Clutterbuck Breaks Hits Record; Wild Win
Let’s be honest. Everyone and their mother knew that Cal Clutterbuck would break the hits record last night. He’s been averaging at least 6 hits per game over his last few games and needed just two more to eclipse Dustin Brown’s old mark.
Clutterbuck has been a breath of fresh air this season to a Wild team that has lacked energy at times. He comes out hard every night and he is always moving. His big hitting style of game has endeared himself to Wild fans the world over and has made him Public Enemy Number One to everyone else. He has even drawn so much attention to himself through his hard work and energy that a grassroots campaign has started amongst Wild fans for a push for the Calder Trophy, awarded each year to the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Clutterbuck has gotten noticed, not only by Wild fans, but by opposing players, fans and hockey pundits around the league. From Don Cherry’s rant to fans categorizing Cal as a cheapshot artist, he has raised the ire of many a fan and player in his short time in the NHL. The fact of the matter is, however, that Clutterbuck is a player that plays the game like it was meant to be played. He skates hard every shift, he works hard every practice and he doesn’t back down from anyone.
The most impressive part of Clutterbuck’s season this year (apart from the hits) has been the offensive upside that he’s flashed. Let us not forget that Mr. Clutterbuck used to play on John Tavares’s wing in the OHL. He has offensive instincts; however, he was not quite up to snuff when he came into training camp this season. He was given things to work on down in the AHL and his wrist shot went from a mediocre one to what Mario Tremblay and Jacques Lemaire have described as the best wrist shot on the team. This hard work and willingness to be coached will ultimately be what defines Clutterbuck in his career.
What’s more is that Clutterbuck has earned favor with management with his hard-hitting, explosive, energetic playing style and has even found himself playing on the penalty kill and power play this season. While his rookie campaign has been fantastic, there’s no doubt that he will continue to get even more responsibility in coming seasons with the team and I have no doubt that what we’ve seen this season is only scratching the surface of his overall potential.
317. It’s not 552, but it’s still a Wild player with his name in the record books.
- Surprisingly enough, there was a hockey game that occurred last night. Now I know it’s the Islanders, but a 6-2 victory is still a confidence builder no matter who you play. The team played with an edge last night; something that I haven’t seen from this team for quite some time. I don’t know if it’s the attitude that Owen Nolan has instilled with the ‘C’ on his chest for a brief couple games or if it is the desparation of realizing that they may not make the playoffs, but this team played a fantastic, physical game last night; something that they will have to continue to do if they are to make any sort of push.
- I mentioned to a friend in passing yesterday that, if the Wild wanted to make the playoffs without Mikko Koivu, Marian Gaborik would need to average at leasttwo points per game from here on out. Apparently he heard me all the way from Long Island. After playing a fantastic game against the Rangers two nights ago, Gaborik came back last night with a quiet two goal, two assist performance. Anyone who knows me knows that I am no fan of Marian Gaborik’s, but I cannot deny that he is a potential game breaker in every game he plays in. Playing most of the game with Nolan, Gaborik showed instant chemistry with the veteran and easily had his best game of the season. The best part about this? I hardly even recognized that he was on the ice. These are the types of games that define what a player is. Not the five-goal games, but the games where you think to yourself, “He didn’t have an especially impressive game” and you look at the stat sheet and realize that he’d notched four points.
- Speaking of Owen Nolan, is there anything that this man doesn’t do? He leads, he scores, he hits, he fights. Nolan is the type of player that the Wild have been missing for years and that Wild fans have been dreaming about for years. As far as I’m concerned, he can play for the Wild as long as he wants to and he should have the ‘C’ on his chest for all of that time.
- After a shameful performance in New Jersey, Niklas Backstrom looks to be back to his old tricks. He has given up just 4 goals in 3 games and has looked absolutely spectacular at times. He has proven time and again this season that his shoulders are broad and he could very well will the team into the playoffs.
- The physical play of the Wild’s blueline last night was something that has been sorely missed this season. Not necessarily during the whistle, but it seemed as if every single defenseman was playing with a chip on his shoulder last night. They let absolutely no one get to their goalie and defended him marvelously.
- In his post game comments, Lemaire mentioned something that I had taken note of throughout the game. The Islanders were taking runs at anyone wearing a white sweater. Lemaire was very blunt in saying that he felt their players were being a bit brave out there and that he thought it would be interesting to see what happens when the Isles play the Wild next season. The Isles thought that they could intimidate the Wild with physical play; but the Wild certainly answered the bell and didn’t allow themselves to be intimidated.
- The Wild now travels to Alberta to take on Calgary and then Edmonton. Needless to say, these are two huge games for Minnesota, as they are still jockeying for playoff position. A win in one or both of these games could easily slide the Wild back into the playoffs. The biggest problem, however, is consistency. If the Wild can build off of this win and take the confidence into Calgary, there’s no doubt in my mind that they may be able to steal a win from the red hot Flames. The game in Edmonton will be interesting as well, as Niklas Backstrom has even come out and said that he doesn’t play well in that building. History will have to be put behind him and he will have to come out strong if the Wild are to make up any ground.