Leaving the Van Andel in downtown Grand Rapids, MI last night, after what some would say was a “decisive victory” on the Iowa Wild’s part, I couldn’t help but notice a pair of abandon tickets sitting on the window ledge of the Skywalk. The Winning Wednesday crowd left the game scratching their heads and most likely thinking the same thing, “Where did that come from?”
Sitting fifth in the Central Division, the Wild have fought hard to maintain their place. The Wild burst onto the ice in what seemed a strange display of chaos and control during last night’s game. The Wild, crowding their own net any time the Griffs touched the puck resulted in a combination of defense and dog-piling. Their strange new tactic paid off however. Stopping 37 of the 38 shots on goal, Stalock maintained his place between the pipes and warded off the season long rivalry. A glimpse of hope for the Griffins came late in the third from Russo with a beautifully placed, one-time shot, but it wasn’t enough to force the game into overtime.
So what changed? I would say it was a compilation of circumstances that lead to the defeat of the Griffins. The Wild played with a desperation I have never seen before in their team. It made me wonder if perhaps their recent acquisition of former Griffin captain, Jeff Hogan, lit the fire under the Wild and spurred them on to play a different kind of game. Perhaps the lack of stars, like Bertuzzi and Callahan, crippled their ability to tie-off a seemingly easy challenge. Presiding over any theory I can conjure, therein lies the simple fact that they played better hockey. Keeping with us for all 60 minutes, constantly circling, their passes connecting and their goals, though one was a little lucky I must say, being accurately executed.
Though the Wild’s approach was unorthodox, to say the least, it seemed to be effective. Their goal-smothering combined with speed seemed to ruffle the typically tame feathers of the Griffins. That being said, could this be the dawn of a new style of game between the oh-so-familiar Griffins and Wild? If so, we can expect to see any meeting between them increase in intensity and tension.
I will say, I am a loyal Griffins fan, however, every team, every goalie, and every player has bad nights. You quite literally cannot win them all. That being said, I applaud Russo’s goal (assisted by Svechnikov and Hicketts) was perfectly timed and succeeded in sparking a much needed fire in the arena. The Griffins team is comprised of some of the best young men in the league that I have had the honor of watching develop and grow. Losses happen. What separates good teams from great ones is their ability to look at loss as an opportunity to learn and grow. Grow they will and from what I witnessed Wednesday night, so will the Wild. Fasten your seatbelts. Come the next “Winning Wednesday,” something tells me that there will be no more abandon tickets, but the battles will not be getting easier.