In all likelihood, the Wilds’ double header season opener wasn’t quite the home coming that native Finns, Koivu, Miettinen and Backstrom were hoping for. The Wild seemed to be in control for the first period of their opener, registering the first goal of the season by winger Guillaume Latendresse on an excellent play from capt. Mikko Koivu. Unfortunately, they lost control in the second, letting Carolina net three goals. They could never quite recapture the hold they had on the game, and eventually lost despite a late push which resulted in a power play goal from Brent Burns. The next day, they lost a tough game in a shootout to the Canes.
They return home having collected only 1 out of a possible 4 points from the trip.
They’ll have to put that all behind them however, if they wish to gain momentum in what’s, thus far in the 2010-2011 season’s infancy, is turning into an unexpected Northwest Division race. As I write this, Edmonton and Colorado sit atop the division, while Vancouver, Stanley Cup favorites, struggle to make a significant impact. In fact, they just lost to the worst team in the league, the Ducks (who were a cool 0-3-0 before the Canucks handed them a W)
Koivu and Co. can take control of their situation by taking down a surprisingly hot team in the Edmonton Oilers. Fledgling long enough throughout the season, the Oil ended up with the first overall selection at last year’s draft. They shocked the hockey world by, well not being horrible. Newcomers like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi are bringing new life to the struggling franchise. Edmonton has racked up a hefty 7 goals while only letting in 2, resulting in an impressive +5 goal differential.
This may seem like a daunting task for the Wild, who looked average at best against the Canes. One of the biggest difficulties they’ll face will be the sheer speed of this young Oilers team. The key to taking this game is going to be to force them to bring the game to the Wilds level; play a strong defensive game, don’t give them room to maneuvre and dangle their way to the net, hit them hard and often.
Hopefully the long flight from Helsinki to St.Paul gave the team time to reflect on what went wrong and to prepare themselves for the long season ahead. Hopefully being handled by fellow low drafters the Hurricanes, lights a fire underneath their collective behinds that sends them in the the Xcell Energy Center on a mission.
And after all, the Wild are on an 8 game win streak in their home openers, why stop the crowd pleasing now??
About the Author
Written by Shawn Stenhouse