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 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
What was that Rick Pitino quote a few years back about negativity in a town he was living in? Pitino of all people would know negativity. He’s seen a lot of it. And if he was reading what recent newspapers were saying about the Minnesota Wild, he might think he was back on the East Coast. There was talk about a player whose agent said he was unhappy. There was talk about injuries hampering the Wild’s front lines. There was talk about the team being too slow.
An unhappy, injury-plagued and slow team went head-to-head with one of the NHL’s best teams and came away with a stirring 2-1 victory over the potent Washington Capitals. When Todd Richards was asked this morning about some of the above concerns and the impending opponent, he took the high road and said all of the lines will need to contribute. All of them did.
Only one line – the top line of Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu
and Chuck Kobasew filling in for a sick Antti Miettinen – picked up a goal, with the other coming on a power play. But the lines that didn’t pop in a goal were charged with shutting down the depth of Washington. It wasn’t just Alexander Ovechkin, but also Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Brooks Laich. Those guys are going to get opportunities no matter who is tasked with defending them, and they did. But the Wild’s team defense – especially the checking line of John Madden, Eric Nystrom and Cal Clutterbuck
– was superb all night.
Sometimes you scratch your head when you look up at the scoreboard and you see the shot totals. Tonight is a good example. Officially, Niklas Backstrom
was credited with 21 saves on 22 shots. If that’s the case, 11 of his saves would be considered “spectacular” and the other 10 would have been “very good.”
He was unquestionably the best player on the ice and the number one star. During a second period Washington power play, Backy pulled two saves out of his…um…breezers. He made a sliding pad save off a perfect one-timer from Mike Knuble
. Then, he robbed Nicklas Backstrom point blank with a glove save for the highlight reels. He kept that dazzling display up all night, and only a late Ovechkin goal spoiled what would still be considering a dominating display of goaltending.
Would you believe that the only team never to win a game at Xcel Energy Center is the Washington Capitals? Minnesota is now 6-0-0 against the Caps at home, and the only other team it has never lost in regulation to in St. Paul is Florida, who has tied the Wild and beat them in a shootout. Xcel Energy Center and the Met Center, where the Caps were 0-1-1 remain the only buildings that the Capitals have never won a game in. Of course that doesn’t include the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh where the Caps have yet to play a game.
If you had to pick a Wild player who has struggled the most since the start of the season, Chuck Kobasew would be the easy choice. And that’s mostly because I said repeatedly during preseason that he would have a breakout year. I’m beginning to think my endorsement may be the equivalent of signing a lifelong contract to the United Hockey League. But Antti Miettinen sits out with an illness, and Kobasew takes his spot alongside Koivu and Brunette. Boom! He scores the first goal of the game, and has several other glorious scoring opportunities. I’ll stand by my assertion that he’s going to score 20 goals this year. He just needed that jumpstart.
Now, just to see if my hex is legit, I’ll go on record as saying Alex Ovechkin will have a breakout year.