Monday, April 25, 2016

'The Six-Pack of Suck', Volume 9: The Target-Rich Environment

Hello. It's me. Time to do our annual post-mortem on the season that was the Minnesota Wild, circa 2015-2016. The best Wild team of all time. Sadly, as Wild fans found out, only on paper.

In reality, this past season was the perfect season...for this annual review of six games, that really shaped the Wild's season. Sadly, I have to leave it at SIX GAMES, as the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the Wild season would allow me to do 12. 18. Or even more.

That's how the Wild season went, from Thanksgiving weekend, straight thru the end of the regular season, and right into their first-round playoff series vs. Dallas, a team which was out of the playoffs two seasons ago.

The fact of the matter is that there was not just six games that highlighted (or, in this case, lowlighted) the season just passed. Yes, there were high points. I can go into those in great detail. But let's face it: this was a nearly historical bad season. This was a season for the record books. Or, the dumpster. Your choice, dear reader.

But, let's get started, in game order:

1. Nov. 28, 2015. Dallas 4, at Minnesota 3 (OT). In what would be an all-too-familiar theme this season, the Dallas Stars came into Minnesota for the first of what would be six games this season, and did what the Wild would find happening to them all too often -- blow a lead in the 3rd period, then lose in overtime. This lead would be THREE goals -- yes, the Wild held a 3-goal lead with 16 minutes left in the game, and then, in overtime, Tyler Seguin sealed the deal against backup Darcy Kuemper as Seguin back-doored 'Kuemps' after Jamie Benn pulled Kuemper out of the net.

2. Dec. 11, 2015. At Arizona 2, Minnesota 1 (OT). Once again, the overtime was the Wild-killer, as the lowly Coyotes, playing in from of more Wild fans than 'Yotes fans, in the announced crowd of 14,404 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, were treated to an excellent display of lack of discipline by Zach Parise. His high-sticking penalty, 16 seconds into the overtime, led to a quick end to the Wild's chances, against a team which they really should have had absolutely NO trouble with. With over 8,000 Minnesota fans (leftovers from the previous night's NFL Vikings-Cardinals game across the street, at University of Phoenix Stadium) in attendance, Mikkel Boedker (later traded to the Rangers on Trade Deadline day) score both Arizona goals to send the Wild to an 0-0-2 start to a 3-game road trip.

3.  Jan. 12, 2016. Buffalo 3, at Minnesota 2. In what had become another all-too-familiar theme, the Wild spotted the worst team of 2014-15, the lowly Buffalo Sabres, a 3-0 first period lead, and then the Sabres made it stay up for the win, as the Wild were victimized again by a backup goaltender, this time rookie Linus Ullmark. The Wild were outshot 30-23 in this loser of a contest; the second Wild goal was scored after most of the Xcel faithful had vanished into the January night.

4. Feb. 13, 2016. Boston 4, at Minnesota 2. Mike Yeo's last game as Wild head coach was yet another disaster du jour, as the Bruins took advantage of the Saturday afternoon sunshine and thumped the Wild, sealing the fate of the head coach of the last 2 1/2 seasons. Although Mike Reilly scored his 1st NHL goal, it came way-y-y too late, as he scored in the last minute of the game. David Krejci earned one goal, one assist for the B's, who would eventually go on to miss the playoffs. This game would end a 1-11-2 mark since Jan. 10 for Yeo, who was relieved of his duties before he could get home for a post-game burger Saturday evening.

5. Mar. 10, 2016. Edmonton 2, at Minnesota 1. Now with a new head coach (John Torchetti), but with the same old problems, mainly lack of offense and no team effort, the Wild allowed the worst team in the Western Conference, the lowly Oilers, to help themselves to two points when Connor McDavid, Edmonton's all-world rookie forward, took a long centering pass, and beat Devan Dubnyk under his arm, yet another all-too-familiar Wild outcome. This game stank from start to finish, especially when the Oilers were short three starting defensemen due to injury, a fourth due to suspension, and another Oiler injured during the game. Still, the Wild took it upon themselves to lose to the worst team in the West.

6. Mar. 15, 2016. At Ottawa 3, Minnesota 2(OT). Another so-so performance by the Wild ended with the tying goal being scored with EIGHT SECONDS remaining in regulation time, and then the game-winner slipped by Dubnyk with 30.4 seconds left in the overtime period. You really had to wonder what was going to happen to the Wild after this one, after the Senators were eliminated from the playoffs in the East shortly thereafter. But again, the Wild blew yet another lead to lose in extra time, wasting a four blocked shot in one opposition power play effort by Jared Spurgeon. Erik Karlsson with the game tying goal, and assists on the Sens' other two goals in this one. Ugh.

The next six, in all-too-brief format:

Dec. 21, 2015. Dallas 6, at Minnesota 3. Ugh. So bad, even the Wild didn't want to remember it. There isn't even a recap on the website. That's how bad this one was.

Jan. 3, 2016. At Florida 3, Minnesota 2. Yet another lack of offense performance by the boys in green. 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr scores with 11:08 remaing in regulation, and no pushback from the visitors. Even worse? The winning goalie? Al Montoya, noted backup goaltender and premiere Wild-killer. Maybe the Wild should get HIM to back up Dubnyk.

Jan. 25, 2016. Arizona 2, at Minnesota 1. U-G-L-Y. Wild don't got no alibi. Louis Domingue continues the tradition of backup goalies who beat up on the Wild (see: Al Montoya, above).

Feb. 2, 2016. At NY Islanders 5, Minnesota 3. Wild went into Brooklyn in first game following All-Star break. Five goals against in 25 minutes. And, yet another backup goalie, in this case Jean-Francois Berube, called up from Bridgeport of the AHL just before game time. Most of the Wild were still in the Carribean. Mentally.

Feb. 4, 2016. At NY Rangers 4, Minnesota 2. Wild went from Brooklyn to Manhattan, but the same result. Snatching defeat from victory's grasp. Horrible second period by the Wild; 2 Rangers goals in 1:20. Yuk.

Mar. 17, 2016. At NJ Devils 7, Minnesota 4. The St. Patrick's Day Massacre. Wild were never in this game, down 6-2 at the end of the second period. So bad, I had to leave 'the Rock' (Prudential Center) after the second period. Hideous exhibition of hockey by the boys in white and green (Devils wore their throwback jerseys that night). At least the Food Network was on the TV at the hotel.