After eight seasons, the only coach the organization has ever had, Jacques Lemaire decided to leave the Minnesota Wild. Lemaire was known for utilizing a defense-first system.
When Lemaire and former General Manager Doug Risebrough left the Wild, it lead to a wholesale change to the Wild’s coaching and management staff and signaled a change in organizational direction.
Well, after watching the Wild defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-2, all I can say is: You could’ve fooled me.
The Wild came into Nationwide Arena and played a style of game that would have made Lemaire flat-out giddy. They essentially set the tempo for the style of game that it was going to be.
While being out shot by the Blue Jackets 37-24, the Wild were very adept at blocking shots, blocking shooting lanes, chipping pucks into the neutral zone and getting pucks deep into the Columbus defensive zone.
The Wild were also took advantage of their power play opportunities, converting on two of four power play opportunities and adding to their highly-proficient power play conversion rate of 25.5% coming into tonight’s game.
But it was an even strength goal by the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck at 10:31 of the third period that proved to be the game winner for the Wild. Clutterbuck drove the Blue Jackets Jakub Voracek into the boards and in doing so, caused Voracek to take Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot out of the play as well. Clutterbuck then skated towards the slot and deposited an easy feed from teammate Eric Nystrom and scored into wide-open net. The result was the game-winner for the Wild, who spent the rest of the game then chipping and clearing the puck out of their defensive zone to preserve the victory.
Here’s the analysis…
Derick Brassard: Brassard has solidified his claim as the Blue Jackets No. 1 center. He now has erased any concerns about the struggles he experienced since his shortened 2008-09 rookie season. With a dazzling cross-ice assist to Rick Nash, Brassard pushed his point streak to a career long seven games with an assist on Nash’s first period goal. Brassard has now notched five goals and three assists during his seven-game point streak.
Kyle Wilson: Mr. “Nose for the Net” continues to score goals for the Blue Jackets as he notched his fourth goal in his last six games Saturday night. In ten career NHL games, Wilson has now registered four goals and three assists. Most satisfying for Wilson was to score a goal against the team that originally drafted him in 2004. It will be very hard to either scratch Wilson or to consider sending him down to the minors.
Marc Methot: Methot continues to be the Blue Jackets top overall defenseman and has also been proficient in scoring, Time on Ice and plus/minus statistics, with a +7 rating. Methot now leads the team in assists and has 0-6-6 the past eight games. It was unfortunate, however, that he was driven out of the play by his own teammate on the game-winning Wild goal. Overall, another well-rounded performance by Methot.
Mathieu Garon: In fairness to Garon, I wouldn’t classify his performance as bad. Perhaps Okay is a better choice of word, although part of the assessment of Garon’s play comes off the heels of back-to-back shutout performances while registering a shutout streak of 142 minutes and 43 seconds, which equates to over two games and one period of stellar goaltending. While perhaps he cannot be blamed for the game-winning goal, he did not make the key saves that he has made during the shutout streak.
Not staying out of the box: For a team who’s somewhat limited, offensively, new up-tempo system be damned, the Wild are most proficient on the power play. So it was crucial for the Blue Jackets to stay out of the penalty box; however, four trips to the ‘sin bin’ resulted in the Wild converting on two of their power play opportunities, the second of which occurred within 10 seconds of the power play situation.
Not converting on the power play: The Blue Jackets were 0-for-4 on the power play, thus lowering their overall power play conversion rate to 11.5%, which is the fourth-worst in the league. In such a close-fought game and against such an efficient team as the Wild, their inability on the one-man advantage came back to haunt them.
Room for Improvement:
Execution over effort: In Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel’s post-game press conference, he stressed that the execution, particularly in the first ten minutes of the game was off as many pass attempts either didn’t connect, or when they did connectthey bounced over the teammate’s stick. With games to the premier teams in the Western Conference ahead — particularly in the Central Division — a lack of puck-possession will not turn out favorably for the Blue Jackets.
Up next for the Blue Jackets is a home game against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, November 10th.