The fourth season of the worst of the Wild features too many 'targets of opportunity', tough to choose
By Wild Road Tripper
For the fourth season, I am only somewhat proud to present 'The Six-Pack of Suck', six games which defined the Minnesota Wild's 2011-2012 season. There were a LOT of choices to choose from this season, with the 5-23-7 stretch between Dec. 13 and March 27, there were too many games for my selection. Way-y-y too many.
But, with that said, let's get to the worst of the worst. The six games which just flat out defined the haplessness of the Minnesota Wild this past season:
1. November 25, 2011. Edmonton 5, Minnesota 2. The traditional 'Black Friday' game really WAS a black friday for the Wild, as the young and speedy Oilers blew the doors off the older, slower Wild as the Oilers ended their 14-game loss skein at the 'X' by crushing the Wild, as the entire Wild first line (Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi) wound up a -3 for the afternoon. This must have been the game where the seed was planted for Wild GM Chuck Fletcher to trade Nick Schultz for Tom Gilbert, as the ex-Jefferson star defenseman was one of two Oilers to be a +3 for the afternoon.
2. December 31, 2011. Phoenix 4, Minnesota 2. New Year's Eve, 2011 should have been re-named 'Vrbata's Revenge', as Radim Vrbata scored two goals on consecutive shifts, as the Coyotes proved that they were going to be a playoff team, and the Wild weren't. Despite the penalty shot goal of Matt Cullen, the last 17 minutes of this contest was pretty much all 'Yotes, punctuated by the empty-net goal by the ancient dog, Ray Whitney, with 19 seconds left in the game. Nice way to send your fans out for New Years, boys.
3. January 31, 2012. Nashville 5, Minnesota 4. This game pretty much summed up the Wild season, all in less than one evening, as the Predators scored 4 goals in 10 minutes, 13 seconds, as the Wild watched as their dwindling playoff chances crash and burn, as the season from Hell descended into February, no thanks to the Wild themselves, who forgot in the last 11 minutes of the game what offense even was. The third period of this game was like watching a constant Nashville power play, as the Wild just stopped even trying to shoot against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, and the resulting comeback, topped off by two Mike Fisher goals 2:39 apart in the last three minutes of the game, was the most disgusting period of hockey Wild fans had seen in years. Even Josh Harding, the tough-luck losing goalie said, "No way in 100 years we should have lost that game." We agree.
4. February 11, 2012. Columbus 3, Minnesota 1. The theme of this game would become 'play 20 minutes every period, boys.' The Wild didn't, and once again they paid for it, as the lowly Blue Jackets saw that the Wild penchant for taking the last minute of the period off, presented scoring opportunities that even they could take advantage of. With their roster (and their season) in freefall, the Jackets, the worst team in the NHL, with ex-Wild coach Todd Richards running the show, took two R. J. Umberger goals and made them count, as the hapless, offensively-challenged Wild could not get anything going, blowing a 1-0 lead at home with three straight Columbus goals, including yet another empty-net goal in the last minute of the game.
5. Detroit 6, Minnesota 0. Now, we know that traditionally, Joe Louis Arena in Detroit is a house of horrors (6-15-1 all time) for the Wild. Despite winning the first game played in Motown in November, the Wild could have just stopped at Metro Airport, said 'we forfeit', and kept on going. That's how bad this game was. Valteri Flippula made the Wild his personal punching bag, scoring twice and adding an assist as the Wings annhilated the hapless Wild, one night after the Wild put on one of their best periods of the season the previous night in Montreal. Ian White (Detroit defenseman) was a +4, while Dany Heatley was a -4. To make matters worse, the Red Wings drove Josh Harding from the net, as Matt Hackett relieved him for the last 14:30 of the game. Said Wild head coach Mike Yeo: 'We didn't respond well.' No kidding.
6. Colorado 7, Minnesota 1. The Wild, playing the Avs for the second time in three nights, were as flat as Pepsi in a week-old-opened bottle, as the home team scored three times in a 1:56 span, in the second period to drive Hackett from the nets, as the Wild might have hit rock bottom in Denver, in their second-to-last game west of St. Paul. The Avs had seven different scorers, as the lone bright spot for the Wild was a Devin Setoguchi penalty shot, awarded in the third period. The Wild had no way to stop the Avs, who were in their zenith as to their playoff chances that Tuesday evening; the Avs would then fall off the playoff radar soon afterwards.
So, that's it. Six games which defined the haplessness, the hopelessness which was the Wild's season. Will this team improve enough to make the playoffs by next April? We can only hope.