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 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on New Years Eve.
As Brent Burns pointed out earlier in the week when asked about the Minnesota Wild’s struggles at home, “the enemy has a vote, too.” While it’s easy to say the Wild didn’t play well in a 4-1 loss, it was really their “enemy,” the Nashville Predators who played the more desperate game after dropping five games in a row. The Preds didn’t just play a desperate game, but they also played a perfect road game, and the perfect Predators game. That meant relying on goaltender Pekka Rinne, and not giving the Wild any room to maneuver between the faceoff dots. It seemed that every time a Wild player entered the slot, there was a Nashville stick there to knock the puck away. The Preds preyed on Wild turnovers and took just enough advantage to build a 2-0 lead and tack on two empty-netters after Minnesota briefly cut the lead to 2-1 with just under two minutes to play.
“They were ready to play,” Head Coach Todd Richards said of the Predators.
Yes, I get that every team has to play through injuries to key players. The Preds are good example, as they’ve had to deal with injuries to Steve Sullivan and Martin Erat and Jordin Tootoo. But the Wild suddenly was without two players who arguably would be team MVP candidates through the season’s first half. Cal Clutterbuck
missed tonight’s game with was has thus far been termed as a “lower body” injury (I hate those) and is considered “day-to-day.” And Marek Zidlicky, arguably the Wild’s steadiest defenseman, missed the first of what is expected to be at least a handful of games with a shoulder injury. At various times, you could see how these two were missed.
The Wild power play struggled without Zid’s quarterbacking. And Clutterbuck’s energy could have gone a long way during a sluggish second period that had Wild fans getting restless.
Pekka Rinne very nearly posted his third shutout in six starts against Minnesota, but a late Chuck Kobasew goal finally erased that. But Rinne was the difference; especially in a third period that saw the Wild throwing everything they could at the net. He reminded me of Niklas Backstrom
, and no, not because he’s Finnish. But Rinne never had to scramble to make saves. Instead he was always in position, and when Backstrom is at his best (and he was very, very good again tonight), he’s making saves look easy. That’s what Rinne did and his rebound control was excellent.
You could tell that if the Wild was going to get back in the game, it was going to be some combination of Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen
and Kobasew getting it done. All game long, those were the three players noticeably wreaking havoc and getting the best chances. Like he’s done so often this year, Havlat looked to just take matters into his own hands and create. That’s what he did on the Wild goal as he circled the entire Nashville zone before finally seeing an opening and sending a shot toward the goal where the red-hot Kobasew tipped in with Cullen standing nearby.
Tonight is New Year’s Eve. It didn’t exactly feel like it, but I think that’s what happens when you have a 10-month old at home and no babysitter. Tonight was the second straight year that the Wild dropped a New Year’s Eve contest at home. The Wild is now 5-3-0 at home on New Year’s Eve.