Carly Peters' Five Takeaways at St. Louis
Tuesday, 03.29.2011 / 10:30 PM CT / Minnesota Wild | Features
By Carly Peters - Media Relations Coordinator
Finally! It's been a rough three weeks since the Wild's last win, but with tonight's victory, all talk of an eight-game winless streak can be put in the rearview mirror.
Some games, like Vancouver and San Jose, the Wild outplayed its opponents. Other nights, like Montreal and Toronto, the Wild did not look like the team we had come to know after five months of play. Regardless, it seemed like the Hockey Gods had some personal grudge against the Wild in stretching the Wild's winless streak to the longest it has been for years and years.
The Wild put forth another solid effort tonight, but when St. Louis grabbed a 2-1 lead in the third period, you couldn't help but ask yourself, "Is this really going to happen again?" Credit the Wild players who didn't get down on themselves, scored a quick goal and kept playing to the final whistle. While the past three weeks haven't been easy on Wild fans, they've been very tough for a group of players who have an incredible amount of pride.
After Saturday's loss to St. Louis and a subsequent closed-door team meeting, Mikko Koivu talked about the seriousness of the Wild's slump in his postgame talk with the media. Numerous people reflected not only on the powerful words the 28-year-old used, and the intense tone Koivu used to deliver those words. Koivu was named the first-ever Wild permanent captain last season because of his leadership in the locker room, but more so, his leadership on the ice. And Koivu certainly showed that drive in tonight's game.
All of the Wild lines had scoring chances tonight, but no line was more dominant than Brunette-Koivu-Miettinen. None of the three players earned a point tonight, but they did about everything else. And with all due respect to Bruno and Mittens, Kaptain Koivu was the reason the top line was so noticeable tonight. The St. Louis media was correct in selecting Koivu as the game's No. 1 Star, even if he hadn't tallied the deciding goal in the shootout. But he did.
Everyone knows Koivu can score on his bread-and-butter backhand move in the shootout. But tonight, he scored on a forehand. It was just that type of evening for the Finn; he caused turnovers, got his stick in the way of numerous shots, carried the puck with ease and banged bodies as he went to the net. In a telling moment in the second, he had his shot blocked while he was taken down to the ice around the circles, and still got another swipe at the puck while he was laying completely flat on the ice. Big time players make big time plays in big time games and Minnesota certainly needed the big game that Koivu delivered tonight.
In addition to the end of the winless streak, tonight's win was just a little sweeter than the average W because fans were gathered to cheer on the team at the Wild Interactive Viewing Party at the Mall of America rotunda. The crowd cheered with each Wild goal, and when Jose Theodore made the clinching save in the shootout, fans threw their hands in the air and roared loudly with approval.
In partnership with FS North, the Wild hosted the party at MOA, where fans watched the Wild-Blues game on the large rotunda screen. Fans also played video games and got to get their hands on the latest gadgets from the support of Best Buy and Sony. Throughout the night, fans at the party and at home followed along with the latest news from the event via Twitter. Some lucky fans even had their questions asked to Cal Clutterbuck and Mike Greenlay during the broadcast.
All in all, it was a great night and another event where Wild fans showcased the reason this is the State of Hockey. For tonight at least, the apparel of choice at the nation's biggest mall were red and green hockey jerseys. Thanks to all who came out and made the event a success!
Let's be honest: for a good a goalie as Jose Theodore is, he doesn't have the best career numbers against the Blues. In fact, going into tonight's game he was 2-5-1 with a 4.14 GAA and .853 SV% in eight career games against the Blues. But the Wild needed him to turn in a big performance tonight and he did just that.
A 27-save performance is a good night, but many of the saves Theodore had to make tonight were great. He kept the Wild in the game early on, especially with some remarkable saves when the Wild was killing off a 5-on-3 penalty. Of course, he stopped two of three in the shootout, making a clutch grab to secure the win for the Wild on its third try to do so without having to go into extra rounds.
Perhaps no save was better than his robbery on David Backes eight minutes into the opening period. After St. Louis rushed into the Wild zone and fooled the Minnesota defense with some pretty passing, Theo slid to his left to turn aside a Matt D'Agostini shot with his pad before sliding back to his right and throwing down the paddle of his stick to block Backes' sure goal.
How about a shoutout to the Wild's rookie blueliners? Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon have been one of, if not the, pleasant surprise of this season. The two play a very different game - Stoner using his large frame to push opponents off the puck and Spurgeon using his positioning to stop the attack despite his small stature - but both are incredibly successful on the ice.
Tonight, the two blueliners led the Wild with +2 ratings for the game. Stoner had a career-high two assists on the night and both turned away Blues players as they rushed in the zone.
I know this is called Five Takeaways, but since it's a big win and we're talking rookies, consider it five and a half. A tip of the hat to Casey Wellman who was recalled from Houston this morning, saw his flight delayed and arrived at Scottrade Center when the puck was being dropped. After a lightning-fast change and warmup, he was on the bench halfway into the first period and finished the game with a very respectable even rating and 6:43 TOI.