Carly Peters' Five Takeaways at Vancouver
Thursday, 04.07.2011 / 11:49 PM / Features
By Carly Peters - Media Relations Coordinator
I don't think it's a head-in-the-clouds positive statement to say that the Wild didn't deserve a 5-0 loss for the team's effort tonight in Vancouver. I'm not saying that Minnesota definitely should've won or that Vancouver didn't play well, but the five-goal differential certainly doesn't give proper credit to the Wild's effort on the night.
The Canucks started the evening with a ceremony to accept the President's Trophy as the NHL's best regular-season team. That means they're very good, very dangerous and not easy to play against. Yet, the Wild outshot the Canucks, 29-28, dominated solid sections of the first and third periods and skated with the team for the whole evening, despite what it said on the scoreboard. The Wild won't be happy with the loss, but simply looking at the game's boxscore would not give credit to how close this game actually was during the 60 minutes of play. Vancouver took advantage of the power play, scored timely goals and had a stellar defensive performance, but the Wild also had spots of brightness even though they were unable to light the lamp.
In his postgame comments to the media, Head Coach Todd Richards said it simply: "You're not going to win any games by not scoring." Unfortunately for Minnesota, Roberto Luongo didn't allow the Wild a puck in the back of his net for the entire 60 minutes tonight and proved that fact correct. Luongo made 29 saves and had the crowd roaring with some spectacular steals from Wild scoring opportunities at key moments of the game.
Luongo is obviously a very good goaltender around the League, but what makes tonight frustrating is that he finally seemed to find his game against Minnesota. Despite what all of his numbers against other NHL opponents are, Luongo has struggled in his career against the Wild - so much so that he has been the backup goalie against the Wild three times this year. Before tonight, he was 2-3-0 with a 4.86 GAA and a .840 SV% in his last five starts against Minnesota. Luongo also had just two shutouts and a 13-14-5 record in 32 starts vs. the Wild. Too bad for us, he found his game tonight.
With Luongo posting the shutout, the Canucks only needed one goal. Unluckily for Wild fans, Ryan Kesler wanted to collect some hats. The center posted three goals and a +2 rating on six shots in 17:26 TOI tonight. His first goal was a killer, coming with less than 30 seconds left in the first period and leaving the Wild stumbling into the intermission with a two-goal deficit, despite outplaying the Canucks to begin the game. The Michigan native perhaps got a little lucky when Backstrom lost the puck on his second goal but was back in top form when he tipped the rubber from out in front of the cage to complete the hatty.
I don't know what it is, but players that I usually root for always seem to miss the memo that I don't want them to have success against the Wild. I feel like it constantly happens when former Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars take on Minnesota, and now it's starting to happen with these Team USA guys. I'm a huge USA Hockey supporter Ryan, but you don't get it: I only like your play when you aren't going up against the Wild. Please try to get that figured out before next season so I can go back to enjoying watching you play. K, thanks.
With 30 seconds to go in the first period, I found myself saying, "OK, we're only down one. And against Vancouver...look at our lineup...I'll definitely take that." Ryan Kesler's sudden goal might've killed my mood heading into the first intermission, but that doesn't change the fact that my feelings on tonight's lineup hold true.
Minnesota has lost 401 man-games to injury this season, fourth highest in a category you're never aiming to top the League in. Tonight, some last-minute changes made the Wild even more shorthanded than the injury bug has left them to be late in the season. Chuck Kobasew was a late scratch for personal reasons and Cal Clutterbuck was out of the lineup because of an illness this morning. You can then consider the nine Wild players back in Minnesota with injuries and the rash of talented, yet very fresh call ups from Houston. When it has rained on the Wild this season, it's poured on Minnesota late in the year.
The Wild might've been on the road today, but there was still a great hockey atmosphere around Xcel Energy Center and downtown St. Paul. Hockey fans were out in impressive force as more than 19,000 fans attended the NCAA Men's Frozen Four tonight and watched UMD defeat Notre Dame and Michigan shutout North Dakota. The gorgeous weather helped, but fans were jammed up and down Kellogg Blvd and helped create a wonderful start to the three-day festivities.
With much of the national hockey attention focused on St. Paul, I couldn't help but think of, and get excited for, the NHL Entry Draft in late June. Fans will once again converge on St. Paul, decked out in their favorite team's colors and filled with excitement about what will happen to their favorite squad over the weekend. Both the Frozen Four and NHL Entry Draft should be great fun for the city and hockey fans alike, but selfishly, I can't wait for the Draft to become the topic at the forefront of the hockey world.