Following Wild games, Manager of Digital Media Ryan Stanzel will occasionally give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 5-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks:
What a return for Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom. For a guy who likes to see lots of shots…he had seen just seven in the last 16 days of his life. And, he’s appeared in just one game at United Center in the last 33 months, allowing four goals in one period March 5, 2013. None of that mattered tonight, as he stoned the Blackhawks every which way along to 33 total saves. Particularly memorable were two stops on Patrick Sharp—a breakaway in the first period, when Backstrom got the glove up after Sharp deked him to the ground. Then, during a 5-on-3 in the second period, Backstrom dove back to his left and kept a Sharp shot out of the net.
Unofficially, we are calling it the longest video review in NHL history. Our clock was at around eight minutes. With 8:57 left in the second period, Chicago appeared to cut the lead to 2-1, although no one could tell who scored it. Jeremy Morin shot from between the circles. Backstrom made the save and the puck went straight up into the air. A crush of bodies closed in on the crease. Clayton Stoner whacked at the puck with his glove but missed, and the puck appeared to (accidentally) go off Andrew Shaw’s stick which was well above the crossbar. Stoner, Shaw and Morin all then fell in the crease along with Backstrom. Eventually, the puck was seen to have crossed the goal line, going off Stoner, triggering Chelsea Dagger. Ultimately, the right call was made, after what looked to be a pair of reviews. The high stick went in off Stoner BUT because there was no possession by the Wild, the high stick technically negated the goal. The call became even more important a couple minutes later, when Chicago got within a score, 2-1, with a Bryan Bickell goal.
Typically, games against the Chicago Blackhawks are won and lost on special teams. However, it’s typically the high-powered ‘Hawks doing the scoring. The Wild set the tone early tonight, scoring five seconds into the team’s first power play. The face-off win got sent back to Ryan Suter, who launched a shot from the point. Corey Crawford made the save but Zach Parise hopped on the rebound and popped it into the net. Then the Blackhawks threatened in the second period, with back-to-back power plays including 20 seconds of a 5-on-3, but the Wild stood strong, and ultimately went 6-for-7 on the kill.
After today’s morning skate, Wild head coach Mike Yeo said this game against the Stanley Cup champs would be a test for his team (well, yeah…) but mainly because of how the Blackhawks defend. The Wild has made its living this season being offensive—keeping the puck for long periods of time and moving it up ice. Chicago plays the same way, but is strong on defense as well. The Wild defended well, moved the puck well and those were the keys to victory. Yeo also said he wanted his team to be assertive, aggressive, and to come out confidently. The Wild certainly did all three of those things.
Ah, the old days. The black and blue division, home-and-homes—it’s back, folks. You think tonight’s game was great? The teams will face off at Xcel Energy Center in less than 48 hours, Monday at 7 p.m. The game is almost a sellout but limited tickets remain via Ticketmaster.com. We guarantee you the passion will carry over, on the ice and in the stands (thanks to a couple hundred Wild fans we saw at United Center tonight). Best yet? The Wild will wear those sharp white road unis at home Monday. Also, all fans will receive a white jersey rally towel courtesy of AT&T.