Typically 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:
Those two points that got away from the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night against Nashville weren’t going anywhere tonight. The Wild fought, clawed and battled its way to a gutsy 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche to put a death grip on those points and boost the team's hold on the eighth position in the Western Conference.
A seeing eye shot from Greg Zanon in the first period was all the Wild needed in a scrap-filled contest that featured 37 saves from Niklas Backstrom
. The victory gave the Wild a second straight road win (both over Colorado), a third win in four games and some momentum going into Dallas, where the team hasn’t won since 2003.
"There were fights and hits and guys blocking shots," said Head Coach Mike Yeo. "It's an outstanding effort from our guys coming off last game, especially emotionally, it was not easy."
Backstrom’s stellar performance wasn’t too shocking considering he always has a big night against the Avalanche, in particular in Denver. Backstrom is now 9-2-1 at the Pepsi Center with a 2.16 goals against average and a .928 save percentage.
But the timing of his performance is what was most encouraging. Yeo made a point of saying earlier this week that both Josh Harding
and Backstrom would get a start after the All-Star break. He wanted one of them to take advantage and stake a claim to the number one spot as the season rolls into crunch time.
Backstrom seemed to do that tonight, coming up especially big in the third period when the Avs made a serious push for the equalizer by throwing the puck on net from every angle.
Yeo acknowledged that Backstrom did indeed earn the start in Dallas on Saturday. Dany Heatley
had his three-game goal streak snapped, but he extended his point streak to four games with an assist on Zanon’s goal. I’ve talked about how hot Heatley has been getting over the last four games, but what is most impressive about him is his demeanor and work ethic on the ice.
Heatley might not reach 50 goals this year as he has twice in the past, but his contributions to this team go far beyond that. Heatley is a team player through and through. Watch him before his linemates take a draw before a period and he’s skating around to each one of them with a tap of their shin pads or a bump of the glove. Watch the way he reacts when a player other than him scores a goal. And look at the way he double-shifted tonight, but was throwing checks and blocking shots.
This guy is all about the team. He might not feel like he’s doing all he can when the goals aren’t coming, but right now they are, and so is everything else.
So in back-to-back games, the Wild deals with the epitome of agitation: Cody McLeod (tonight) and Steve Ott (on Saturday). Tough to say which player causes more Wild fans to scream at their TV, but they are both equally frustrating to watch.
Maybe because McLeod’s performance is fresh in my mind, I’ll pick him as the more annoying agitator (for now). McLeod is constantly running his mouth, and that’s fine. But he’s also the guy delivering hits from behind to Jared Spurgeon
, and shying away from fights with Matt Kassian
McLeod finally did drop the gloves with Clayton Stoner
, who landed the majority of the blows, but then fell to the ice, and took a punch from McLeod while he was down.
It was typical McLeod. And that’s they way it is unfortunately.
Finally, what’s the deal with Adrian Dater? This guy, who covers the Avalanche for the Denver Post, has made a name for himself over the years by taking repeated shots at the Wild and its players.
Writers are going to say things that won’t go over well with players or fans, and that’s fine. But when Dater throws words out like “cowardly” as he did last year when talking about Cal Clutterbuck
, or “morons” when talking about Wild fans as he did on Twitter tonight, I’d say that’s crossing the line.
His exact tweet read “McLeod hammers Stoner into the ice. There’s your turtle. Wild moron fans”
Classy stuff. That slightly outdid his earlier tweet of calling Kassian a “useless goon.”
Now, I realize it’s admirable to call people names online rather than to their face, I personally think it might behoove Dater to devote his efforts into writing about the team he roots for…I mean covers. Unless he's willing to say that to Kassian's face, in which case I'd pay good money to see.