Glen Andresen's Five Takeaways vs. Chicago
In the long run, earning a point on the second night of back-to-back games against the second place team in the Western Conference is a good thing. That’s especially true when the team was again missing key players and the team again had to rally from a two-goal deficit and a one-goal deficit in the third.
Still, that extra point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks would have tasted pretty delicious in a battle of the top two teams in the Western Conference.
After a sluggish start in the first, the Wild answered two Blackhawk goals with two of their own from Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen. Jonathan Toews answered in the third like Jonathan Toews tends to do. But Mikko Koivu stepped up like Mikko Koivu tends to do and forced overtime and an eventual shootout.
“We started to execute better,” said Head Coach Mike Yeo. “We started to get back to our game. I’d like to point to Stauby who did a nice job of getting us some momentum there.”
Stauby, of course is Brad Staubitz, who lit a fire for his team early in the second with a great scrap with Daniel Carcillo that he eventually won.
Despite the Wild getting Marek Zidlicky back from a concussion and Cullen back from an illness, Yeo still had some difficult lineup decisions to make. Nate Prosser was sent to Houston earlier in the day, but there remained a defenseman that had to come out. In a bit of a surprise, that was Greg Zanon, who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his Wild career.
On the front lines, Pierre-Marc Bouchard came out due to his facial injury, and Casey Wellman was the healthy scratch. Yeo then put Darroll Powe on a line with Koivu and Dany Heatley, and then Guillaume Latendresse skated with Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck. Unfortunately, that had to be readjusted with Latendresse leaving the game with post-concussion syndrome.
Again, the moves seemed to work. Despite some early struggles, the lines began to mesh, even as they were shuffled and the offense came alive. After putting just two shots on goal and zero in the net in the first, the Wild actually finished with 31 shots thanks to the firing squad putting 16 on Ray Emery in the third period.
The Wild looked energized as the game wore on and they were the better team in the second half. That’s probably little consolation to the players in the locker room, but it should bode well for the three remaining meetings between these two clubs.
We’re starting to creep up on the midway point of the season, which means we have to start talking about first half awards. Last week, you would have had to give the award to Niklas Backstrom, and he’d still be a worthy pick after another strong performance tonight.
But there’s Mikko Koivu, who leads the team with 28 points (8-20=28) and now has points in 13 of his last 14 games (7-11=18). Kyle Brodziak scored his team-leading 11th goal and again was a force at both ends. And what about Clutterbuck? He always seems to come up with the big, inspirational play and his two assists tonight, including a setup of Koivu’s goal, were huge.
The most notorious play in the game may have been the other turning point besides the Staubitz fight. With a 0-0 score in the second period, Cullen had a shorthanded breakaway but was tripped up when Duncan Keith’s skate clipped his. Cullen was not happy about the non-call and slammed his stick against the boards on his way back to the bench.
The ref responded with an unsportsmanlike call, and the Blackhawks responded with a goal on the power play. The boos came cascading down from the rafters, but the energy in the building seemed to boost the players.
The Hawks added another, but that’s when the Wild turned up the pressure and willed themselves back into this one. It made for a thrilling finish and the start of what could be a very good rivalry as these teams battle it out in the standings.
The Wild is expected to call up a player tomorrow. Whether that’s to give Latendresse a night off remains to be seen. He didn’t look like he needed a night off by the way he played tonight.