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 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Before tonight’s game even started, the proverbial deck was already stacked against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild played last night. The Colorado Avalanche had been off since Sunday. The Wild was playing at high-altitude. The Avs had won six straight. Minnesota had won zero road games in 2010. Colorado had won 15 of 23 at home. The Wild didn’t even have a back-up goaltender in the building until 15 minutes before puck drop. The Avs had a goaltender in net that had given up two goals in his last four starts.
Things didn’t get any better after the puck was dropped. The Wild’s power play, which looked dynamic last night, went from bad to worse, as the players looked lost in five opportunities. Josh Harding
, the starter on back-to-back nights, appeared to aggravate a hip injury early, and could barely stand up late in the game. After two scoreless periods, the Wild appeared to have run out of gas.
So, yes, I think the Wild will take the 1-0 win while eschewing the style points.
The story of this game was Harding. He was already battling a hip injury, but with Niklas Backstrom
getting shut down because of a back injury, he had to play on back-to-back nights. After Scott Hannan missed a wide-open net in the first, Harding clearly hurt himself as he scrambled back to his crease. Later in the third, the Avs had a great scoring chance, and again, Harding looked like he was in agony as he could barely stand up.
It was looking like recalled goalie Wade “Doobey” Dubielewicz was going to have to come in after not arriving at Pepsi Center until 15 minutes before game-time and completely missed pre-game warmups. He would have become the first goaltender not named Harding or Backstrom to appear in a Wild game in 233 contests. To put that in perspective, the Los Angeles Kings have had 11 goalies since the beginning of the 2006-2007 season.
It didn’t happen. Harding pulled out one of the gutsiest goaltending performances you’ll see and finished with a 29-save shutout.
When it looked like Minnesota was just trying to find a way to force a 0-0 shootout, I was certain the only goal they were going to score was going to bounce off the scoreboard before going in. I don’t think Brad Childress will be saying that I have a “great hockey mind” anytime soon.
The lone goal came on one of the prettiest rushes we’ve seen this year. Marty Havlat gained the Avs zone on a two-on-three. He dished down to a darting Kyle Brodziak
, who hung with the play despite the puck getting deflected. After gaining control, Brodzy flipped a no-look backhand pass back to the slot where Havlat fought off three Colorado defenders and slid a backhand into the empty net. Havlat has seen his share of pretty plays, but even he looked surprised at what had just transpired.
While Harding was easily the number one star of this game, the best player on the ice in this one had to be Colorado’s Paul Stastny. We know this kid is very good, but tonight, he looked like an elite player. While there’s no stat kept for scoring chances generated, Stastny would have had at least five. Twice, his teammates missed wide-open nets after Stastny found them with no-look passes. He set up Chris Stewart with a perfect saucer on a two-on-one, but Harding robbed him. Later, he tried to take matters into his own hands by driving the net with the puck, but Harding put up a wall at the goal line.
I think my least favorite place on this earth is Negative Town, but every now and then, we have to pass through it. If can avoid looking out the window at the Wild’s power play tonight, you should. It was about as pretty as an X-Ray of Todd Fedoruk’s face. The same unit that looked like it was clicking in going 2-for-6 last night against Detroit, looked like they were trespassing every time they entered the Colorado zone. Had the outcome been different, the power play would have been the biggest hot button issue.