Since I arrived in your great state in 2005, I can’t think of too many times since I instituted the Star Tribune 3 Stars that I didn’t include a goaltender with a shutout as one of my three.
I was a little unsure until after the 2-0 win over Colorado when I heard Devan Dubnyk making the same jokes that he didn’t really have anything to do during his 18-save, 24th career shutout.
Hey, makes up for all the times Dubnyk has unfortunately lost a shutout in the last five minutes the past few years.
Other than a robbery on Nathan MacKinnon early in the first period, Dubnyk could have sat in a rocking chair all game and turned away the Avalanche. Facing a team that has now lost 11 of 13, the Wild used a dominant defensive performance to win its eighth consecutive game overall and seventh straight at home.
The Wild, 12-3 at home, is now 10-1-3 in its past 14 games and 8-0-1 this month. It hasn’t lost in regulation since Nov. 29, and remember the Wild was 2:35 from getting to overtime that night in Vancouver after rallying from two goals down in the third before a shot going 20 feet wide pinballed in.
The Avs are one lousy team right now. Management has some big decisions to make to figure this thing out because it may be time to tear into the Avs’ sinking core. How resigned are the fans, too? I didn’t even spot any Avs fans coming at me on Twitter with usual piss and vinegar.
Of course, maybe I’ve blocked most the haters by now.
I didn’t mention on Monday’s blog, but in saying how well-deserved it was for Eric Staal to be named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, Bruce Boudreau took a little swipe at the national media by saying, “We just don’t get much recognition. So it was nice to see somebody get recognized.”
Asked why he thinks the Wild’s month-long hot streak has seemingly gone unnoticed, Boudreau said, “I have no idea,” before he jokingly told me maybe I’m not doing my job because I take too many days off.
Of course, then I pointed out to him that the Wild perennially usually falls apart when it gets national attention (Mike Yeo’s first year, the Wild was the best team in the NHL by record in mid-December when the Pierre LeBruns and Craig Custances (both ESPN) showed up in San Jose to sing the Wild’s praises. The Wild promptly collapsed).
Boudreau deadpanned, “Then, don’t say a word.”
But this team is pretty impressive the way it defends right now. Defending like this, as long as it stays healthy, the Wild should be a player all season in a Western Conference where only Chicago and Minnesota seem to be winning nightly (although the Hawks lost tonight, meaning the Wild is six back with four games in hand).
Now, a tough back-to-back in Montreal and the Rangers before the NHL’s holiday hiatus where nobody plays or practices.
“We think it's going to be a great challenge, it's going to be a great test for us,” Boudreau said. “You never go into it saying, 'Bring 'em on.' That's not what we're doing. We are going in there to see if we are really playing well or if it's sort of a masquerade right now.”
Tonight was a frustrating game for the Wild and its fans and its front office. The officiating was suspect, and in the third period, the Wild had to kill four power plays.
Pretty stunning for a Wild team that seemed to have the puck most the game and had to get over umpteen no-calls by the zebras.
GM Chuck Fletcher was so dismayed, he cut off officiating supervisor Mick McGeough before he got halfway to the elevator after the game.
But the Wild didn’t give Colorado a chance to set up. The Avs only registered one shot on the four power plays and two shots on five power plays in the game.
Charlie Coyle scored his team-leading 11th goal. Mikko Koivu scored his sixth goal in 13 games. Eric Staal had his ninth point in eight games. Matt Dumba, playing great two-way hockey right now, had two assists. And Dubnyk extended his career-best point streak to 11 games (9-0-2) with a 1.51 goals-against average and .947 save percentage since Nov. 23.
He has a 16-6-3 record with a league-best 1.55 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and five shutouts.
Amazing, and pretty neat, he takes this into Montreal, the darkest point of his career. Remember, he was traded from Nashville to the Habs and buried in the minors so deep, he called the Habs and basically was allowed to leave the team at the end of the year.
Staal and Koivu were awesome tonight. Boudreau gushed over Koivu in the postgame the way he shut down Nathan MacKinnon and keeps making other team’s top guns invisible. He had four shots and won 13 of 18 draws, too.
Charlie Coyle: “It’s huge. We want to keep this streak going here. It’s been our best hockey and we want to push these guys back down. We want to keep them there and kind of distance ourselves back up in the standings. We need these points right now. They’re going to be crucial down the road, so it’s a really big two for us.”
Coyle on Dubnyk’s easy night: “As long as he’s playing well, we’re going to do our best to keep things a little lighter on him. But we have a lot of confidence in him back there and he’s been awesome. So, we’re just going to try and keep that going.”
Koivu on the PK: “I think every time it get towards the end and you’ve got the lead, you recognize that you want to be as sharp as you can. There was a lot of those, so it was needed.”
Koivu on needing these 2 points before a tough trip: “We did talk about it. You want to win every game, but you want to recognize too that when you play at home and you’ve got the homestand before you go on the road again to two tough buildings, you really need that one. You want to play good. That’s all you can do. I thought from the beginning we were on it and played a good 60 minutes.”
Staal on beating the Avs: “We were ready to go. I thought we initiated right from the beginning of the game and made some good plays when we had them and then just kind of took over as the game went on. I feel like we’re a better team than them and our records are indicative of that, but there’s no easy nights in this league. You’ve got to come to play and we did, we did tonight. We kept this thing going by making sure we were playing our style of game and we felt like we controlled most of the game. Now we’ve got to take this on the road. Nice effort by the guys but now we’ve got to follow it up.
Staal on how well the Wild’s playing: “I think with a new coach and a new way of playing for some guys, and different people in different spots it was going to take some time to get comfortable but you could see our game coming for a little while there. Now we feel like we’ve got a good thing going and when you have that you want to ride it as long as you can. We talk a lot about being prepared every night and we’re not going to win every game the rest of the season but the longer we can keep this going momentum-wise, it’s going to help us in the long run. Now we’ve got to take it on the road and it’s tougher out there. It’s going to be fun in a couple of good barns before christmas to try to keep this streak alive.”
Boudreau on if this was the Wild’s best defensive effort: “I think we've had a couple against Winnipeg but that was right up there. The blocking shots, getting in the lanes, doing the right thing, and playing the right way. I thought it was really good right until the end.”
Boudreau on limiting the Avs: “We were moving our legs on the loose pucks. We talked about that at the beginning of the game. We showed some clips of when they came back and beat us the last time in here and we were just standing around and watching them play. I thought tonight on every loose puck we were at least attacking them and challenging them. You know they've got some great skaters up front and we weren't letting them skate.”
Dubnyk on the game: “That was an impressive game by us all the way around. You look at the end of the game and that’s about the tale of the game, we just keep the puck in their end the last minute and a half or two minutes. That was a real good effort start to finish for us.”
Dubnyk on being in sync with his defensemen: “I’ve spoken on it all year, I just trust so much what they’re doing in front of me. They’re letting me see shots when I need to see them. When there is rebounds, they are clearing them out and it just allows me to be patient and be comfortable with knowing what’s available and what’s not. It’s my job to give that back to them and make sure I’m making the saves I need to. It’s been a lot of fun this year.”
Dubnyk on getting these two before MTL and NYR: “We talked about every game was tough and we had a couple days here between games. These are going to be a tough two games here before Christmas. We’ve done a good job this whole streak of continuing to worry about the next game and concentrate on building our game. The guys continue to play better each night.”
Dubnyk on going up against Carey Price: “I always like playing in Montreal. It’s a special place to play and we only get to do it once a year. No surprise, I’m going to have to be good at my end but I’ve learned over the years that Pricer has a pretty good shot, but I don’t think he’s going to be shooting on me. I’ll worry about the guys who are shooting on me and just understand that I’m going to have to be good because he always is at the other end.”
Avs coach Jared Bednar on the 0 for 5 PP: “I just felt we had a couple of those guys on our power play that didn’t have great nights. They fought the puck a little bit and when you’re fighting the puck against a team that comes at you on the penalty kill, like they’re fast, they close quickly on you, they don’t give you a bunch of time. Then when you’re fighting the puck a little bit, it just leads to turnovers. That was kind of the story of the power play for me tonight.”
Bednar on the Wild: “You’ve got to give Minnesota credit. They’re on top of their game right now. They’re skating hard. They’re checking hard. They don’t make a bunch of mistakes. You know, it’s hard for everyone to come in here and produce. We know our history, we’ve been struggling all year to create offense.”
That’s it for now. I fly to Montreal on Wednesday. Kent Youngblood is covering practice.