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 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Before the Minnesota Wild’s five-game homestand began, Head Coach Todd Richards said his team would need to gain eight points to realistically have a chance at making the postseason. Following the 3-2 regulation loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday, the margin for error in the final two games has dipped to zero. The Wild will need wins over Atlanta and Vancouver – two teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today – to reach those eight points. At least Minnesota won’t have to get those four points against the Coyotes, who took all eight points in the season series for the first time ever.
Five minutes into this game, it appeared like Minnesota was on its way to a rout. All four lines came out gangbusters on their first shifts. Cal Clutterbuck
nearly scored 16 seconds in, and then Guillaume Latendresse
did score less than five minutes in. Then, Phoenix showed why they are not a Cinderella team, but a force to be reckoned with this spring. With balanced scoring, airtight defense and above all, stellar goaltending, Phoenix broke the Wild’s will bit by bit.
Now, if the Wild was playing like Phoenix did, many “experts” would say they are playing a “trap system” which was “ingrained” in them from so many years under Jacques Lemaire. While the Yotes are very defensive minded, they do it by skating hard on every shift and pestering players carrying the puck. I’m pretty sure that’s the way you’re supposed to be playing defense, and that’s exactly what the Wild has always done.
Ilya Bryzgalov was the central figure in frustrating the Wild players. The surefire Vezina trophy candidate (and possible Hart trophy candidate) seemed to be in the Wild’s collective heads, especially in the second period. Time and time again, the Wild tried to make fancy passes, rather than shoot the puck. The most glaring case was when Latendresse had a clear lane to the net, but tried to dish off to his left and the puck caromed out of harm’s way. Bryzgalov finished with 29 saves, but he didn’t get credit for the missed shots and passes that he helped create with his dominance in goal.Niklas Backstrom
returned from a back injury/illness after sitting out since January 23. For the most part, the Wild’s top goaltender was excellent, including two highlight reel saves on Vernon Fiddler and Robert Lang in the second period. But he’ll likely be haunted by a bizarre goal in the third period that proved to be the game-winner. Radim Vrbata fired a shallow angle shot that hit the side of the goal and somehow bounced up and off of Backstrom before landing about three inches over the line and spinning back out.
Marek Zidlicky was a bright spot for the Wild tonight, and it showed in his team-leading 26:21 of ice time. Zidlicky tied the Wild record for assists in a season with 30 (which he established last year) after taking the initial shot that let to G-Lat’s goal. The assist was his 200th helper of his career, and his 16th point in the last 23 games.