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Wow. Where to start?
The story of this game, much to the chagrin of Tom Powers, is going to be that the Wild won this game with pure, flat out hard work. Well... that and Niklas Backstrom was phenomenal in net tonight. Multiple times Backstrom stoned the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom from point blank range. Without his effort tonight, and that of the defensemen clearing the puck to prevent rebounds, this game could easily have gone a completely different direction.
Brent Burns and Nick Schultz had the match-up against the Ovechkin / Backstrom / Mike Knuble line all night, and both remained even on the evening, which is an accomplishment in itself. The team defense was exactly where it needs to be, putting pressure on the Caps offense at every turn, clearing traffic out from in front of Backstrom, and causing the Caps to be offsides enough times for me to lose count, and to frustrate Ovechkin.
The first of the Wild's goals came at even strength, on a beautiful feed across half the ice sheet from Andrew Brunette to Chuck Kobasew with an easy tap in on an open net. It was Kobasew's first of the year, and a clear case for why the top line of Brunette-Mikko Koivu - Antti Miettinen should not be impervious to change. It boggles the mind to think of the chances these guys could create.
The second goal was very near the end of the second period, and with a delayed called coming as Mike Bradley tried to take of Kobasew's head. Koivu kept the puck away from the Cap defense, spun and shot a perfect wrist shot just over the outreached left pad of Neuvirth. Another... wait for it... hard working goal.
The third period was basically a back and forth, and the Wild got sloppy for a handful of minutes, but seemed to pull it back together. However, Ovechkin is not someone who easily gets shutout, and he potted the Caps only goal with just 1:36 remaining to ruin Backstrom's shutout bid. After that, the team certainly hunkered down, and helped shut the door to secure the victory.
The biggest story of this one is the full sixty minute effort. The hard work displayed tonight, with a constant forecheck, defensemen involved in the offense, sharp passing, solid team defense, and outstanding goaltending. I've said it before, and I will say it again now. If the Wild can find a way to play like this every game, they will be a very tough team to beat.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
1. Niklas Backstrom (21 Saves, 1 GA)
2. Brent Burns (Even +/-, Matched up against top line all night)
3. Chuck Kobasew (1G, 19:07 TOI)
- The Wild took just two penalties tonight.
- Martin Havlat had 17:27 TOI
- Can the Wild's special teams bounce back? PK was perfect in two tries, power play was 1/4. Not bad at all.
- Will the line shuffle make a difference? Hard to tell if it was the line changes, but the players skating on new lines all had solid games, so it should certainly indicate that change is not a bad idea.
- Does Allan Walsh's outburst have an impact on Havlat or how he's used? Havlat was a complete non-factor. All eyes on him, and he did... nothing.
- Can the Wild defense stop the offensive onslaught that is the Washington Capitals? It's tough to shut down Ovechkin forever, but they did a fine job holding the Caps to just one.
- Will Alexander Ovechkin make remarks about fat Minnesota girls? (reference: Alexander Ovechkin Has Some Opinions On Women He'd Like To Share) Not that I am aware of, but he does speak Russian, so I may have missed it.
- BONUS: Can the Wild put together a 60 minute effort? We can finally put this to rest for now. Yes. A full 60 minutes. Whew.