Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, we look back at a 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Let’s be honest, if the Minnesota Wild was going to come out of our nation’s capital with two points, it was going to do it via the Hamburglar method of stealing points. Coming off the second of back-to-backs and three games in four nights, and up against a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, a win would have been a large bonus. And, they darn near did it. In fact, this game had the feel of the Tampa Bay game last night in reverse. Had the Wild won, it would have felt lucky to have done it, just like the Lightning felt when they somehow managed to come back from two goals down in the third period.
The Wild just didn’t have the gas or the firepower to hang with the Caps, but they did get a stand-on-your-head performance from Josh Harding
, who was magnificent in goal. There were chances, too. Despite the obvious fatigue, Minnesota mustered spurts of offense. It just wasn’t meant to be, and over the course of an 82-game season, there are going to be games like that. No matter how slick your fingers are it’s tough to steal points.
Prior to Friday night, I think the opposing team I was most impressed with thus far this season was the Los Angeles Kings, but that was mostly due to how destructive their top line of Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth was. I will unequivocally say that Washington is the best team I have seen this season, and I didn’t even get to see them with Alexander Ovechkin in the lineup. They have the firepower and the defense, and if Semyon Varlamov is the real deal (difficult to tell because his defensemen blocked so many Wild shots), I would be shocked if the Caps are not playing in the Cup Finals in June.
The understatement of the night is that Harding deserved a better fate than he got tonight. Having not started a game since mid-October, Harding was outstanding. He didn’t face a shot until seven minutes into the game, and then he finished with 38 saves. Several came with Caps forwards banging away at rebounds, and one came on a breakaway stop on Alexander Semin. Need further proof? The Washington media actually selected Harding as the #1 star of the game.
Tonight, the Wild held another road trip for their fans, but they couldn’t drown out the sea of red that was the Verizon Center crowd. I had no idea that there was such a great atmosphere at Caps games. I was taken aback. They had cheers, they were loud and they knew their hockey (although there were a few ridiculous pleads for penalties that I could have done without). It was a fun place to watch a hockey game, and the Wild players got a special treat on their walk from the locker room to the bus following the game. The entire fan crew was their to greet them.
It will be a fun weekend for the Wild crew in attendance. They’ll be in Washington D.C. through the weekend, taking in the sights of one of the coolest, and most historic, places in our country. On the bus ride out of town, the entire busload of players, media and management was mesmerized as we rolled right past the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. For any who have never been to the district, book a flight, and I highly recommend going when the Minnesota Twins are in town to play the Baltimore Orioles..
If a Gordie Howe hat trick consists of a goal, an assist and a fight, then a Clutter trick consists of a goal, a monster hit, and the drawing of a retaliatory penalty. Cal Clutterbuck
had another great game doing what he normally does. First, he drilled Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom into the boards near the player benches. Backstrom responded by cross checking Clutter in the back. Then, he broke a scoreless tie early in the second, somehow beating Semyon Varlamov with a long wrist shot for his fourth goal of the season. Finally, he lined up stud defenseman Mike Green and blew him up with a hit behind the Caps net. Give major credit to Green, though, as he took the hit, staggered back and only touched his glove to the ice.
During the 2005-2006 season, the Wild held a season ticket holder road trip in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ll never forget how loud the arena was whenever the Wild scored. It felt like a home game, and there was a glut of red shirts in one section that took over the noise in the arena.