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 4-2 loss in Vancouver.
After a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night, the Minnesota Wild are sure to be written off from by playoff picture by many. It’s tough to blame the folks who might feel that way. The Wild has 12 games left. They’ve lost the first three games of this road trip. And they sit in 11th place, still four points behind the Calgary Flames.
Now, let’s look at a few more facts. While several Western Conference teams keep winning, the Wild should now set its sights on Calgary, Nashville and Anaheim. The final playoff spot is going to come down to one of those four teams, and the Wild is in position to catch any of them.
The Wild wraps up its road trip on Thursday against a vulnerable San Jose Sharks team. Following that, Minnesota plays four straight home games and five of the next six contests will come against teams that would not be in the playoffs if they started today.
And most importantly, the Wild got Mikko Koivu
, Cal Clutterbuck
and Clayton Stoner
back in the lineup tonight. Not only did all three play, they were major contributors all game long. With nearly a full lineup for the home stretch (the team is still awaiting word on Guillaume Latendresse
’s status), there is time for this group to climb.
“Refocus and get ready. That’s all you can do,” said Head Coach Todd Richards.
Of the three players that came back tonight, Koivu missed the most time, sitting out 11 games with a broken finger. He was the Wild’s best player tonight.
Koivu figured in on both Wild goals, assisting on the first and scoring the second. He put five shots on goal, was a +1, and was a physical presence all night.
Perhaps Koivu’s most indelible moment in a Wild uniform came a few years back when he returned to General Motors Place for the first time since having his leg broken by a vicious Mattias Ohlund slash. In his return, Koivu scored a huge goal and then let out a scream as he skated past the Vancouver bench
Tonight, Koivu took another slash and had his stick broken in half. Upon getting a replacement from the bench, he shouted something at the Vancouver bench and then went into the offensive zone and promptly roofed a backhand goal
That’s the kind of sequence reserved for the guy in the beer commercials. I think Koivu might be “the most interesting man alive.” He doesn’t always talk trash, but when he does, he prefers to do it at the Vancouver Canucks.
Koivu wasn’t the only guy who had his stick broken. It seemed like half the Wild team had their sticks snap in half tonight, and all seemed to happen at the worst possible times. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
broke his twig on a shot during a five-on-three man advantage. Clayton Stoner
broke his on an open one-timer attempt from the blue line. Antti Miettinen’s shattered on a centering pass as he gained the Vancouver zone.
It was a fitting subplot in a game that the Wild couldn’t buy a break. They out played the Canucks for most of the game. They had a goal by Andrew Brunette waved off even though the puck was never covered by Roberto Luongo and clearly crossed the line.
I just don’t get Luongo. I’m not going to say he’s overrated, because the guy has the stats and accolades to back up his aura as one of best goaltenders in the world, as long as he’s not playing at Xcel Energy Center.
But watching him drives me crazy. To me, he looks like a big oaf in goal. He embellishes every save. He always seems to get hurt by a shot at least once a game. When he falls to the ice, his limbs go every which way.
I can’t even call the guy unorthodox. Dominik Hasek was unorthodox. Luongo just bothers me. And I know, I know. He’s one of the best goaltenders in the world and has more talent in his hair gel than I have in my whole body. I still don’t get him.
I’m betting at least a few of the same Vancouver newspaper scribes that labeled then-Wild coach Jacques Lemaire as “Jacques the Destroyer of Entertaining Hockey,” were in the building for tonight’s game. I doubt they’re writing the same thing about current Canucks headman Alain Vigneault, who stacked four players in blue jerseys at the blueline every time the Wild came up ice in the third period.
In Minnesota, it’s called “the trap.” In Vancouver, it’s called “being defensively responsible.” And if you can’t recognize the difference, it’s because you’re not Canadian, and therefore you don’t know hockey as well.