Update from Logan Airport at 3:56 a.m. your time: Rob Rossi from Pittsburgh Tribune Review emailed me last night that Crosby will be out at least a week with a concussion, so Wild catch the Pens without Crosby. That explains how Crosby only had one assist in an 8-1 win over Tampa. You knew something had to be off.
Also, update on the standings from night's end, but Wild's in 10th place, 1 point from eighth, 2 from fifth, 3 from fourth in tightly-wound conference.
The Wild continued its climb up the Western Conference standings Thursday night with a huge 3-1 win in Boston. If St. Louis doesn't rally in Toronto for a shootout loss, the Wild would be tied in points with the eighth-place team.
As it stands as I write this blog (three games featuring Western teams that affect the Wild in the standings are currently being played, the Wild was one point from eighth (that won't change) and TWO from fourth in the absurdly tightly-spun West.
This was by far the most entertaining Wild game of the season. Bar none. Can't argue it.
From both teams, 60 minutes of passion, energy, physicality, scoring chances, big saves. It had everything in a game you'd want, and the Wild never receded at all with the energy it put forth from the opening faceoff.
Yes, Jose Theodore had to be good with 35 saves. But so did, Tuukka Rask, who made 31 saves, including a highlight-reel robbery on Martin Havlat. As Havlat said, that could have been the turning point because Boston nearly scored the next shift. But Theodore made the save.
Cal Clutterbuck had another great game. Twelve goals now, one assist, eight more hits. You've got to hand it to him. He's the same player on the road as he is at home. Havlat scored a great power play goal by passing to himself off the wall, then driving the net against his 6-foot-9 monster of a friend, Zdeno Chara (or "Z," to Havlat).
Mikko Koivu, who crashed into the net on one play and left the game in the first period after a rough shift, brushed it off and scored an empty-net goal after strong plays by Clutterbuck to pass to himself to get by Chara and John Madden.
The Wild's 9-4-1 in its past 14 overall. Since Dec. 4, it's got the second-best road record in the NHL, going 6-1-2. It's 4-0-1 in the past five road games. And it's 10-6-3 on the road this season in a remarkable turnaround from last year. A year ago, the Wild won 13 road games and it took them until March 3 to win 10 road games. That was the 31st road game. Now they've got 10 in 19.
If they could just win routinely at home, this team would be OK.
Wild was 4 for 4 on the PK tonight. Great PK in the third, especially by Brent Burns, Nick Schultz, Clayton Stoner and Kyle Brodziak, who had another great all-around game. Brodziak set up three 2-on-1, but Rask was up to the task on shots by Bouchard, Madden and Havlat.
Havlat was outstanding tonight and maybe saved a goal with a big backcheck on Milan Lucic in the first.
On to Pittsburgh now, where the Wild may catch a break. The Penguins sent Sidney Crosby home from Montreal today with an upper-body injury.
Speaking of Crosby, I was talking to GM Ray Shero today for a story I was going to do on Crosby (I may hold off and make it my next Sunday's column now if he's indeed a question mark to play Saturday). Remember that scene on the plane in HBO's 24/7 where Crosby's eating a Reese's Buttercup.
Hershey sent the Penguins cases and cases and cases of candy. "Guys are still eating em," Shero said.
As I joked on Twitter, it's clearly performance enhancing and not the opposite considering they just trounced Tampa Bay last night, 8-1.
AS for the Wild, practice appears to be scrapped Friday in Pittsburgh in lieu of a team activity that sounds pretty cool. We'll find out what it is in the morning, but I don't think the media's invited.
Something's pretty cool going on with the Wild now. They're definitely becoming a team. They're playing games the right way. They're responding to adversity. They're trusting each other and the system. And they're finding ways to win.
Pretty impressive stuff going on now. We'll see if it continues. The schedule doesn't get any easier with Pittsburgh on the horizon and a quick second of back-to-back at home against Dallas that'll feel more like a road game since the team immediately leaves again for Nashville.
Talk to you from Steel City.