Sunday, February 6, 2011

'...'cuz Two out of Three ain't bad...'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The refrain line from the Meat Loaf single kind of summarizes the week for the Minnesota Wild, doesn't it?

With two wins in their first three post-All-Star games, the Wild find themselves still on the precipice of falling out of playoff contention...or falling into as high as 5th place in the NHL's Western Conference.

It all depends on your point of view, I guess.

As the Wild trudge thru the mire that is the February schedule, the lack of scoring by the Wild in Saturday's game here in the desert, against the formerly-hapless Phoenix Coyotes, a game where one mistake (an early third-period turnover by Martin Havlat), an illness (Jared Spurgeon was scratched, account being sick), combined with the continued inability of Cam Barker to be anything other than a human stalagmite, allowed ex-Vancouver Canuck Taylor Pyatt to score the game's only goal. The miscues in front of the Wild net wiped out yet another stand-on-his-head performance by Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 40 of the 41 shots sent his way by a Coyotes team who, quite frankly, saw this game as an opportunity to get back into the Western Conference race, having lost three in a row prior to last night.

So the Wild move on to a stretch where they now play 5 of the next 7 at home, a place which has not exactly been the 'friendly confines' for the Wild this season. With a less-than-scintillating 12-11-2 home record at Xcel Energy Center, should this team wish to qualify for the post-season, they need to get that number of wins up -- in regulation time, no overtimes, no shootouts (like last Tuesday's game vs. LA) -- and quickly, because the next three weeks will determine the Wild's fate for this season, as well as probably next season also, due to the number of impending free agents the team has, after this season ends.

Three weeks from tomorrow -- Feb. 28th -- is the NHL Trade Deadline, as teams try to pick up that missing 'piece of the puzzle' in order to bolster their rosters for the playoff push. My question, despite what Wild GM Chuck Fletcher says, is still the same one I've had for most of the regular season:

Will the Wild be buyers at the trade deadline? Or, will they be sellers?

As even though the Wild will get some of their 'walking wounded' off of injured reserve (most notably Guillaume Latendresse, out since late October, and Marek Zidlicky, out since Dec. 29) they will have some assets which they could actually get something for, even though that 'something' may just be draft picks. The fact of the matter is, for the first time in years, younger players are pushing established members of the roster for spots. And, that really IS a good thing, because then there is hope that the team will be that much better overall.

But for now, we fans just wait. And hope that this team can actually do something. We hope that this team can actually be consistent in their efforts and in their overall play.

In short, for the rest of this season, we don't need games like last night's disaster in the desert anymore.

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