Glen Andresen's Five Takeaways vs. Vancouver
Sunday, 01.16.2011 / 8:07 PM CT / Minnesota Wild | Features
By Glen Andresen - Manager of Social Media
It just doesn’t seem to matter how great the Vancouver Canucks are, the Minnesota Wild could care less. The Canucks bring out the Wild’s “A” game whenever they come to St. Paul, and apparently it doesn’t matter who plays goal for them. Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider, Dan Cloutier or Betty White can strap on the pads, the result is going to be the same.
Just two days after a sucker punch game that the Wild dominated, yet lost to the Colorado Avalanche, spirits have to be soaring. The Canucks had lost just one regulation game in their last 19. Schneider had lost just one game in regulation all season, the power play was converting more than 27% of the time and the Sedin twins have been spectacular all season. It didn’t matter tonight, and it doesn’t seem to matter, ever. The Wild has Vancouver’s number when they come here, winning the last four Xcel Energy Center meetings by a combined score of 21-6. And that’s just the way it’s going to be.
“I think the guys came out and played like it was an important game,” said Head Coach Todd Richards. “We got some big performances, and it started in net with Anton.”
Very nice! What a way for Anton Khudobin, the man they call “Borat,” to respond. We all know what happened on Friday when he let in a soft bouncing puck, which really didn’t matter because the Wild only mustered one goal all night. Still, any goaltender is going to be embarrassed, but an NHL goaltender is going to want another crack the very next game.
Khudobin got that chance against the best team in the NHL, and he came through with his first NHL shutout in just his third NHL start. Khudobin made 32 saves on the night including seven on the Sedin twins. Khudobin also got some help, as Brent Burns saved one goal by diving into the crease and swatting a loose puck out of harm’s way in the first. In the second, Greg Zanon did everything but get into a goaltender’s stance as he entered the crease and made a stellar save on a point blank attempt from Jannik Hansen.
Still, any win would have been good, but a shutout is the perfect ending. Actually, the perfect ending is a postgame interview with the bubbly goaltender, because he’s one of the funniest characters ever to grace the Wild locker room. Need evidence? Check out this photo.
It comes as no surprise that this game was among the most entertaining games of the season. That just happens when the Canucks visit. The players know what’s going on, as do the fans. That’s why it was so gratifying to see the fans react to the Wild’s play in the first period despite zero goals scored. The Wild power play came up with a dominant two minutes that went scoreless, and yet the fans roared their approval when the penalty to Andrew Alberts expired.
The roars were even louder for Brad Staubitz who jumped to the defense of Jared Spurgeon after Aaron Volpatti ran the diminutive blueliner into the glass. Staubitz immediately dropped the gloves and patiently waited for the chance to land two huge left hands that dropped Volpatti and put an even bigger jolt into the sellout crowd of 18,468.
We’ve talked about defense and goaltending and fighting so far. There was some offense in this game for one of the teams. The Wild had found the net just twice in the last three contests, but the offense broke through, starting in the second period. It didn’t come easy at first, as Pierre-Marc Bouchard had to take about four whacks at the puck in the crease before Andrew Brunette finally poked home a loose puck.
That’s how hard goals have been to come by, but the next few came a bit easier. Martin Havlat made a great play in the neutral zone and finished a breakaway for his 11th on the year. Matt Cullen also got into breakaway mode by finishing a shorthanded chance for his third shortie, which puts him in a tie for the League lead. Cullen is a fairly reserved fellow, but you could tell by him raising both arms high in the air after the goal, that this one was much needed. Plus, you can't forget John Madden who was rewarded for his great play throughout the game with the night's final goal.
Apparently there’s no back-story, but it’s a pretty interesting coincidence that Chuck Kobasew’s last two fights have come against Baudette’s Keith Ballard. Those two came together in the second period and dropped the gloves. Kobasew had never before fought in a Wild uniform, and his last fight was with Ballard nearly two years ago, on February 24, 2009. Kobasew was a Bruin, and Ballard was a Panther. As you can see here, that one was pretty much a draw, as was tonight’s tussle.