First off, I felt let down by the team with that early St. Louis goal by Patrik Berglund. Truly, I was worried that somehow it would strike at the confidence that Minnesota has been gaining game after game. Lately, the Wild have been the team to score first, on occasion early in the game. But that wasn't to be the case tonight. However, it would take less than a minute for the Wild's elder statesmen, Andrew Brunette to even things up. Once again, Brunette has proven he is an extremely valuable member of this team, regardless of whatever skills he may lack. However, whether his value is enough to garner him a contract offer is yet to be seen. I'll admit, I'm torn when it comes to his status. Almost every game, at some point I think to myself, "thank goodness Bruno is on this team." Yet at the same time I watch his lack of speed and think it would be so nice to see him replaced by someone even with a moderate amount of speed. The waning moments of Wednesday's game against Colorado comes to mind. Brunette had a great chance to skate after a loose puck and score an empty net goal, however he simply lacked the speed to get to the puck, although not for lack of trying. You could see effort radiate from his body, but to no avail.
My other concern tonight was goaltending. Now it had nothing to do with goaltending in general, but goaltending in the shootout. Tonight, the task went to Jose Theodore. I'm sure I would have been just as annoyed by the shootout if Niklas Backstrom was in net tonight, as Backstrom has struggled with the shootout. Theodore has in general shown why he has been such a great free agent pickup this season, which makes tonight's shootout that much more frustrating. Watching Theodore in the shootout, it was if he completely stepped away from the goal for T.J Oshie's and Brad Boyes' goals. It seriously felt is they had the entire net to work with. Theodore is truly lucky that his teammates, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu righted the Wild's ship with shootout goals of their own after Matt Cullen failed on the opening attempt.
I don't like being negative, so it's time to move to the positives. This was truly a back and forth game. As I said earlier, I was worried when the Wild found themselves down 1-0 early in the game. Minnesota never had the lead in tonight's game until the end of the shootout. It can be disheartening to be the team that continues to tie the game, but never pull ahead. They could have just played dejectedly for the rest of the game, however (thankfully) that was not the case. Each and every time that St. Louis scored the go ahead goal, someone on this team found a way to tie it up again. It says a lot about the character of a team, when a role player like Cal Clutterbuck scores two goals in a game. Clutterbuck could have said to himself "I think I'll let Koivu score the goals tonight." Thankfully, that's not his style. He, and the rest of his teammates continued to fight back.
I also don't like the Wild going to the shootout. While Theodore had his troubles early on, his skaters fought for him when he was down. With those goals by Bouchard and Koivu, you could see the confidence boost they gave Theodore. That confidence translated into giving us the goaltender in Theodore that we've become used to seeing. His five straight saves in the second half of the shootout, merely capped off a euphoric feeling, and pushes us into tomorrow's Hockey Day Minnesota festivities. Of course the man of the hour (while not reflected in the 3 Stars) would be John Madden, scoring the ultimate game deciding goal.
We here at The State of Hockey News hope you stop in all day tomorrow, as we will have reports of all of the day's games. I don't know about you, but Hockey Day Minnesota, is like Christmas for hockey fans.
~ Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Matt Cullen, John Madden, Chuck Kobasew, Kyle Brodziak, Brad Staubitz, Eric Nystrom, Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, Greg Zanon, Nick Schultz, Cam Barker, Brent Burns. Niklas Backstrom backed up Jose Theodore. Marco Scandella (concussion), Marek Zidlicky (shoulder), James Sheppard (knee), Josh Harding (knee), Guillaume Latendresse (groin and sports hernia) were out.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as follows: 1st Star, Cal Clutterbuck; 2nd Star, David Backes; 3rd Star, Andrew Brunette.
~ Attendance tonight at the Scottrade Center was 19,150.
~ In an ironic twist, the Aeros, the Wild's AHL affiliate went toe to toe with the Peoria Rivermen the minor league team affiliated with the St. Louis Blues. The Aeros jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a wicked point shot from Nate Prosser. The Rivermen would answer back with two quick goals of their own from Peter Drazenovic and the son of former North Stars great Basil McRae, his son Phil to give Peoria a 2-1 lead going into the 2nd. Houston would tie the game early in the 2nd on a power play goal from Patrick O'Sullivan who continues to be red hot on the man advantage for the Aeros. Colton Gillies would put Houston ahead, 3-2 on a penalty shot where he beat Jake Allen with a pretty forehand to backhand deke. Peoria would manage to tie the game on another goal by Drazenovic that beat Anton Khudobin. Overtime would end with both teams still knotted at 3-3 so the game went to a shootout. The Aeros jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the shootout on a goal by O'Sullivan. McRae would answer back for the Rivermen, but then it was all Khudobin who shut down the next four Peoria shooters. In the 5th round, Cody Almond beat Allen in what would be the game winner as the Aeros prevail 4-3. Khudobin had 40 saves in the victory.