Great work by my partner in blog below.
First, the particulars.CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Er...that fog horn can get pretty loud...??
POLLYANNA SAYS: I always knew this day would come.
BOTTOM LINE: The Minnesota Wild is the Northwest Division champions. More importantly, they secured home ice advantage through at least the first round.
STUD: Gaborik did his best Kirby Puckett impersonation last night. He has had his critics (myself included) but he seems to be rising to the challenge of being a leader and go-to player on this team - at exactly the right time.
DUD: Tell you what, you hold famed Wild killer Jarome Iginla at bay, exorcise the demons of a team that has OWNED you for a long, long time and win your first division banner all in the same night - no duds.
- Russo has some great notes in his blog about Simon and Fridge stepping up to keep the guys focused on the bench after the "Think Method" rule was invoked on the Gaby's no-goal in the third. Frankly, if Simon can fill the leadership void on the team in this way, I almost don't care how many minutes he gets, and I certainly don't care how many fights he gets into.
"Lemaire credited Fedoruk and Chris Simon for keeping things cool. Fedoruk and Simon started screaming along the bench to stay calm.
'We just wanted to reinforce that we had a 2-1 lead and not to get distracted,' Simon said. 'It'd be easy to start pointing fingers, but we had a lot of work to do.'"
- Backstrom was steady, made the (few) big saves we needed him to make, and did not give up the bad goal. We all know that hot goaltending can cover up a lot of warts in the playoffs - and Nik is doing EXACTLY what we need him to do right now.
- I have never been a huge proponent of the Captain of the Month thing. I didn't really have a problem with it, per se, especially in the nascent years. But, as I have thought the team was lacking in leadership as they've grown into a perennial playoff team (and the "Contender" label continues to inch closer and closer), it had started to seem more like an admission that they DON'T have a clear leader. I am prepared to change that opinion. Both Nick Schultz and now Gaborik, yes, Gaborik, have really blossomed under the yoke of the "C". Perhaps this is exactly the kind of shot in the arm that key members of the young nucleus of a blossoming team needs. (And perhaps I should shut up and let the guys with all the Stanley Cup rings run the team?!)
- I said this on the Wild blogger podcast, but the team is currently playing like it learned a lesson from the last time they were up by six points on the division and promptly shat the bed. Watching the game last night, my initial reaction was that they were playing tentative, then I realized that it was classic Wild "play at home like you're on the road" type patient, solid hockey. And it works. Maybe not the flashiest, but you can't argue with results.
- It's great to see Radio find a niche. And he is definitely thriving in it. He, SRV and Koivu have the look of a clutch, dependable shut down line right now - and boy are we going to need that in the playoffs.
Should be fun, but last night - and this post - is all about the Wild playing well enough to earn that first division banner.