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 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
It’s tough to feel good about any regulation loss in an NHL season, especially when every team in the conference seems to gain points even in losing efforts. But there were a lot of things that came out of the Minnesota Wild’s 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
Tonight was the second time this season that the Wild has played the Canucks at the end of a five-game road trip and the second of back-to-back games after playing in Alberta. This one looked like it could have been a blowout after the Canucks went up 2-0 and 3-1 in the first, but the Wild refuses to make it easy for anybody. It appears that the often talked about “identity” of this team is similar to that of the Minnesota Twins. They never quit. The Wild kept battling and battling, but just couldn’t get the equalizer against Roberto Luongo.
There was a lot of talk about last night’s goaltending matchup between Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom
, and how the two of them will be battling for the starting job for Team Finland at the 2010 Olympics. If you look at the Wild’s last four road games, it’s quite possible that the Wild faced four eventual starters in the Olympics. Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov, who shut out the Wild on Monday, will battle Evgeni Nabokov for the starting spot. On Wednesday, the Wild snuck one goal past Peter Budaj, who is a top contender for the starting position with Slovakia. Kiprusoff will likely get the nod ahead of Backstrom. And Luongo will challenge Marty Brodeur for Team Canada’s starting gig.
There’s no question that Martin Havlat had a rough – bordering on awful – start to his Wild career. He was injured. He couldn’t find any chemistry with his linemates. At times, he just looked uncomfortable in the Wild system. After this trip, I think we can stop asking “what’s wrong with Martin Havlat?”
The guy just had a monster road trip, and he got better every game. He posted two assists in Nashville. He had several scoring chances in Phoenix. He looked good in Colorado. He had a huge two-point night in Calgary, and he put the team on his back tonight. Havlat made it look easy tonight, and that’s what he does when he’s at his best. He set up the Wild’s first two goals, and finished off a give-and-go for his second goal in two nights. All three plays were the result of quick decisions and quick passes in the offensive zone. Assuming Havlat keeps this play going, we could be looking at a huge boost as the Wild keeps charging up the standings.
We’re all entitled to off nights. I, for one, would rank this “Five Takeaways” in my bottom five of all time. But here’s the difference between a referee and me; I have zero effect on the outcome of a game. The refs do, and they had a less than stellar night tonight. Derek Boogaard was called for a rough after taking three punches to the face by Darcy Hordichuk and then responding with one of his own. That led to a goal on the ensuing power play.
The critical call came in the third. Havlat was skating down the slot after a big rebound, and he had his stick lifted by Jannik Hansen, and it went directly into Hansen’s face. The refs saw Hansen throw his head back in pain and reacted with a call. Ryan Kesler scored the game-winner on the ensuing power play. Those calls, and some questionable non-calls (Havlat was obviously held late in the game as he again skated through the slot) made this game a head scratcher.
Two stats that really stand out tonight: 1) the Wild put 40 shots on goal tonight after piling up 46 last night. It’s the first time in franchise history that the Wild has put up 40 shots in back-to-back games. 2) The Wild won 71% of the faceoffs tonight, which is a new franchise record. Eric Belanger had a big hand in that, winning 14 of 17 draws, including the first 11 he took.