Glen Andresen's Five Takeaways at Columbus
Finding a way to win. That’s all that really matters in the National Hockey League. A less than beautiful 2-1 or 3-2 win counts for as many points in the standings as a 7-0 blowout victory does. Head Coach Todd Richards said as much last night after a 2-1 grind over the Calgary Flames, and he likely will say the same thing after a game like tonight.
Once again, the Wild was less than dominant in a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the bottom line is getting a hard fought win. That’s especially impressive when five key contributors were out due to injuries. If the Wild loses these last three games by a goal, the injuries would be looked at as an excuse. Instead, they provide even more optimism that this Wild team can really take off once everyone is completely healthy.
Jose Theodore hasn’t had to live the life of a back-up goaltender much in his career. An NHL MVP usually starts for as long as his career allows. But that’s his role with the Wild while Nik Backstrom stops nearly every piece of rubber he sees. Not only can a backup get rusty and frustrated at the lack of action, but he usually gets the short-end of assignments. That means a lot of road games, and a lot of appearances in the second of back-to-back games.
In his only previous start, Theodore got about the worst assignment imaginable. He played the second of back-to-backs after the Wild had beaten Edmonton the night before while taking about 50 penalties. The guys were worn down, and the Vancouver Canucks were peeved about getting blown out earlier in the week. Theodore got no help as the Canucks blitzed him for five goals, despite his solid performance.
Tonight, he goes in for the second of back-to-backs against a hot Columbus team in building the Wild has excelled at finding ways to lose games in. Theodore wasn’t letting that happen. He was brilliant from the first shift, when he robbed Derick Brassard at the end of a two-on-one. He finished the night with 35 saves on 37 shots, and he was especially good during a Columbus onslaught during the second period.
Theodore was great, but there is no doubt Brent Burns was the Wild’s star of this game. The Wild defenseman who is experience a resurgence this year, was exceptional in every facet. Of course, he scored Minnesota’s first two goals on the power play, with the second being especially important due to the Wild’s need for a spark in a rough second period. But Burns was good everywhere. He won battles along the boards and in the corners. He was everywhere he needed to be. And, he matched up well with Rick Nash, who did score, but wasn’t able to become a factor late in the game.
Burns now has two more goals (five) than he had all of last season.
And then there’s Cal Clutterbuck. Detractors (mostly opponents who don’t like to get hit) might say Cal runs around out there. Well, he does, but it’s hard to argue the results when they lead to goals. His game-winning marker was the epitome of a Clutter goal.
He went behind the Columbus net and drilled Jakub Voracek into Jacks defenseman Jan Hejda, sending both of them to the ice. That led to the puck getting turned over to Mikko Koivu, who quickly fired a shot on goal, and after an Eric Nystrom tip, Clutter emerges from the aftermath he inflicted and punches the puck into the empty net.
Marian Gaborik was an electric player, and Mikko Koivu is the franchise’s best two-way player, but I have to say that Cal Clutterbuck might be the most entertaining player in franchise history.
Big Matt Kassian really wanted to get that first NHL fight out of the way last night against Calgary, but Stefan Meyer wasn’t having it. That made his bout with Columbus tough guy Jared Boll a foregone conclusion tonight. Boll never seems to turn down an opponent, which makes him one of the more respected tough guys in the League.
Just a couple minutes in, and these two had their gloves on the ice and their fists flying every which way. After Boll missed early, Kassian started delivering haymaker after haymaker. Not many connected, but he certainly seemed to enjoy throwing them. He even smiled midway through the fight. But Boll doesn’t go down easy and these two went through a marathon before both agreeing to part ways.