeter. Burns gets the puck on the left dot after a rebound (not many of those last night) off of a Rolston shot. He thought shot, but heard Butch who's on the opposite dot. The Av's are all collapsing on Burnsy's shot and leave a lane to Butch. Cross-ice pass, backdoor shot, goal.

(1 - 2) Colorado power play on a horrible penalty taken by Hill. Liles on the blueline cross-ice's a pass to Wolski on the top of the right dot who one-time's it for the goal. Backstrom almost got all the way across the crease, but Wolski put it in a tight hole. Can't really call it an aimed shot, but the fact that it was another backdoor shot gave it as good a chance to go in as anything else thrown towards the net.

Each one of these goals were not examples of the shooter beating the goalie, but the shooter getting open with some open net in front of him. Nothing surprising, but ask yourself..."How many more times did the Wild try to go backdoor?" There wasn't a lot of passes across the slot - many of them blocked by the Av's. Gaborik got a rebound that he juggled before backhanding it into Theodore's leg pads and Burns pinched to get a cross-ice pass, but Theodore was able to get in front and block it. I'm not sure whether the Av's Defense and Theodore were able to cut down on the opportunities or the Wild weren't either aggressive or creative enough around the net. Either way, Theodore saw 38 shots last night, missed one, and I'm not sure he cared enough on Rolston's goal.

My theory is this. All throughout this franchise's history, they've played the underdog. They've been the darlings of St. Paul with their moxie and grit and whatever. They came and replaced the beloved North Stars. Their hometown hero scored the first goal ever at the X. They made an improbable Cup run in '03. They went toe to toe with the eventual Cup Champs last year and took a chunk out of them in Game 4 before Brad May "disgracefully" punched out our "non-fighting" Kim Johnnson. The entire franchise history is filled with David vs. Goliath stories.

The only problem is Goliath always wins the Cup. Every team that wins the Stanley Cup plays the bully. Even the lower seeded teams (Edmonton in '06, Anaheim in '03) that make it to the Finals take control of the games with stifling defense and opportunistic offense. They win games by moxie, grit, and a spit in your face / piss on your grave attitude that is lacking in our boys.

It shows in how they play. Last year during game four against Anaheim, when the Wild absolutely needed a win, Mark Parrish played as if he had a nest of fire ants in his breezers. He didn't score any goals in that game, but was all over the frickin' place creating chaos in his wake. The third and fourth goals by Gaborik and Rolston were goals that were the result of chaos. They weren't pretty, but they were the result of relentless pressure and advantageous positioning. When was the last time this team was relentless in anything?

A good period of playoff hockey cannot be: "We got a lot of good looks and good shots". It has to be: "We put the puck in the net". This team needs to forget the underdog role and play the favorite, because they are the favorite. They need to be the bully, not the pipsqueek. This ain't the movies - they need to be the Biff and not the Marty McFly; the Galactic Empire and not the Rebel Alliance; the Jason Vorhees and not the six 105 pound teenage actresses with 42 inch chests. They need to be Exxon and not Joe Six Pack. They are the better team and everyone knows it. But the better team doesn't move on - the team that scores more goals does.

No comments: