The Minnesota Wild snapped a 4 game losing streak with a nice 2-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Flyers Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Josh Harding was fantastic in net turning away all 21 Flyer shots and making some huge saves at some critical times. The Wild now improve to 16-8-5 on the season and a sterling 11-3-2 on home ice. Their 37 points in the Central division see them in 4th place, just a point back of Colorado and 2 back of St. Louis. The Wild and Flyers played a tight checking game and limited each others chances through the first two periods. Through the second the Wild led in shots 15-10 but neither team could find the back of the net. That all changed for the Wild at the 3:52 mark of the third period as Mikko Koivu carried the puck behind the Philly net and slid a slick backhand pass across the crease to Jason Pominville who flipped the puck high into the net eluding the sliding Ray Emery the Flyers thug net minder. That goal was the first time in 8 game that Minnesota has scored first and it was Pominville’s team leading 14th goal of the season. The Wild weren’t done and just 57 seconds later Charlie Coyle upped the lead to 2-0 as he pounced on a rebound of a Jared Spurgeon slap shot and beat Emery easily for the score. The play was started by an excellent job on the forecheck by Marco Scandella who fought off the Flyers and sent a nice pass to Spurgeon who unleashed a slapper from just inside the blue line that Coyle cleaned up the rebound on.. That would wrap up the scoring for the night. A nice confidence building win for the Minnesota Wild and a great way to break a losing streak.
Let’s move on to a little about Mr. Josh Harding. Wild Head Coach Yeo praised Harding saying, “Josh has really allowed us to be where we’re at right now. If it wasn’t for him, we’d be in a lot of trouble.” Harding is already putting up career best numbers in wins and shutouts and we’re only a third of the way through the regular season. Monday night was his 3rd shutout of the season, that’s tied for tops in the NHL. His 14 wins have him in a tie for 3rd in the NHL. His goals against average is number one in the NHL at a paltry 1.45. His save percentage is good for second in the NHL at .939. WOW! Those are some great numbers. Oh yeah, did I mention that he is 11-0-1 on home ice this season with a 1.12 goals against and a .949 save percentage this season! If you score on Josh this season, keep the puck, it doesn’t happen often. Overall this season Harding has posted a record of 14-4-3 in 22 games played and he’s only surrendered 30 goals during those 22 games. Monday he was just plain ON. He was kicking pucks out, making directional stick saves and stopping all the Flyers could muster. He absolutely robbed Jakub Voracek during a Philly power play with a diving save that will be on highlight reels everywhere for the next few days. Harding’s teammates did a good job of limiting the number of Flyer shots limiting them to 10 over the first 40 minutes. The Flyers picked up the pace in the third and put 11 shots on Harding but he more than up to the task. It is great to see #37 get his shot as a #1 goal tender in the NHL.
The Wild defensive corps had a good night as well, picking up a pair of assists and playing sound defensive hockey all night long. Coach Yeo Summed up the teams defensive effort saying, “We’ve given up the 1st goal so many times lately. If we’re not going to score it, don’t let them” They forced the Flyers into bad or hurried passes time and time again while constantly looking for a good first pass out of the defensive zone and even jumping up into the offense at times. Ryan Suter again led all players skating 28:48, while his partner Jonas Brodin saw 23:52 of ice time. Spurgeon was strong with the puck and showed a more gritty, snarling presence than we’ve seen before. I like this more aggressive Spurgeon. Marco Scandella looked much, much better tonight than he did on Saturday night vs Colorado. Gone tonight was the tentativeness with the puck, the sloppy play and horrendous turnovers. The pairing of Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner also were effective at slowing down the Flyers offense while avoiding taking penalties and providing a gritty quality that rubbed several of the Flyers the wrong way.
One Wild player also provided his unique services against the Flyer, that player being Mike Rupp playing in his 600th NHL game. Rupper was playing in his first game back after missing the weekend games dealing with a family matter. When the Flyers Jay Rosehill wanted to drop the glove. Rupp obliged and then pounded the bigger Rosehill, staggering him with a right at one point and later delivering two crushing blow to the side of Rosehill’s head. It was a clear win for Rupp who did have to take a trip to the trainers room to close a cut over his eye. Rupp provided a policing force that kept the Flyers mostly in check and with Zenon Konopka unable to fight because of his recent eye injury, Rupper’s presence was nice to have.
It wasn’t a perfect night for the Wild as Philly controlled the face off circle taking 30 of 48 draws. Monday was a rare night that the Wild are beaten that badly or at all in the face off circle. One other problem area was once again the power play. It has become anemic and disconnected at best. in two opportunities the Wild were 0 for 2 and managed only a couple of shots total with the man advantage. The other problem is the Wild only drew two penalties all game. They have averaged less than 3 powerplays a game over their last dozen games. Minnesota was excellent on the penalty kill shutting down the Flyers power play on both of their chances. There are definitely some things to work on in practice on Wednesday. The team has Tuesday off.
This was a good win for the Minnesota Wild and secured two valuable points against a non-conference opponent. They are keeping up with the top teams in the Central Division with 63 games left to play. The Wild next play at home on Thursday night as the Chicago Blackhawks come calling to the Xcel Energy Center. Chicago has a 7 point lead over Minnesota with 44 points on a record of 20-4-4. Rest up Wild and work on that power play, you’re gonna need it. I’ll be back Thursday morning with a preview of the Wild vs Blackhawks action. Until then this is Scott Drain VICTORIOUSLY shouting, “LET’S GO WILD!!”