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Glen Andresen's Five Takeaways vs. Chicago

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

at Anaheim: February 25

at Los Angeles: February 24

vs. Edmonton: February 22

vs. Detroit: February 20

vs. Anaheim: February 18

at Chicago: February 16

vs. Vancouver: February 15
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 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Of course, if the Minnesota Wild loses a game on Trade Deadline day, there are going to be the uproars of, “See? The Wild should have made a trade today.” Never mind the fact that even if the Wild had swung a deal that involved NHL players, they wouldn’t have arrived in Minnesota in time to play in the Wild’s 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

You can say that for the rest of the season if you want, but General Manager Chuck Fletcher delivered many messages by not changing the makeup of his team. Chief among them was that he is letting this group that has carried the Wild to a 16-9-1 mark over the last two months dictate how far the team goes.

I’ll speak more on the deadline shortly, but the key takeaway from tonight’s loss was that the sizzling Blackhawks were too good early, and the Wild’s furious third period wasn’t enough to overcome a three-goal deficit entering the third period.

“We just weren’t able to get that tying goal,” said Todd Richards. “I liked the way we finished the game, but there were certain segments that we didn’t execute the way we needed to against a very good Chicago team.”

The Wild had trouble getting things going against the Hawks for the better part of the first 40 minutes. The evidence was right there on the scoreboard with Chicago owning a 3-0 lead. But it’s become customary for the Wild to fight back, and they did that in a barrel of monkeys third period.

Martin Havlat started it off by finishing off yet another breakaway in the first minute of the third. Brent Burns followed up later with a sweet goal to cut the Chicago lead to one. Shortly after that, Tomas Kopecky took a delay of game call, starting a chaotic sequence. The Wild’s power play unit started peppering the Chicago net from every angle with the crowd gasping at every opportunity. They saved the biggest roar when Pierre-Marc Bouchard dove valiantly to hold the zone, only to knock the puck to Jonathan Toews who raced the other way and set up a Marian Hossa backbreaker.

It was one of those moments where a goal from Chicago was the very last thing you expected to see, and yet, it wasn’t all that surprising. A team pressing as hard as the Wild were is bound to give up some rushes the other way. You just hope it’s not a guy named Toews leading the charge.

I want to save the Trade Deadline talk for further down in this column, but my bacon is a bit fried after reading some comments from angry fans that bemoaned the lack of a blockbuster deal pulled off by the Wild.

First, I admit that I shill for this team. Second, every fan should have their own opinion and the right to voice it. But I have to laugh when I see comments referring to management being happy with “mediocrity,” or that the Wild “needs a goal scorer.”

I’m sure if the Wild could have grabbed Alex Ovechkin for a couple late round picks, they would have. For whatever reason, he and almost every other “goal scorer” was unavailable. Let’s put aside the salary cap restrictions that Chuck Fletcher had to consider as well as the desire to stick with the team’s chemistry.

The one major deal that was executed today was the Dustin Penner to Los Angeles for a top defensive prospect, a first round pick and a conditional second round pick. Let’s say the Wild was the team to go after Penner. That deal basically says they would have had to give up a player like Marco Scandella, this year’s first round pick (with the draft being held in St. Paul) and a second round pick (which the Wild don’t own this year). That is steep.

There wasn’t one player that got traded today, or the past month, that would be better than Guillaume Latendresse and Mikko Koivu, who are expected back in a couple weeks.

But I think the most important point made by Fletcher in his exclusive Q & A today was this: For the past year and a half, the Wild has added pieces (Martin Havlat, Kyle Brodziak, Greg Zanon, Chuck Kobasew, Latendresse, Jose Theodore, Matt Cullen, Brad Staubitz, John Madden, Eric Nystrom, Jared Spurgeon, Cam Barker, Jared Spurgeon and you could even count Clayton Stoner and Pierre-Marc Bouchard). That’s a lot of change in a short amount of time.

Fletcher pointed out that this team has reached the point where more change isn’t needed, but rather stability is needed.

Ultimately, the goal came in a losing effort, but Burns broke his own franchise record for goals by a defenseman in style. Trailing 3-1 in the third, he joined the rush led by Havlat and Kyle Brodziak and fired a missile on goal. Corey Crawford made the save, but Burns continued to push toward the goal and ended up flicking the rebound between his legs and in.

It was another spectacular goal in the uber-spectacular season of Burns, who now has 16 goals on the season.

The result of the game vaulted the Blackhawks ahead of the Wild in the standings, but let’s not get bent out of shape just yet. The Wild is still tied with Dallas and Nashville for eighth place. There are 19 games left in the season, which are more than enough to make up a few points on other teams. And after nearly two months of squaring off against the beasts of the West, the Wild will get the chance to face a couple of teams from the Eastern Conference, who apparently make it a practice to tank against Western foes. Bring on the Islanders.
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