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I had a bad feeling about tonight, I'm not going to lie. After scheduling the game thread three times, it failed to publish before the game started. Couple that with an election night game that I figured would have me distracted all night, and it was shaping up to be a bad evening.
The Wild had other plans.
Despite the fact that the Wild won the game (which they did), and the fact that Minnesotans appreciate a solid defensive effort (they do), this game was painful to watch. The Wild were out shot 36-16, and the Sharks truly controlled the play of the game. If not for the most impressive effort I have ever seen from Backstrom, and a multitude of blocked shots, the Wild easily could have lost this one.
The fact is, they didn't. They played a fairly consistent 60 minutes, focusing heavily on an almost Lemaire-esque game of point - counter point. The lone goal game after a series of terrible penalties for the Sharks to take gave the Wild a full 2:00 of 5-3 power play time. Andrew Brunette stuffed home a beautiful pass from Martin Havlat, and that was enough for the Wild.
The story of this game, no matter who is writing it, is Niklas Backstrom. Thirty-six saves, many point blank, many on strong scoring chances, and many on shots off the sticks of some of the NHL's top snipers. The defense was there when it absolutely needed to be, and there were not a ton of extra chances, but they were not there all the time, thus the 36 shots against.
Niklas Backstrom gets the win, the shutout, and Andrew Brunette should petition to give Backs the game winning goal as well. Without him, this game is easily 6-1.
The Wild now have a couple days off, and play nemesis Calgary on Friday. It's OK to breathe now, Wild fans. It really did end 1-0.
Game Notes (Courtesy Wild PR):
- Backstrom made 36 saves for his 20th career shutout – 14th at Xcel Energy Center, but his first in 43 home starts dating back to a 1-0 decision over Calgary on April 3, 2009. Backstrom improved to 5-3-2 with a 1.88 GAA and a .938 SV% this season.
- Minnesota posted its 10th all-time 1-0 win. It marked the Wild’s fourth 1-0 home win, the first since Oct. 4, 2007, against Chicago.
- Koivu has a seven game point streak.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
1. Niklas Backstrom (36 saves, shutout)
2. Niklas Backstrom
3. Niklas Backstrom
- Can the Wild keep the top line for the Sharks off the score sheet? Completely. Ver solid defensive effort.
- Will @ClutterStache register more hits than Cal Clutteruck? Clutterstache is phenomenon, and if Clutter isn't careful, it will take over the world.
- Can Backstrom continue his phenomenal start? Uh. Yeah.
- Will Marty Havlat finally score a goal? Not tonight. Pretty nice assist, though.
- Who will make "Murderer" jokes at Heatley's expense, with Nathan laid up with the flu? I made one. That has to count for something.