Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back a 6-0 shutout against the Flames in Calgary.
That didn’t look like a team that was tired from killing penalties all night in Edmonton less than 24 hours earlier. The Minnesota Wild hasn’t exactly racked up the victories in the second of back-to-back games, having won just once in those situations this season. But tonight, they made it look easy in a 6-0 whipping of the Calgary Flames.
From start to finish, this was a beating not often seen in the National Hockey League, and it definitely shut up the squawkers who were ready to go off about Marian Gaborik’s four-goal game earlier in the night. Gaborik’s “replacement,” Martin Havlat chipped in the first and sixth goals for the Wild. Mikko Koivu
buried a wrister on the power play. John Madden potted his seventh of the season. Cal Clutterbuck
scored his career-high 14th of the season with another rising laser shot from a spot where players just don’t score from. And Chuck Kobasew continued to surge by scoring his eighth.
As Madden said after the game, the Wild “has a lot of hot sticks right now.” He could have added hot goalie equipment and hot shin pads as well. In its three-game win streak, the Wild has outscored opponents, 14-1.
I have made three visits in my lifetime to the Saddledome in Calgary. Each time, there was this ominous feeling that bad things were going to happen. Sooner or later, those canisters above each cage would start spitting huge fireballs and the chances of a Wild win would disappear faster than a sheet of paper doused in gasoline. But what I always remember was the atmosphere in that rink, and how the fans seemed to hang on every moment, ready to explode in jubilation, and they always did.
Now, because I was watching tonight’s game on TV from the comfort of my davenport, I may not be in position to comment on the atmosphere tonight. But even on TV, it looked like a sad place to be, and Dan Terhaar and Mike Greenlay pretty much backed up that statement by repeatedly mentioning how quiet the crowd was. Sure, it’s tough to cheer a team that’s getting shut out, but from what I recall, the Flames fans willed their team to victory. Tonight, it seemed like they were resigned to another defeat at the hands of the mighty W’s.
Minnesota is now 5-1-0 in the last six games in Calgary, and all of those wins have come under the reign of Todd Richards. Prior to his arrival, the Wild had 3-18-4 in Calgary. And one more note on this topic: the Wild had not won more than three games over the Flames in any of the first eight seasons in franchise history. In the last two years, the Wild is 9-2-1 against Calgary.
Anton Khudobin certainly was entertaining if you don’t mind a few years taken off your life expectancy. The rapscallion Russian played the previous three games and won his final two starts, giving up just one goal over those last two wins. But that Wild net belongs to Niklas Backstrom
when he’s healthy, and he took over the crease with authority tonight. He steered aside all 37 shots faced for his second shutout of the season.
While Khudobin looked like a spider monkey that had just downed a two-liter of Jolt Cola, Backstrom brought that air of calmness to the Wild net. Both seem to be effective considering the Wild has given up just one goal on a three-game win streak.
The Wild should just score two goals in the first five minutes every game. It’s way better than not doing it. For the second straight night, the Wild pumped in two goals thanks to a valiant effort by Kyle Brodziak
to set up Havlat’s first, and Koivu’s missile shot past his Olympic teammate. Unlike last night, the Wild didn’t let up and just tightened their headlock on the Flames until they tapped out sometime early in the third period. In the last nine road games, the Wild has gone 7-1-1, and a major part of that is because they’ve outscored opponents in the first periods of those games, 11-2.
The most important race is the playoff chase, and the Wild is now one point from seventh place in the standings. But another interesting race is the title of leading goal-scorer among Wild players. Every time a player threatens to take the lead, Clutterbuck snatches it back with a goal of his own. He’s going to have some competition down the stretch. Minnesota has five players – Clutterbuck (14), Havlat (13), Burns (13), Koivu (12) and Brunette (12) -- with at least 12 goals and six (Matt Cullen
) with 10.
Who you got? I’m going with Koivu, but I’m saying at least five of those six players hit the 20-goal plateau.