Sunday, December 27, 2015

Wild continues the holiday-hangover pattern

On Dec. 27, 2014, the family and I attended the Wild versus Winnipeg Jets game in St. Paul. The Wild lost that contest 4-3 in overtime. It was ultimately an unlucky bounce that cost the local boys the victory.

Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, we were back for more post-Christmas Wild action as it took on the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was another loss for the Wild, 3-1. But this time, the Wild didn't even show up. Too many Christmas cookies and eggnog for them over the NHL holiday break, I guess.

Happy holiday slump
It's really not surprising. Look at the glaring statistic that the Wild is 1-7-1 in the first games after Christmas. For whatever reason, the Wild just can't get it together and instead need a mulligan game after the holidays.

The funny thing is, and goalie Devan Dubnyk referenced this in one of his postgame comments, every team gets a break at Christmas. It's nice that the NHL gives players and teams the time off, but the Wild take a little longer to recover. Not a great excuse when the opponent had the same amount of time off.

The most recent Christmas-hangover game for the Wild was in front of the largest crowd of the season - 19,234 - at Xcel Energy Center. There was about 30 seconds of excitement, when Jason Zucker scored the Wild's lone goal. More on that later.

Slow start, slow game
Predictably, it was a slow start for the Wild. A slow start that morphed into a slow game overall. Shots on goal were a joke all night, as the Pens won that battle 11-4 in the first period and 16-8 in the second. It was definitely enough to let out a Bronx cheer whenever the Wild managed a shot that reached Pens goalie Matt Murray, who was playing in his third NHL game. The Wild didn't test him nearly enough.

One of the good things after the first period was that it was scoreless. The Pens failed to get on the board. The Wild though, couldn't connect with anything. Passes were off the mark, behind players, too hard, you name it. There was a decent chance from Marco Scandella, but he hit the post.

Anyway, the Wild couldn't hold the Pens forever, and good ol' Sidney Crosby scored early in the second period. He was day-to-day this week with an injury but got the call to play. He added an assist later and was the game's No. 1 star.

Brother Kyle was super "excited" to see Sid the Kid score.
When it rains, it pours
The last two minutes of the second period got crazy. At 18:10, the Pens took a 2-0 lead. Zucker answered with his goal 45 seconds later on a nice feed from Thomas Vanek. Zucker went for the net and scored a beauty. Here's where that little bit of excitement came in before Patric Hornquist scored a deflating, power play goal at 19:26 for a 3-1 Pens lead after two periods.

That power play, by the way, was because of a cross checking penalty on Jared Spurgeon. Tough call there. But the Pens took 16 seconds to score a goal. Don't misunderstand: I'm not blaming that call for the Wild going down 3-1.

The scoring was complete, and the final shot count was 32-26 in favor of Pittsburgh. As I noted, the Wild just couldn't get anything going all game long. Poor play, poor passing, not enough puck possession and then not enough pressure on goal when they had the puck. It's frustrating to watch that type of game as a fan, especially when you're at the arena.

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