Wild ‘07-’08 season in hands of injury prone Gaborik
October 4, 2007
The Minnesota Wild are locked in a tight game against the Calgary Flames. It’s scoreless late in the third period.
The Wild are chasing the Vancouver Canucks for the Northwest Division lead. Flames winger Jerome Iginla tries to pass to a teammate. Wild winger Marian Gaborik intercepts the pass and uses his blazing speed. He cuts up the ice, looks to his left, and center Pavol Demitra is right with him.
It’s a two-on-one breakaway. Gaborik passes to Demitra. Demitra gives it back to Gaborik. They’re getting closer to the net, and Gaborik should probably shoot off the one timer but again passes back to Demitra.
It looks like they know exactly what the other is thinking because Demitra throws it right back at Gaborik right in front of the net. It slides across the crease and Gaborik stuffs it into the net, giving the Wild the lead.
Moments like that fueled the Minnesota Wild last season.
Some people say the Wild are really two teams: the one with Gaborik and the one without. The biggest concern for the Wild is the health of Marian Gaborik. Gaborik clearly is the straw that stirs the drink for the Wild.
Observe their record at the beginning of the season. The Wild got off to a 10-1 start with Gaborik healthy and playing. After that, Gaborik went down with a groin injury and started to slide. Gaborik missed 34 games and the team went on a slide.
When Gaborik came back, he was a scoring machine. When Gaborik was in, the Wild had a combined record of 33-9-6. Without Gaborik, they went 15-17-2. If the Wild want to contend in the top heavy Northwest Division, Gaborik must stay healthy.
Backstrom must play like he did in latter part of season
Manny Fernandez was a headcase and was traded to Boston for a minor league prospect. Now, Niklas Backstrom is the man between the pipes. He got rewarded for his strong second half, where he went 23-8-6 filling in for Fernandez.
What is really surprising is that he dominated the Anaheim Ducks. Although the Wild lost in five games, Backstrom stopped 134 of the Ducks’ 145 shots. If Backstrom can continue his hot play in net, the Wild will not relinquish their title of allowing the fewest goals in the NHL.
Scoring from the blue line
Kim Johnsson was supposed to improve this last year. He was signed to be the offensive defenseman the Wild needed.
Johnsson managed just three goals last season. The Wild need their defensemen to pick up their end of the offensive load.
The most likely candidate to do this is Brent Burns. Burns had a huge second half for the Wild, as at one point, he scored back-to-back overtime game-winning goals.If
Overall team health
Hey, it’s not just Gaborik who’s got to stay healthy. What if Brian Rolston or Pavol Demitra go down? The Wild would be screwed. Any injury to one of the Wild’s key players would be disastrous.
Finally, Boogaard needs help
Derek Boogaard may just be the baddest man on the ice. Boogaard would even give Chuck Norris a run for his money. However, in the Anaheim series, the Wild struggled with the Ducks’ physical play. Some players on the Wild stepped up in that series, as Burns registered (and won) his first two fights of his NHL career.
The Ducks got some more help of their own as they signed goon Todd Bertuzzi. When you add Chris Pronger and Brad May in the Ducks mix, Boogaard can’t fight three (or more)-on-one, no matter how tough he is. Someone must step up and kill, I mean, fight goons like Bertuzzi.
Chris Schad is a student at UW-River Falls.