Defense still reigns supreme in Wild-land. After playing the first three games of the season as the '87-88 Oilers, the Wild took game four as an opportunity to show the league that they are still, well, the Wild. With a largely passive "offense" and decent defense (though there were large chunks of time when they were far too accomodating to the Bolts) the Wild relied heavily on the steady goaltending of Nik Backstrom to "earn" a 1-0 win via the shootout. This was a game the Wild played as though they were just relishing the prospects of returning home afterward, and it showed in a general lack of offense all night.
You need your goalie to steal the odd game, and Backstrom certainly did that. While he did not have too many saves of the "spectacular" variety, that is as much a testament to his excellent positioning as anything. Lots of shots right into the emblem on his sweater, and that's exactly what you want if you're a goalie.
Particularly noteworthy was his performance in the shootout - where he has been terrible so far in his career - but where he was a perfect 3-3 last night including stops on shootout Wunderkind Jussi Jokinen, superstar Vinny Lecavalier and reigning #1 overall pick Steven "Don't Call Me Steve or Stevie" Stamkos. Last night was the 15th straight regular season game that Backs has not taken a regulation loss dating back to last season obviously. He is certainly making a case for a handsome contract extension right now.
Eric Belanger was probably the best skater for the Wild last night. In addition to getting good minutes in all situations, he made two huge stops on potential/probable goals - including one in the waning seconds of regulation.
But this was a game where we needed Backstrom to outduel Bolts goalie Mike Smith (shilling for the man with a lame mask pimping team owner Oren Koules' latest horror flick) who has had some prior success against the Wild (with Dallas). That he did that - and prolonged another hot start by the Wild - is hopefully a sign of good things.
Chicken Little says: Finally showed ill-effects from only having one legit scoring line.
Pollyanna says: A win's a win, and this one counts the same as all the rest.
Bottom line: More than survived the first road trip of the season. Will have to see how that holds up against real competition, though.
Stud: Backstrom, Backstrom, Backstrom. The boys owe him some kippered snacks for his performance last night.
Dud: Weller largely stood around looking dumb last night. Gonna need more than that to make us forget about Fridge.