Minnesota Wild 1-0 Colorado Avalanche
What a fantastic game by Josh Harding. This is the type of performance you need from a guy when you are terrible on the road and your starting goaltender is nursing a bad back. To do so with a bum hip, and to make the types of saves he did speaks volumes for his mindset right now.
Tonight was a tightly played, clean game. Watching it, it had the feeling of a playoff stretch game. Both teams took the body, were in control most of the night and didn't let themselves get out of control. They crashed the net, played tight defense, blocked shots, backchecked and made the most of their chances. Both goaltenders played well positionally and looked good on the break.
The most important thing that stuck out to me was how well the Wild collapsed around their own net. The problem all season has been in transition and allowing the opposition to get free down low. That didn't happen tonight. The defense and forwards all came in to protect Harding, clear rebounds, attempt to block shots and take away the passing lanes. Frankly, it felt like a Jacques Lemaire win.
Todd Richards put the right gameplan in place for the type of team Colorado has. They took away the Avalanche's speed once they got to the blue line and got sticks on pucks in traffic. In addition, Richards did a great job in keeping the shifts short and not letting anyone get way too much TOI. Mikko Koivu led all Minnesota players with only 22:40, and only Kim Johnsson (21:27), Marek Zidlicky (21:08) and Greg Zanon (20:35) had over 20 minutes TOI. That speaks volumes to me. That shows me that the guys were well prepared, and it showed on the ice. This kind of game will be a nice springboard for the rest of the trip.
Plus, the Wild are now 5-0-1 against Colorado this season. We'll take it.
Now the concerns:
- Owen Nolan had hardly any time in the third period. Is he hurt? Is he showing his age and Richards felt that keeping him on the ice in the third was going to be something the Avs could exploit?
- The power play went 0 for 5 tonight. The Wild simply cannot expect to win many games when their power play is this anemic. It hasn't been something on which they can rely all season.
- A lull in the first period. While they didn't come out as slowly as they had last week, they still got into a slow, boring style pretty easily. They can't do this down the stretch. They need to play 60 minutes each and every night.
So let me get this straight. The Wild beat the Red Wings 5-2, and they are 5-1-0 for the season against the team holding second place in the division? Interesting.
The story of the night? Josh Harding. He played last night, despite a sore hip, and tonight, his back up showed up ten minutes before game time. Earning his fourth career shutout on one leg, Harding may have, for the first time this season, really proven he is worth trading for.
As for game action, the first period was a yawn fest comparable to pre-lockout hockey. Both teams clogging the neutral zone, no real physical play, and few scoring chances. However, the final two frames would make up for that. Coming out in the second period, both teams seemed to find their legs, and the only thing keeping the game scoreless was impressive goaltending on both ends of the ice.
The Wild went 0-for-5 on the power play, not even registering a SOG on one. The Avs also burned through two power plays without scoring. The Avs have the #14 PP in the league, the Wild a low end #23. The Wild have the #10 PK, while the Avs, coincidentally, have the #14. Neither team being particularly strong on the power play would easily explain away the sad performances, but wow. To watch it unfold was truly embarrassing for both teams.
Craig Anderson will go down with the loss, but it was his team that lost it for the Avs, and the play of Josh Harding that won it for the Wild. The game winning, and only goal, of the game goes to Martin Havalt. Who? Martin Havlat, as he pushed in a pass from Kyle Brodziak while carrying three Avs defenders on his back. Incidentally, all three players in blue sweaters fell down like bowling pins as the puck sailed past Anderson.
Pretty or not, high excitement or not, a win is a win, and the Wild need all the wins they can get. As of this writing, it puts the Wild one point behind the Flames for third in the division, and that same measly point behind the Flames and Red Wings for the 8th playoff spot.
Indeed. One point out of the playoffs. Long shot my arse, Mr. Potvin.
Now to try out our new toy. Let us know what you think!
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars
- Josh Harding (29 saves)
- Martin Havlat (1 G)
- Craig Anderson (25 saves)
Questions to Answer:
- Minnesota is the worst team in the NHL on the road. Will that change tonight? Well, they still have the worst road record, but tonight was a playoff stretch-type win on the road
- How will Josh Harding look with back to back games? He looked absolutely stellar.
- We liked Havlat and Koivu together. Will we see more of that? Umm, I don't have the shift charts, but we'll break down the lines over the weekend.
- Colorado has won six in a row. Can the Wild break that streak? Damn right.
- The Wild have looked very good in the previous seven periods. Can they come out hot again? They didn't necessarily come out hot, but they certainly were not sluggish, outshooting the Avs 9-6 in the first frame.