Sunday, October 10, 2010

Minnesota Wild in Finland: Failure to Launch

The point of the matter was, that those NHL Premiere games the Minnesota Wild were supposed to play in Helsinki against the Carolina Hurricanes? Those were supposed to be confidence builders for the rest of the 2010-2011 season.

The reality, however, was much, much different. If the Wild actually had played two decent periods over the two games, they should consider themselves lucky. Confidence builders, they weren't, by any stretch of the imagination.

The way the series played out, the biggest disappointment is the lack of intensity right now amongst the current players. No urgency whatsoever in anything that they do. Time's a wastin', and the season has already started. The same players are making the same mistakes. Niklas Backstrom got caught out of his net twice (once in the exhibition game at Tampere, and again on Friday in the second Carolina game) and got burned both times. Greg Zanon leads in penalties (granted, he's second in time on ice to Brent Burns) but it's not only why you take penalties, it's also when you take them. None of Zanon's penalties came at good times for the Wild.

And, continued poor shooting by Martin Havlat and Antti Miettinen did the Wild in also in the Friday game. Both had wide open chances to score. Both missed the net. Dumb puck luck? Hardly. Bad ice? Perhaps (the ice at Hartwall Areena seemed slushy and snowy). Poor aim, where a picture of a barn should be placed in a net? Probably.

You could tell that the Finnish players for the Wild (Backstrom, Mikko Koivu, Miettinen) were under a lot of pressure to do well in front of their countrymen. And, the media circus which the NHL put all six Finns thru was unrelenting. Daily press briefings, very little time for themselves to just go out and enjoy the town, etc., was their daily grind, as the time change screwed up their internal clocks, as well as those of the fans who came over from North America to see them (about 350 Carolina fans came to Finland, as did about 125 Wild fans from Minnesota).

The end result was, that for a trip which was to promote team unity, as Coach Todd Richards had hoped it would, the mission was NOT accomplished. The team seems as fragmented as ever. The Wild are about as inconsistent a hockey team as there is right now. And that is an ill wind which blows no good, for an organization trying desperately to sell tickets these days.

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