There are times when I swear that one needs every possible good luck charm and cosmic alignment to be in place for good things to happen. I think tonight is one of those nights. I'll admit, I don't see the Minnesota Wild pulling out a win tonight, especially in Chicago. While it would be great, I'm just going to sit back tonight and enjoy the run we've had. At the very least, I will enjoy the fact that our playoff run lasted longer than that of the Vancouver Canucks. That alone, regardless of what happens tonight, puts a smile on my face. Personally, it's a great way to send the Canucks off to a different division next season. As for tonight's game, I hope that feat serves as some sort of good luck charm. Personally, while it would most likely extend the inevitable, I would love to get one victory in Chicago, simply to shut the "Madhouse on Madison" up for one night. In extending this season, I'd love for Blackhawks fans to feel just a little bit of that panic that we made Colorado and Vancouver fans feel in 2003. I don't want the Minnesota Wild be the team they "scrimmaged" in the first round on their way further into the Western Conference playoffs. Minnesota needs to play like there is no tomorrow, because in their position there pretty much is no tomorrow. I have a feeling that Wild fans every where have pulled out all their good luck charms. And I'm hoping that I'm holding the ultimate good luck charm. Today just happens to be my 37th birthday. And with #37 Josh Harding most likely getting tonight's start, let's hope that 37 is the key to a Minnesota win.
I don't think I need to state the obvious, but I will anyway. Minnesota's power play needs to find a way to score tonight. I am at the point (and I know I'm not the only one) who wishes that Minnesota could decline the power play. It's gotten to that it's embarassing to watch. There's a reason that fans, myself included, have called in the powerless play for some time now. In fact, we started that last season. A team with a 0% power play in the playoffs is not a recipe for success. Although mind you, Chicago's power play success is not much better than ours. But to have not scored once on the power play in four games, especially when you had six chances alone in the last game is unforgivable. Something needs to change. I'll admit, over the seasons I've loathed the individuals who yell 'shoot' at the Wild, especially during the power play. However, this season I have to agree with them. There's nothing worse than watching the continual passing on the power play, looking for the perfect shot. There's no time left for the perfect shot. So we shall have to wait and see if it's the status quo for Minnesota or if they'll find a way to pull a rabit out of their hat.
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1st Period Thoughts: Speed, or rather lack thereof, and the abysmal power play is what is causing the problems for the Minnesota Wild. Let's face it, the first line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle is simply too slow. Speed makes a huge difference for many teams. If you doubt me, all you need to do is look at the Wild's second line of Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen and Jason Zucker when it was firing on all cylinders. Speed kills, and fans have taken to calling that the "speed kills line." Appropriate and true. What the Wild need are the top two lines to be fast and be willing to go to the net. We don't have that. However, if Wild head coach, Mike Yeo would have some courage, this is what he needs to do. I propose that he be brave and make the first line as such: Parise, Torey Mitchell and Jason Pominville. Koivu and Coyle of course would then be relegated to the third line, but sometimes you have to do something bold. When you're facing elimination and what you're already doing isn't working you HAVE to be bold. As the old saying goes, fortune favors the bold. Plus, when you change things that significantly, it forces the opposition to adjust. Chicago knows to expect a slow first line. Do it Yeo. Be brave. Be assertive. However, I'm afraid we're going to see more of the same. A same, that nets a goal for Chicago's Marian Hossa. Even more, it finally gave Jonathan Toews his first point of the playoffs. It was only a matter of time that Toews would get on the score card. Now, if only the Wild could figure out a way to get on the score card in a meaningful way as well.
2nd Period Thoughts: As one of my fellow Wild fans said on Twitter, it's all over but the handshake. In just over the first six minutes of the period, the Blackhawks extended their lead with another two goals, the first by Marcus Kruger and the second coming from Hossa. The third goal chased Harding from the net. Darcy Kuemper now has the task of keeping the game from getting uglier than it already is. The Wild would get another powerless play, however it seemed to generate a little bit of energy from Minnesota. Shortly after the penalty to Michal Rosival ended, a goal came the unlikely source of Torey Mitchell. As has been pointed out, Mitchell has more goals this post-season than Mikko Koivu. Of course just when you're starting to feel just a bit better (at least that they avoided two shut-outs in a row), the Blackhawks got their fourth goal of the night from Andrew Shaw. Yes, it's that kind of night. I was honestly trying to feel somewhat positive today about this game, and it's just not happening now. Words simply fail me this period. Sadly, they'll most likely fail me next period as well.
3rd Period Thoughts: Farewell. This marks the end of the Minnesota Wild's season. In a way, it feels like it's over before it even started, mostly because of the late start to the season. To me, the third period clearly demonstrated the problems this team has had all season. Lack of speed. Lack of desire (meaning stopping or slowing down when they should just skate their heart out into the zone). Lack of scoring/shooting. I really wanted this to be a period of excitement, but that simply isn't in the cards. It seems that a lot of things weren't in the cards this season. Rookies that didn't live up to the hype. Free agents and trades that didn't always live up to expectations. Goaltenders that were leaned on too hard during the regular season so that they were worn out fo rhte post season. I seriously hope that the coaching staff and front office look long and hard at this season, and in particular the playoffs, to see where they went wrong. There are times that you wish as a fan you could get one an one time with Yeo and Chuck Fletcher. As fans, we too have a vested interest in the team, perhaps even more so because we pay to watch the team and buy the merchandise. Yet this season, the return on investment wasn't quite there. I don't know about you, I just don't think this trip to the playoffs was worth it. Hopefully, they get their acts together next season.
~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, Zach Parise, Jason Zucker, Torey Mitchell, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Mike Rupp, Jason Pominville, Charlie Coyle, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marco Scandella, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon, and Todd Gilbert. Darcy Kuemper came in to relieve Josh Harding.
~ The 3 Stars of the game were: 1st Star, Marian Hossa; 2nd Star, Corey Crawford; 3rd Star, Marcus Kruger.
~ Attendance was 21,597 at United Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Raphael Bussieres (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) ~ Raphael Bussieres knows how the Minnesota Wild feel as his team now trails a powerful Halifax Mooseheads squad 3-1 in the QMJHL Finals after a 7-4 win on Wednesday night. All of the Moosheads' big guns weighed in the victory including NHL draftees Konrad Abeltshauser and Martin Frk; as well as 2013 Draft hopefuls Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. Wearing the "A" as assistant captain, Bussieres had no points with 2 shots on goal and was a -1 and had 2 PIM's in the game. The Drakkar lost despite outshooting the Mooseheads 43-27. Game 5 of the series is tomorrow in Halifax.