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 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
I have to lead off with Niklas Backstrom
, who established a new Wild franchise record for wins in a season with 114 in a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Backstrom made 29 saves in his 209th game. Previous record holder Manny Fernandez took 260 games to win his 113th.
In typical Backstrom fashion, he high-stepped around the rink at the final buzzer waving his stick over his head like a helicopter and screaming, “Who’s the man?!?! Who’s the man?!?! Okay, none of that actually happened, and Backstrom probably doesn’t care about the record as much as the fact that his team is now two points out of a playoff spot. Still, it’s nice to see a guy who’s been such a pleasure to watch and deal with reach a great milestone.
Think back eight days ago, when the Wild had dropped four straight, and was about to open a four-game homestand against Calgary, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. It looked like a brutal task, and some thought it was the beginning of the end for the Wild’s season.
Tonight, the Wild wrapped up the homestand outscoring those four beasts 19-11, 9-1 in the third period and winning all four games. Now comes the tough part. The Wild has to avoid a letdown tomorrow night in a road contest against the St. Louis Blues.
John Scott has been quoted as saying he doesn’t like to fight. And when it comes to Wild enforcers, there’s no doubt who the top dog is. But Big John Scott has turned in the two most memorable fights this Wild season. Of course there was the Opening Night throttling of George Parros that sparked a rally from a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3 overtime win.
Tonight, a spark wasn’t needed, but Scott followed up a Derek Boogaard-Darcy Hordichuk bout by dropping the gloves at center ice with Alexandre Bolduc, who wanted Scott to remove his helmet. Scott obliged and then fixed his hair, later saying it was to “cover up a bald spot.” Then, Scott absolutely pounded Bolduc in one of the most lopsided fights in Wild history. The pummeling took place right in front of the Vancouver bench, and the replays showed the look of horror on the Canuck faces as Scott used Bolduc’s head as a speed bag. Scott took some ice with him to the penalty box, but Bolduc wasn’t allowed anywhere near the sin bin. He was so jelly-legged that he was sent directly to the locker room.
The Wild’s top line of Mikko Koivu
, Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen was allowed to go through a bit of a dry spell in the last few games because of the success of the Havlat, Latendresse, and Brodziak line. Tonight, they took over as they did so often in December. Koivu sniped a shot past Roberto Luongo early in the first to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. Then, after a sluggish second period, Miettinen broke a 2-2 tie by slamming home a one-timer on a 4-on-3, and sealed the win by drilling another home late in the game.
The trend of Wild defensemen closing in on career-highs in the offensive categories has continued. Nick Schultz registered his fifth assist in the last six games, and he now has 12 helpers on the year, which is just one shy of his career-high set in 2007-2008.