Unfortunately, I was home sick yesterday, and did not watch all of the game… However, I do have some observations:
This game was a tale of two different teams in the same uniforms. The first period showed a team that was at their utmost. Winning battles to the pucks, having all four lines contribute, and all d-pairs. The two goals came from not the most expected of sources. The first was a beautiful slapper by Andrew MacDonald, hitting the post to the left of Nicklas Backstrom, and into the net. The second was a great slap-pass by Mark Streit, to a waiting Frans Nielsen on the goalie’s doorstep.
That first period showed the fans, and the TV viewers that there is a stronger side of this team. It was a 20 minute stanza of domination.
The Not so Good
The second two period would see the Isles muster only five shots, while the Wild dominated the play in certain aspects. Although I did not see much to the Minnesota fire power other than the first line of Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the converse of the play in the first period was happening in stanzas two and three. The Isles in many aspects were not able to get the puck into the offensive zone, with the exception of dumping. Their skates were not in a constantly moving motion. The battles were in many cases easily won by the visitors. It was looking like game number one over again.
Al Montoya - was totally on his game. He was spectacular, with his side-to-side motions, and did not give the Wild many second chances. He was challenging the shooters and with the exception of one play, was totally dominant. It was a surprise to see him in back-to-back contests, but Coach Capuano made the right decision.
Other Good Signs
The Isles were 6 for 6 on the PK, and got a PP goal. All 18 skaters were on the ice for at least 10 minutes, which is quite rare for any hockey club, but with the heavy PK work for the team, it was necessary.
I think that John Tavares had a splendid game, despite not getting on the scoresheet. You can see that his skating has improved by leaps and bounds. In addition, his physical play is evident. You can see that he is not getting pushed off the puck as easily as he was in his first two seasons on the Isle. Reports state that he was doing major strength training during the summer, and it is showing. He may have no points in two games, but you can see that he will be a much different force this season.
Mark Streit readily admitted after Saturday night’s game that he was catching up – but it is easy to see what this team was missing last season. The wherewithall to see ahead of the play and find a streaking Nielsen in front of the net, and to blast that 80 MPH slapshot-pass to the net, is a testament to the offensive capabilites that this team will enjoy with the healthy captain on the blueline.
Next up for the Isles – the Tampa Bay Lightning. They lost a tough one in Washington last night – so they will be hungry to get back in the W column. Welcome back Bruno Gervais.
Please visit our NHL main page and the blogs of all of our NHL teams,
Too Many Men on the Site
Please check out Fansided’s weekly NHL podcast,
Rink Side Rants