Man I love playing Minnesota. Man I love beating Minnesota. Man I love beating Minnesota this way. Gritty, grueling and grotesque.
Gritty because we won the small battles, kept Minny to 17 shots and really didn’t give up much for chances. Grueling because it comes off a four game losing streak that was the ugliest we’ve seen this season. Grotesque because I’m actually writing this 4 days after the win and immediately following our 5-4 OT lose to the Avalanche, so I know in advance how short lived this win will become.
The truth is, Minnesota is so well coached that it doesn’t matter what Vancouver does, we could fire 57 puck at the net, and suddenly find ourselves behind two goals off two bad plays. That’s how good Minnesota is. They play their best hockey off other teams mistakes. Look at the Wilds goals-for this season — 69 in 26 games — that means the opposition has made exactly 69 mistakes, collectively, while playing against the cult of Jacques Gerard Lemaire. Talk about discipline.
It seems (as iron sharpens iron) Vancouver plays their best mental game versus the Wild. This takes nothing away from the talent on either squad, because at times talent is not the question. The difference is how inconsistent Vancouver is with their brains. So often, watching the Canucks play develop, you almost know the mistake just made is going to cost them — even five or six strides behind the play you just know. This is what makes watching this team so frustrating.
Now Coach Vee has done a fine job with his rosters the past few seasons, but one has to wonder whether this group has fully bought in. The penalty-kill is nowhere near where it needs to be (81.3 % or 14th overall) in comparison to the penalties it takes (18.3 PIM/G) which makes them good for 29th overall in the league. For a team that is 8th in the league in goals-for (85 — that’s only 7 back from Detroit) this undisciplined play is not going to win them credit in the points department, it is only going to serve as a monumental cock-tease for the fans who cringe their way through game-after-game of bad penalties and even worse penatly-kills.
Vancouver must take a page out of Minnesota’s book not just when they are playing Minnesota. Without more games like tonight (against non-Wild teams) there is little chance the Canucks have of getting higher than 9th or 10th in the West. That’s not good enough.
Next Up — Colorado