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 loss in Phoenix.
As I was enjoying a delicious lunch prior to tonight’s 1-0 Minnesota Wild loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, a member of the Wild staff told me I “could probably come up with five takeaways just on this lunch alone.” I told him that’s a good idea, but I’ll save that for a night that the Wild gets shut out and there’s nothing to say.
So, I started out with a delicious salad with ranch dressing….
On second thought, I’ll spare you the details. I’d like to spare you from the details of tonight’s loss, but then again, there weren’t many. The Wild and Coyotes were tied in the Western Conference standings when the night began, and once Phoenix finally broke through with one goal on Niklas Backstrom
, they weren’t letting anyone in a white jersey within a flagpole’s length of Ilya Bryzgalov’s net.
Despite the loss, the best player on the ice tonight was wearing a white jersey. He was also wearing big leg pads, big gloves and a mask designed by a 15-year-old. Continuing his stretch of brilliant play, Backstrom was once again phenomenal. He turned aside 40 shots, and was beaten only by a laser one-timer in the low slot by Taylor Pyatt.
Backstrom also set a new record by running his unbeaten streak to 157:13 before Pyatt finally lit the lamp. That included two scoreless periods tonight, three periods and overtime on Tuesday against Los Angeles, and the final two periods against Chicago back on January 25. Backstrom bested his old franchise record of 149:14 set in January of 2009.
I think that the Wild has outgrown the reputation of being a “trapping” team since Jacques Lemaire left. Defense is, and should be a priority for Minnesota, but you rarely hear the T-word associated with the Wild.
I also don’t hear that word associated often with the Coyotes, and I’m not going to use it here. But I will say that navigating through the neutral zone tonight looked about as easy as swimming through a school of jellyfish in a hot tub. Bryzgalov, who earned a 25-save shutout, was rarely tested. Some of that might be attributed to the Wild’s lack of spark, and some can be attributed to stifling defense.
Leaving the morning skate today, it seemed that all was fine with the Wild’s players dealing with injuries. Matt Cullen
, Cam Barker and John Madden all declared themselves good to go. But late in the afternoon, there were changes. Cullen was ruled out, and it was learned that Jared Spurgeon
was dealing with an illness and also would not play. That meant Cody Almond
and Justin Falk
would be called into action on the same day they flew in from Houston after playing the night before.
Almond and Falk were reassigned to Houston after the game, while Spurgeon flew home early.
They didn’t have a lot to cheer about tonight, but the 150 or so Wild fans that flew in today as part of the latest Wild Road Trip were highly visible in their red and green garb. The crew came in this afternoon, and had a dinner with General Manager Chuck Fletcher, who shared the good news that Marek Zidlicky is expected to practice with the team on Tuesday of this week.
Tomorrow the fans will have a Super Bowl party, followed by some fun in the desert sun before returning home on Tuesday.