Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-2 win in Chicago.
A team that can’t convert on an extended five-on-three advantage is supposed to lose momentum, especially when that team is already down a goal…on the road…to the defending Stanley Cup champs…who were absolutely flying. But the Wild used a scoreless 47-second, two-man advantage to halt an early offensive onslaught by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first period, and went toe-to-toe the rest of the way.
When the Hawks seemed to impose their will during brief periods, Niklas Backstrom
was there to thwart them at every turn. When he wasn’t coming up with brilliant saves, the Wild was rushing the other way and finishing on their best scoring chances. Newly named All-Star Martin Havlat got the Wild on the board first, and Chuck Kobasew, Antti Miettinen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
responded to a 2-1 deficit with three unanswered goals.
At the final buzzer, the Wild had completed a 3-1-0 road trip in which they outscored opponents 17-6. They moved one point behind the Hawks for the eighth spot in the West. And, they will have six days to savor a huge victory over the All-Star weekend before resuming play on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Two nights ago, Jared Spurgeon
was footing the bill at the team’s rookie dinner at Chicago restaurant. Tonight, he set up the biggest goal of the night by wristing a shot toward the goal that Chuck Kobasew tipped in for the second period equalizer. All the kid does is give, give, give.
Spurgeon has arguably been the Wild’s biggest surprise this season, considering he was signed just prior to training camp as a rookie free agent. While talk of the future of the Wild blueline centered around names like Marco Scandella
, Nate Prosser
and Tyler Cuma
, Spurgeon quietly reported to Houston and impressed the brass enough to earn a surprise call up. He’s earned the right to stay with consistent play, and his best game of his young career tonight.
Following the game, the Wild sent Cody Almond
back to the Houston Aeros, who will play in Syracuse, N.Y. tomorrow. There’s a chance Spurgeon may join him later in the week just to keep him playing. But for now, he’s earned another night in a St. Paul hotel and an off day tomorrow.
When I’m sitting on the team bus following a Wild road game, I enjoy passing the time by getting on the Wild Facebook page
and seeing what fans are saying as the game goes along (I’m antisocial and don’t like to talk to people next to me on the bus). When things are going bad, the fans get down. When things go well, the fans are happy. That’s just being a sports fan.
It is a little befuddling to see some of the reactions when Niklas Backstrom
surrenders a goal, however. Whether we like it or not, he’s doubtful to ever post a 0.00 goals-against average for a season. But you can be 100% positive that he’ll work his kiester off every practice, he’ll come into every start fully prepared and he’ll do everything to make every stop he can.
Backstrom has been spectacular in nearly every one of his starts, and tonight may have been his best. He made the save of the year
on Troy Brouwer in the first, gave up two goals that couldn’t be blamed on him and then shut down the high-powered Hawk attack the rest of the game.
Not to get all preachy, because there’s nothing wrong with getting upset over a goal by the opposition. But let’s not start searching the waiver wire for a new goaltender after one or two goals.
Last year, I used a Five Takeaway to rave about the experience of a National Anthem at a Blackhawks game. I’m doing it again this year. If you’re a hockey fan, or if you have any sense of patriotism whatsoever, add a Blackhawks home game to your bucket list and get there before Jim Cornelison sings the most spectacular rendition of the Star Spangled Banner that you will ever hear. Click here
to see a rendition from the playoffs.
With the crowd roaring through the entirety of the song, you will get chills all throughout your body. Those chills multiplied tonight, when two veterans joined Cornelison on the ice, one of whom was his 88-year-old mother who served in the United States Army and had never seen her son perform. I wish Cornelison had performed the encore. Nobody would have been upset.
I started thinking; it would be great if every arena cheered throughout the anthem. But then I realized, this is one of those things that is special to Chicago, and just can’t be duplicated anywhere else. However, I firmly believe that the trend of having the pop star du jour sing the anthem at major events should disappear if they can just get Cornelison to perform. I mean, I’m looking forward to Clay Aiken’s performance at this weekend’s All-Star Game as much as the next guy, but maybe Patrick Kane, who is an alternate captain for Team Lidstrom, can use one of his team’s picks to draft Cornelison for the anthem.
The final take before the break has to be devoted to Martin Havlat, who had himself quite a day. That way, I can avoid talking about a Chicago goal in the third period that was waved off because the whistle blew prematurely, causing all 22,000 people in the building to boo and curse for at least 10 minutes.
At the team lunch today, General Manager Chuck Fletcher notified Havlat that he’d been selected to attend the All-Star Weekend festivities along with teammate, Brent Burns.
Havlat responded to the honor by ripping home a picturesque wrist shot in the first two minutes against his former team.