Friday, May 23, 2014

'The Six-Pack of Suck', Volume VII: Six that got away (literally)

I know, Minnesota Wild faithful. I'm looking at the glass and saying it's half-empty. But, in the words of the bard himself, William Shakespeare, 'Those who do not remember from history, are thereby doomed to repeat it.'

And so it goes for the seventh edition of 'The Six-Pack of Suck', six games that really should have gone the Wild's way, but the hockey gods (along with some really bad defense from the local six,) conspired to think otherwise. The lack of offense didn't help things, especially in the crucial holiday period, where visions of sugarplums danced in their heads, instead of visions of victories.

Oh, we go...

1. October 5, 2013. Anaheim 4 at Minnesota 3 (OT). In this, Anaheim's only regular-season appearance in St. Paul, the Wild managed to lose in the last five seconds of the OT period after Mathieu Perrault (who the Ducks had just acquired from Washington) went in on Niklas Backstrom, and just like in the (supposedly) upcoming shootout, five-holed Minnesota's opening-season starter after both Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon failed to stop the Anaheim rush. Not even the lack of Teemu Selanne (held out by Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, as the next night Selanne would be feted in Winnpeg, where Selanne started his career) held back the Ducks, who started their season on a 3-game road trip.

2. November 27, 2013. Phoenix 3 at Minnesota 1. The Thanksgiving season has traditionally not been a good one for the Wild, and 2013's Thanksgiving Eve game was yet another served-up turkey, as the Wild basically stopped skating against the hungrier Coyotes. Zach Parise had been injured the previous game in St. Louis, taking a shot off his left instep; Mikael Granlund joined him on the IR after the first shift of the game, when he took a head shot and gained a concussion. This really started the Wild's downward spiral, which lasted most of the next six weeks.

3. November 29, 2013. Colorado 3 at Minnesota 1. 'Black Friday' took on a whole new meaning for the Wild, as the hottest team in the NHL in the first 60 days of the season -- the Avs -- rolled into the 'X' and basically laid down the law, as old Wild nemesis J. S. Giguere moved onto an easy victory, as the Wild went 2-2 on Black Friday in the last 4 full seasons. Matt Duchene, Nathan McKinnon, and an empty-net goal made sure the Wild would have rather gone shopping, than play hockey.

4. December 29, 2013. NY Islanders 5 at Minnesota 4. The Wild jumped out to a 3-goal lead on the Islanders, then sat back and watched as Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Okposo (two goals) and Thomas Vanek (two assists) brought the Isles all the way back, in this Sunday night stinker. Wasted in this snooze-fest was Mikko Koivu's two-assist night and Nino Niederreiter's goal and assist. The Isles would win their third straight in a eight-win-in-nine-game stretch, to propel themselves onto the cusp of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Wild, at this point, lost their fifth straight, and the future of Mike Yeo as Wild head coach was in jeopardy after this one.

5. January 14, 2014. Ottawa 3 at Minnesota 0. Following the Islanders game (listed above), the Wild went out and won five of the first six in 2014, and then were soundly brought back to Mother Earth, by a Senators' squad in a game which was exciting as watching paint dry. The Wild only managed three shots on goal in the first period, allowing Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner a virtual night off as the Sens went home victorious. 'We weren't moving our feet', said Mike Yeo after the game. No kidding, Mike.

6. March 11, 2014. Edmonton 4 at Minnesota 3 (SO). In the midst of a four-game homestand, with every point crucial in the Western Conference playoff race, one would think that a three-goal lead after 16 minutes would be a good thing for the home team, right? Think again, as the Oilers came back to tie the game, then win it in the shootout as the Oilers went 3-for-4 in the deciding session, sending Darcy Kuemper and the Wild off with an in-your-face, four round shootout loss. Despite Edmonton drawing a penalty with :09 left in regulation, the Wild fumbled, bumbled and blew a 2-goal lead in the last 8:54 of regulation time. Ugly loss, especially after blowing the big lead.

So, there it is. Six games, 10 points blown, and all home games! If the Wild want more noise and more fans in the seats, they cannot come up with games like these against inferior quality opponents. Only two of the six opponents listed even made the Stanley Cup Playoffs; and, no thanks to this group of lousy games, the Wild were relegated to wild-card status. If the Wild wish to take their coming of age seriously, they cannot have games like this affect their season. Two points are two points, regardless of when you get them. November points are just as good as March points.

I really hope the Wild gets the point when it comes to letting inferior teams off the hook. Next season, you can't do that. Just play better. Every night.

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