Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom makes a save as teammates Clayton Stoner, left and Greg Zanon look on during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn.
Minnesota Wild 1-2 (so) Detroit Red Wings
For Detroit perspective, please visit Winging It In Motown.
Losing a game in the shootout to a Detroit team who is assured of making the playoffs as a home-ice team isn't the end of the world, especially without Koivu. Taking the loser point after only giving up one goal isn't horrible, but honestly Niklas Backstrom deserved the win tonight. The Wild looked great defensively. Niklas Backstrom made 38 saves and continued to provide a great backbone to a team in the middle of a playoff chase. Martin Havlat scored on the breakaway and Minnesota kept the Detroit Red Wings forwards off the scoreboard, but it wasn't enough as Detroit went on to win in the shootout with Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi (in his 1000th NHL game) both scored to give the Red Wings the win.
With Mikko Koivu sidelined until further notice, this was an opportunity for someone to step up and shoulder the responsibility. Matt Cullen seemed to have taken this upon himself. However, he didn't exactly have the Midas touch this afternoon. What began with Cullen all alone with the puck in the low slot and firing it over the net went on to be a bit of a comedy of errors for him, culminating with a terrible attempt in the shootout.
My notes from the game:
- Brad Stuart with at least three great open-ice tackles. How does this guy get away with such obstruction?
- You would've thought the Wild scored by how loud the crowd was after Lidstrom's goal. How do this many Detroit fans have jobs to have $ to buy Wild tickets?
- Horrible officiating all day. From the phantom icing on Cullen's centering attempt to the awful holding call on Cody Almond when Kris Draper grabbed Almond as he was prepared to go in on an odd-man rush. Seemed like Frederick L'Ecuyer was out of his element today. Unimpressive.
- Martin Havlat's goal was his 500th career point. 500 points in 602 career games. Yeah, definitely the kind of guy a franchise would be looking to get rid of at any cost.
- I need to stop saying nice things about Cam Barker. I praised his positional defensive game and he lets Danny Cleary slide in all alone for a back-door feed and he almost won the game for Detroit.
I made a comment about how Marek Zidlicky seems like he hasn't been as successful since changing the pronunciation from Zidlicky vs. Zhidlitskey. However upon further review:
Zidlicky - 461 games: 53-207-260 (.56 ppg)
Zhidlitskey - 31 games: 4-16-20 (.64 ppg)
I was wrong.
The Wild moved into sixth place in the Western Conference with the point, and will end the night no worse than in seventh.
The Wild had no business being in this game. Let's face it, the loser point is a huge victory today. It moves them into sixth, and is enough for at least 7th, no matter the outcome in Calgary. By the way... fitting that the Heritage Classic, a Canadian event is the talk of the town, and NBC plans Hockey Weekend Across America on the same day? Sad.
Back to the game. Niklas Backstrom was absolutely ridiculous today, and he made probably one of the best saves I have ever seen. Sprawling out, beaten completely, and he still snags the Danny Cleary shot. Filthy, and something Wild fans will be talking about for awhile. He also had several other key saves, yet just couldn't stop the Wings in the shootout. Too bad, too, because he deserved a W more than anyone in league history ever has.
The rest of the team played well, though not well enough. Cullen looked a bit lost, but the rest of the squad did what it takes to get a point from the Wings. It is just plain wrong to only give up one goal to the Wings and still lose. Someone kill the shootout. It's had its time. Let it die. Please? Oh, and Wings fans... next time? Stay home. Thanks.
- Minnesota is 2-5 in shootouts, while Detroit is 3-2.
- Backstrom is 5-2-1 with a 1.36 GAA and a .953 SV% in his last eight starts
- Minnesota is 10-4-1 in its last 15 games overall, and 5-1-1 in its last seven home games.
- The Wild has earned points in six of the past seven home games vs. Detroit (2-1-4).
- The Wild is 18-9-2 in its past 29 contests, holding opponents to one goal or less 14 times.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars
- Nicklas Lidstrom (1 G)
- Martin Havlat (1G)
- Niklas Backstrom (38 saves)
- Mikko's gone. Who steps up as the leader? Matt Cullen is trying. Too hard. He looked simply awful today. It should be someone, but maybe Madden, Cal or Burns, not Cullen. Everyone has a role to play, and Cullen stepped outside his.
- Can Backstrom work some magic and keep the Wild in it? He did everything he could have possibly done, including two saves which he had no reason to make.
- Do the Wild step up in the face of adversity, or do they fold? Well, they certainly stood their ground, just couldn't put it together in the offensive zone, likely a result of shuffling lines and too many guys trying to do too much.
- So many weapons for the Wings. Can they all be stopped? Honestly? Yeah. The Wild did everything defensively they needed to do to win.
- What level of disdain does Bryan reach for Bertuzzi? Let's just say his head almost popped off when the shootout winner went in and I saw a shade of red unlike any I've ever seen.