It wasn’t always pretty – especially if you exclude a particularly enthralling segment of the second period – but the Minnesota Wild managed to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1. They’ve gotten to this point in about as different a way as possible, but the bottom line is that Minnesota tied the Chicago Blackhawks* for the first spot in the Western Conference tonight.
The biggest story was a bounce-back game for Wild workhorse goalie Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 32 out of 33 shots after being pulled less than nine minutes into Sunday’s contest against the Calgary Flames. Mikko Koivu also notched career goal 100 with an empty-netter.
While it doesn’t make for great hockey, new head coach Mike Yeo’s plan to revert back to Minnesota’s skin-tight defensive days seems to be paying off. Of course, it’s working mainly because of great goaltending. Backstrom is starting to look like a $6 million goalie (or as close as one can) while Josh Harding is hardly a backup in 2011-12. (For all the well-deserved hype that Cory Schneider gets, Harding might be the biggest free agent goalie target this summer because of his soon-to-be-unrestricted status.)
So can they keep it up? It’s tough to say, but on the bright side, they’re not just depending on one goalie to stay hot. If Backstrom falters, perhaps Harding can slide in and hold down the fort. It wouldn’t be shocking if they slide a few rungs down the West ladder, but a much-needed playoff berth doesn’t seem so far-fetched right now.
This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
* The Wild and Blackhawks share 14-7-3 records for 31 points; Minnesota has 57 goals for and 53 goals against while Chicago scored 79 goals and allowed 75 so far this season.
You probably know the drill: injury updates are murky in the NHL basically from the moment a puck drops.
We’ll learn more once the 2015-16 season begins, but at the moment, Saturday might have served as a costly night for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn went down with injuries stemming from a 3-2 pre-season win against the Florida Panthers.
“Guys were dropping like flies,” Steven Stamkos told the Tamba Bay Times.
These could be minor situations – just about any ailment will sideline a key asset this time of year – yet one cannot help but wonder if the Lightning might limp into this campaign.
Nikita Kucherov is dealing with his own issues, so that means at least minor issues for one half of the Bolts’ top six forwards.
It’s believed that more will be known about these banged-up Bolts sometime on Sunday.
With knee issues still limiting him, Raffi Torres isn’t as mobile as he once was. Apparently he still moves well enough to leave the usual path of destruction.
It’s the pre-season, so it’s unclear if we’ll get a good look at the check, but Torres received a match penalty for his hit on Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg.
Most accounts were pretty critical of the San Jose Sharks’ chief troublemaker:
It’s too early to tell if Silfverberg is injured. If he is, that’s a significant loss for the Ducks, as he really showed signs of fulfilling his promise (especially during the 2015 playoffs).
As far as Torres goes, he’s hoping to play in the Sharks’ season-opener. Wherever he ends up, he’ll certainly make plenty of enemies on the ice.
Whether it was because of that hit or just the general distaste shared by those sides, it sounds like tonight’s Sharks – Ducks exhibition is getting ugly, in general:
This post will be updated if video of the hit becomes available, and also if we get a better idea of Silfverberg’s condition.
Update: Bullet dodged?