Carly Peters' Five Takeaways at San Jose
Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 10:55 PM CT / Minnesota Wild | Features
By Carly Peters - Media Relations Coordinator
When a guy is as good as Niklas Backstrom was tonight, you better believe he's getting Takeaway Numero Uno. The Finnish netminder tied a career-high with 47 saves tonight in San Jose, 20 in the second period alone, and most of those were not easy stops. From the beginning of the game, you could tell Backs was dialed in and he singlehandedly kept the Wild in contention for much of the game.
No save highlighted Backstrom's performance tonight more than his stop on Logan Couture in the first period. Couture showed why he just might be the NHL Rookie of the Year when he left a drop pass for Ben Eager, before hustling to the net to grab the rebound. Backstrom not only turned away a solid shot by Eager, he hustled to his right to throw both pads out for a sensational save on Couture.
As Head Coach Todd Richards said about Backstrom after the game, "He held the fort down for us, especially in the second period."
What is up, Hockey Gods? What did Wild fans ever do to make you angry? All I know is I'm starting to get ticked with you guys. Nashville, I'll give you. Heck, even Dallas. But the Wild played its tail off in Vancouver and San Jose and should have had a better fate in at least one of the last two games on the road trip.
It's not the fact that the Wild lost - sure that hurts - but it's more the fact that bounces yet again were the determining factor in goals against the Wild. On the Sharks' second goal tonight, a seemingly harmless shot saw the puck not only bounce off John Madden's stick in front of the Wild net, it then also hit the pipe before falling into the Wild net. The eventual game winner for San Jose was a great save by Backstrom that then deflected off of Brent Burns and into the net. If you want us to lose on stellar passing plays or breakaway goals, fine, I can swallow that. These little flukey plays, not so much.
John Madden is the oldest player in the Wild locker room, but you'd never know it from his play on the ice recently. Tonight, Madden seemed to have an extra jump in his step, especially on the penalty kill, and single handedly brought the Wild back into the game after it found itself down a goal in the first period.
Madden always seems to be a workhorse, but it was no more obvious tonight then when he carried the puck out of the Wild zone and brought it all the way up ice, through three San Jose players as he drove to the Sharks net, and wristed a shot over the stick of Niemi. The goal was Madden's 12th of the season, the most he's had since scoring 20 with New Jersey in 2007-08.
It's tough enough for the Wild to end the road trip with a close loss, but the outcomes of the other Western Conference games tonight were like twisting a knife in the Wild's 0-4-0 roadie. With only 11 games left on the season, the Wild has to win, but realistically, it's also going to need a little help from the teams that it chases for a playoff spot.
Ninth-place Nashville, three points ahead of the Wild to start the evening, came back to win in overtime against Boston. Eighth-place Calgary took a 5-2 win against Colorado. Chicago did drop down to seventh place, but it was at the expense of a win for Dallas. The only real help came when St. Louis dropped L.A., 4-0.
Coming home from its worst road trip of the year, there will be plenty of people who say the Wild's season is over, and while the guys will be the first to admit they didn't do themselves any favors by not gaining a point on the 10-day trek, it is far from over.
As Todd Richards said after the game when asked if there is a way to recover from this disappointing road trip, "Absolutely there's a way to recover from this: you go out and you win games…There's nobody that's going to come in and help us, that's for sure. It's going to be the guys in the room, sticking together and playing good hockey."
Minnesota is six points back of a playoff spot with 11 games remaining. With the return of Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck to the Wild lineup, Minnesota has played well in its past two games and seems to be on an upswing heading back home. Six of the next seven Wild games are in St. Paul and five of those are against teams that are currently outside the playoff seeds. String a few wins together, hope for a few losses by some other teams, and the Wild might very well be playing into May.