Minnesota Wild 3-2(so) Chicago Blackhawks
In an arena infiltrated by Chicago fans (as is typical when the Hawks come to town) an incredibly entertaining game that increasingly had the feeling of a battle between two playoff teams ended on a skills competition.
The Wild came out hot in the first period, scoring quickly (nice goal by Matt Cullen at 1:30), then Josh Harding gave up a goal to Andrew Shaw on a blown coverage by Marco Scandella followed 91 seconds later by a soft one on a long wrister from Jonathan Toews. Harding was then summarily dismissed and tried to shatter his stick on the tunnel wall on live national television. Niklas Backstrom was brought in to try to turn the tide a bit. The Wild did seem to pick up the play, drawing a 1:23 5 on 3 where they continually pressured and peppered Corey Crawford (who played out of his mind) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise et al were stymied time and again to the tune of 1 goal on 15 shots.
The Wild came out hot again in the third period and tied the game on a pretty (and lucky) redirect goal by Cal Clutterbuck on a Tom Gilbert attempt at 0:59. From that point on, the second and third periods were back and forth, tightly contested, physical and fast. Backstrom stood tall as the Blackhawks came at him with force and delivered the majority of the shots on goal. The Wild had plenty of chances, but couldn't connect, including a flurry on the power play in the last 2:00 of regulation. After outshooting Chicago 15-7 in the first period, the Blackhawks outshot them 25-10 the rest of the way.
Shootout: Parise scores, Towes scores, Koivu missed, Kane saved, Cullen scores, Sharp missed. Wild win!
Not a great start to this one, with Josh Harding giving up a couple of soft goals, but it was nice to see the team rally together, tie up the game, and soldier on. Last year's team would have collapsed like a hooker on prom night. Or, you know, something more elegant. And that makes sense. The third period was ugly at times, and it certainly looked like the Wild might concede the point and call it a moral victory.
Not tonight. Backstrom throws the shutout, and wins the shootout. Defensemen shooting the puck. Backstrom winning a shootout. Check on your dogs and cats, folks. They are planning things not allowed in the red states.
Huge win for the Wild tonight, handing the Hawks their first loss, and ensuring that the rivalry lives on.
On Mikael Granlund: Shocked that the fanbase has turned against him so quickly. Last season, when Tom Gilbert came over and we took him to task this quickly we were told numerous times how off-base we were and how we needed to give him time. He was a veteran and making mistakes on positioning, losing the puck, making ill-advised passes and just looking lost. Granlund is doing the same thing and a large number of people are calling for him to go back to Houston. Are the problems he's having going to be solved by spending time in Houston, or is it going to shake his confidence? Frankly, I have no idea, and neither does anyone else, but I'm all for leaving the kid up here and letting him learn by fire.
- Niklas Backstrom (28 saves, shutout)
- Matt Cullen (1 G + shootout winner)
- Cal Clutterbuck (1 G)
- Which Wild team came tonight? The one that plays well against bad teams, or the one that can't play real hockey? Tonight's game looked like a battle between two playoff teams.
- Zach Parise's scoring streak has been snapped. Does that anger the hockey gods? Apparently not. He is paying penance for something. I don't like it. Someone needs to make a sacrifice to appease them.
- Can Jonas Brodin continue to make Ryan Suter better? These two are very, very good together. The game is just slower for them than anyone else the Wild have ever had back there. Numerous times tonight the Wild had a 3-man forecheck. They don't do that with anyone else on the blue line.
- Any chance of another "sorry I'm terrible" tweet from Devin Setoguchi? He was a non-entity tonight. I'm starting to get concerned.
- PMB scored yesterday, so he's good for a month. Who else from the bottom nine has it in them? Goals by Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck. MOAR SECONDARY GOLZ!