Glen Andresen's Five Takeaways vs. San Jose
You could say the Minnesota Wild’s 1-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks wasn’t a masterpiece. But why would you want to? Then, you’d just look like some whiner who throws a tantrum about a free catered meal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Around here, where a pro sports team hasn’t won a title in nearly 20 years, we have to focus on the positives. And there are plenty of them.
The Wild has won its fifth game in its first 11, which is something that took 22 games to accomplish last year. The Wild snapped a five-game winless skid against the Sharks, who have been one of the NHL’s best teams over the last 10 years. There’s more, including Niklas Backstrom’s first shutout in 43 home starts, but those will be covered in the following takeaways.
What more can I say about Backstrom that I haven’t already gushed about over the past four games? My only wish is that I would have copied the posts on Facebook and Message Boards over the summer that said the Wild should have traded him. Wait, that’s a negative thought, and I’m not heeding my own advice.
But, come on! The guy is absolutely on fire, and he’s doing it when his team is struggling to score goals while three key scorers were watching from the Al Shaver Press Box. He goes 59 minutes without giving one up to Alex Ovechkin and Washington. He almost single-handedly beats an angry Chicago Blackhawk team. And tonight, he shuts down one of the best lines in hockey.
As opposed to last week, Backy didn’t have to make any jaw-dropping stops. His teammates played outstanding in front of him, and let him see every shot coming his way. But still, shots by Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton can be tough to stop even if you see the shot the whole time. We’re through 11 games. He’s got a 1.88 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Most importantly, I’m running out of superlative adjectives to use on this guy. I may need to re-read some of my daughter’s Dr. Seuss books for some suggestions.
I wasn’t able to watch the VERSUS broadcast tonight, but I hope the announcers broke out the old cliché, “Boy, we haven’t said Joe Thornton’s name much tonight. Or Dany Heatley’s. Or Patrick Marleau’s.” I know I didn’t mention them much in my live in-game commentary, but I make a point not to talk about opponents much anyway. Wild.com is our site, not theirs.
In their last two games, the line of Marleau, Thornton and Heatley combined for 20 points as San Jose scored 10 goals. Tonight, they combined for six shots. Todd Richards claimed the team didn’t do anything different to shut them down. I’m not so sure. Either they spiked the San Jose water bottles with sake, or they were doing something to keep those guys off the board.
Have you heard it’s “Movember?” I hope so, because you’re going to be hearing a lot more about those lip caterpillars showing up on Wild players’ faces throughout the month. And what a start for the Minnesota Wild Mo Bros! After going 5-3-3 in the month last year, they start the month off right with a win.
As for who is winning the early ‘stache competition, Greg Zanon is the obvious front-runner. But there’s still 28 days left, and plenty of facial hair to be grown…and ridiculed.
The only goal of the night came when Andrew Brunette converted a 5-on-3 opportunity. That wasn’t strange. What was strange was that the Wild still have a two-man advantage after he scored the goal. John McCarthy was already off for a four-minute highsticking penalty, and just over a minute later, Torrey Mitchell hooked Marty Havlat to the ice. When Brunette scored, there was still nine seconds left on McCarthy’s first minor, meaning the only time that got wiped out were those nine seconds. Of course, the Wild was unable to convert the rest of the power play, but they did control the play and that had to have taken a toll on the Shark legs.