Nik Backstrom must be made out of kryptonite.
How else do you explain how he was able to keep Pittsburgh's stable of stars at bay? Oh, sure he had some help from the guys in front of him (limiting the Pens to 24 shots has to be pretty good in it's own right), in particular Kim Johnsson who seemed to be everywhere last night, but the story of the night was Backstrom, Backstrom, Backstrom.
Not only did he make every save he should have, and all-but one that he shouldn't have, but he either controlled or nullified rebounds all night as well. And then, as if he needed an "and then," he was a perfect 3:3 in the shootout, blanking Sykora, Goligoski and Crosby in the process. He is now 8-for-8 in the shootout (all wins) this season. This is the guy that had among the worst shootout statistics among all NHL goaltenders coming into this season.
The Wild, despite the final score, didn't actually score last night through 65 minutes of regulation and OT. They say it's better to be lucky than good, but They also say that Lady Luck is fickle. At the end of the day, the Wild is going to need some offense.
But this was the first time this season that the Wild faced a real test and came out on top - regardless of how they did so.
Hopefully KiPA will chime in with an eye witness report as he was at the game in person.
Chicken Little says: Backstrom is good, but we'll need more than Backstrom and a lot of luck to keep winning.
Pollyanna says: Kismet, Serendipity or just good old fashioned hard work...the Wild just knocked off the defending Eastern Conference Champs.
Bottom line: A win's a win. This would have been an easy game to have lost but taken away a "moral victory".
Stud: Backstrom is unconscious. He absolutely needs to become the #1 priority for Risebrough immediately.
Dud: Gillies was mostly invisible, and the couple times I did notice him he looked lost.
Actually Goligoski was the second shooter, not Staal.
Maybe Staal should've been though, as my cousin pointed out afterward.
Early on it looked like the Pens were poking holes in Minnesota's defensive system. First three shifts, maybe even the first five minutes, Pittsburgh was getting tons of pressure in the attacking zone. But, credit to the defense, the Pens rarely got many good chances on goal, and when they did, Backstrom was there.
Minnesota's offensive gameplan early on seemed to be just throw pucks at Sabourin from any angle, often from behind the net, and hope for a lucky bounce. They did get one - though not generated by them - and almost got a few others.
The Pens' power play can possibly be putrid or potent (how's that for a sentence filled with P's?) Last night it was putrid.
Wild fans will clamor that hey, their PK had a hand in the Pens going 0-for-4 - and it did - but this isn't the first time Pittsburgh's failed to capitalize on some timely man-advantages. Their PP always has been and probably always will be streaky.
Not enough shooters on the power play, too many attempts at razzle dazzle. The stat thrown out during a power play is how many shots on goal a team registers while up a man; I want to see how many shots are attempted. That's a more telling stat I think these days, given how many shots are blocked on a nightly basis. I bet the Pens' number in that regard is real low.
Maybe because Satan played just 27 seconds on the PP. Good to see Therrien gave Boucher more and more time, but sheesh, someone shoot the puck (blah blah, Wild blocked shooting lanes, yeah yeah, but that's how the Pens' PP always has been this season).
Pittsburgh had more chances but couldn't score. Minnesota survived the pressure and got the points.
I'll close by saying yeah, Backstrom's insane.
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