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 5-4 shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks.
Um…well…I think the team bus showed up on time for the game tonight. After that, I don’t think you can find a lot that went right for the Minnesota Wild in its 2-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Most obviously, they were shut out on the scoreboard. But the Coyotes were better in the faceoff circle. They were better on special teams, and they gave the Wild zip in terms of room to maneuver. And then there was an ugly cheap shot by a player that should surprise no one, and we’ll talk about that later.
Phoenix showed tonight why they are now 18-11-1 and firmly entrenched in the playoff race despite not having anybody in the Top 90 in NHL scoring. Ilya Bryzgalov, Ilya Bryzgalov and a defensive system set up to benefit…Ilya Bryzgalov. Looking like the Wild of yesteryear, the Yotes clogged up the neutral zone and pounced on a couple mistakes to score two quick goals in the second, which was more than enough.
Have we mentioned how good Ilya Bryzgalov is this season? Barring a meltdown from the enigmatic goaltender, the Vezina Trophy appears his to lose. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller has been brilliant this year as well, but that guy at least as some offensive support. The Yotes keeper posted his League-leading fourth shutout, and lowered his goals against average, which was at 2.07 coming into the game.
The Phoenix starter didn’t have to make any brilliant saves, but a goalie that is playing well doesn’t have to if he’s always in the right position. Bryzgalov appears to cover the entire net when he’s down in the butterfly position, and for the most part, the Wild shots were going right into the dog face on his chest. Although, if you recall, Bryzgalov is a former teammate of Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim. Giguere was rumored to have worn shoulder pads underneath his chest protector to make his upper body bigger. Time to send in the equipment police if you ask me.
What else would you expect from Ed Jovanovski? This is the same guy who scored a tying…not winning…but tying goal for Vancouver in Game Four of the 2003 playoffs against the Wild and proceeded to do the canoe celebration at center ice. He’s also been known to cheap shot every now and then and he certainly got away with one tonight.
In the third period, Andrew Ebbett attempted to enter the Phoenix zone and Jovanovski clotheslined him Hacksaw Jim Duggan-style. No penalty was called. On the Fox Sports North broadcast, analyst Mike Greenlay made a great point. After some ticky-tack slashing calls were called on both teams earlier in the game, the refs let an obvious shot to the head go unnoticed. And this in a year when concussions and shots to the head have been a major issue in League meetings. The refs did nothing, which of course forced the Wild to police the game, and that led to fisticuffs and cheap shots when the buzzer sounded.
Head Coach Todd Richards, who wouldn’t comment on a possible suspension, said Ebbett would have to be evaluated even though he did return to the ice. The lone silver lining in the incident was James Sheppard immediately responding to the play. He began tracking Jovanovski right away and went after him.
Two Wild players did manage to stand out tonight. Niklas Backstrom
played a very solid game in between the pipes. Other than two goals that came 44 seconds apart, Backstrom was flawless. Neither goal could be considered the fault of Backs. The first, Scottie Upshall was left wide open in front, and the second was just a great play by Shane Doan leading to a perfect finish by Taylor Pyatt.
The other player that played well was Martin Havlat. Havlat, who produced two assists on Saturday, still can’t catch a break. However, he was very noticeable on the ice tonight, and nearly scored a highlight reel goal. With the Wild on the power play, Havlat just raced the puck up the middle and split the defensemen before backhanding a shot off the post. The goals are coming for Havlat as long as the effort stays where it was the last two games.
The most dangerous opponent the Wild is facing right now is not a Western Conference team but a virus flitting around the locker room. Cal Clutterbuck
missed a second straight game due to illness, and his roommate, Derek Boogaard, also caught the bug. This comes in the same week that Kim Johnsson missed time with the flu, and two weeks after Antti Miettinen missed two games with H1N1.