Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wild throttle Canucks, 6-2, as Olympics, trade deadline loom

Final game of homestand becomes old-fashioned beatdown of divisonal rival

By Wild Road Tripper

With the eyes of the sporting world focused on their home town, the Vancouver Canucks ended their first half of a 14-game marathon road trip in grand style. Grand style, that is, for fans of the Minnesota Wild.

As 19,342, the third largest regular-season crowd in Wild franchise history, watched on Valentine's Day at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild systematically took apart the current Northwest Division leaders with one of the better efforts of the season, as the Wild proceeded to force Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo from the nets with 11:56 remaining in the game, after giving up the Wild's 5th goal, an incredulous scene where Cal Clutterbuck put the off the back boards rebound of a Kyle Brodziak breakaway shot past Luongo, to make it 5-1 Wild at that point.

The Wild had all cylinders firing in this one; even Derek Boogaard had an assist, was a +2 for the afternoon, and got the better of Darcy Hordichuk after Hordichuk horse-collared and cartwheeled Boogaard from behind, as Boogaard went along the boards to retrieve a loose puck. The Wild scored almost immediately after Hordichuk, who received the full package (2 minutes for instigating, 5 for fighting, 10-minute misconduct) for his derring-do. The goal was one of 4 power-play goals for the Wild, who went 4-for-7 in power plays, a most jarring turnaround for a power play unit which had been rather anemic earlier this season.

In fact, 10 different Wild players, including Brodziak and newcomer Cam Barker, acquired only on Friday afternoon for Kim Johnsson, tallied points, Barker's point a laser-shot goal which eluded relief Vancouver goalie Andrew Raycroft en route to finding twine. The Wild outshot the normally shot-happy Canucks 41-29, and held the normally effective Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, to just one assist. Even Greg Zanon got in on the act, saving a sure goal by Henrik Sedin in the first moment of the third period, by robbing Sedin while prone in the crease as Niklas Backstrom scrambled to get back into position.

So what now for the Wild? With the team now on a 17-day break for the Winter Olympics, and the NHL trade deadline looming a mere 63 hours after the Olympic roster freeze ends, we may have seen the last of at least some of the seven remaining Wild unrestricted free agents-to-be. The Wild end the pre-Olympic portion of the schedule in 13th place in the Western Conference, 64 points, five points behind the eighth and final playoff spot. The team occupying that spot will be the opponent in two of the next three Wild games:

Next Game: at Calgary, Wednesday, March 3, 8:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Mountain) Time, Pengrowth Saddledome. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Flames TV: Rogers SportsNet-West; XM Radio, Ch. TBA)

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