Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 2-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.
Jason Pominville is off the schnide, and now the bounces are beginning to go his way.
After scoring his first goal of the season Saturday against the Dallas Stars, Pominville scored again on Tuesday against the Blackhawks, his second is as many games. Mikael Granlund just missed wide on a rebound attempt off a Jared Spurgeon point shot, but Pominville, who hung around the net, pounced on the puck from behind the goal line and wrapped it in off of Corey Crawford's right pad.
"The last couple of games have been two of his better games in a long time," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "I'm happy that he got rewarded, but he's playing the game very well right now."
That kind of play, and that kind of bounce, is one that was universally going against Pominville through the first 21 games of the season.
"It probably wouldn't have been in, but that's just the way this game goes," he said. "You get one, and your confidence gets a little bit higher, and you find a way to get another one. I just played a better game overall."
Also of note on that goal, Pominville made a nice play to reload Spurgeon at the point after Zach Parise gave Pominville a pass in traffic. Pominville bumped the puck back to the blue line, Spurgeon got it to the net, and Granlund and Pominville each won footraces to loose pucks.
"Our line has been better in supporting each other, better all over the ice, and it's more the way we need to play," Pominville said. "Obviously offensively, but the way we defended was way better, and we didn't give up as much. It led to us having the puck a lot more."
Yeo also pointed out after the game that Pominville being on the ice with the Wild protecting a one-goal lead with Chicago's net empty was as good an indicator as any of his play.
"When he's on top of his game, he's one of our solid defenders," Yeo said. "He's a guy who's in good position, and because of that, he creates a lot of offense from that."
Coming off what Yeo called Jonas Brodin's best game of the season, the 22-year-old had another stellar if not sparkling performance.
Where Brodin excels is the small plays that may not show up in a box score, but are vital to success, and, offensively influential. His wall play in his own zone has been lights out; Brodin has been deft at either quickly moving a puck out of danger to a teammate, or separating an opponent from the puck and taking off himself.
It's a difficult thing to judge the offensive merits of a defenseman, especially if one confines that assessment to just goals and assists. Those small things Brodin does, from his gap control, to how he is a catalyst for the Wild's pace, are offensively important.
The guy Brodin played with at times, Ryan Suter, which was part of the story entering the night, had a monster game.
"Regardless of who he was out there with tonight, that was a great response from [Suter] tonight," Yeo said.
Suter played 29:36, and played nearly half of his even-strength minutes against Patrick Kane.
While Kane extended his point streak to 20 games with a goal, that came on the power play. At even-strength, Suter was very Suter-esque, bullying puck-carriers into turnovers in his defensive zone, making smart reads to move the puck north, and of course, playing a large chunk of the game.
"In my time here since I've been coaching against him, [Kane is] playing as well as I've seen," Yeo said. "It's a real challenge for our group, and I thought our group responded. You try to get matchups, and obviously [Suter], we worked pretty hard to get that matchup."
Even before Suter scored the game-winner, it was a big night for the defenseman. That goal was much deserved for everything he did in his own zone.
That Kane matchup was one Yeo tried to get as much as possible with last change on the road. Suter's shot-attempts percentage in his shifts against Kane was 57.9 percent, a good indication of the job he did to bottle up Chicago's superstar.
"He is what he is; he's an unbelievable player," Suter said. "You have to know where he is."
It was also interesting after the game to hear Yeo say that the way the Wild's forwards played afforded him the luxury of not having to worry about looking for those matchups against Kane.
And diving into that deeper, it was a lot of Mikael Granlund's line (Granlund played 6:04 against Kane) and Charlie Coyle's line (Coyle played 6:41 against Kane).
"When our forwards are playing like that, we talked about playing a game that makes it a little bit easier on our defense, and we did a much better job tonight," Yeo said.
Not just a very good performance from Devan Dubnyk, but some of the saves he made, in addition to being of a high level of difficulty, were very timely.
He made a pair of saves on Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews in the first period, one on a breakaway, and another on a partial break. On the first, Toews jumped an outlet pass at the blue line and walked in all alone before Dubnyk smothered a shot Toews tried to sneak through his pads. It came a few minutes after the Wild had taken a 1-0 lead.
The second stop on Toews came with just over six minutes left in the first, when Toews corralled a loose puck in the faceoff circle, descended on Dubnyk, and walked along the crease horizontally before Dubnyk managed to lift his right pad just enough to keep out a sharp angle shot.
The Wild got out of the first period with a 1-0 lead, thanks in large to its goalie.
When the second period began, it was Chicago that generated a Grade-A opportunity in the first minute, and Dubnyk again answered the bell. Marcus Kruger and Marko Dano broke in on a 2-on-1, and after stopping Kruger's initial shot, Dubnyk reached with his right pad to kick out the rebound attempt.
"It's always tough when the rebound goes right onto their guy's stick, but you kind of throw everything out and just go street hockey at that point," Dubnyk said. "It's good to get that one and keep us up a goal at the time, especially that early in a period."
In what was a very tight game, the Wild got the kind of performance from its goaltender that no doubt gave it a shot to win on the road.
That's a strong bounce-back performance from the Wild. Yeo always talks about building, and that's a game with tons of positive takeaways to build off.
"You're nervous because you're coming in here against that team, and you could play a good game, and do a lot of things, and potentially things might not go your way," Yeo said. "I liked the way we stayed with it."
It was one of the Wild's stronger even-strength performances in a while, and they controlled the puck possession battle in a difficult road building. Coming off that overtime loss against the Stars on Saturday, Minnesota put that game behind it quickly and put in a strong effort in an important Central Division game.
"We hadn't played well, and hadn't played consistent in a long time, and we finally put a game together: something that we can build on," Suter said.
Those kinds of games will lead to wins. As Yeo said after a tough practice on Monday, " You build a game that you play consistently, and that will deliver the results."
The Wild was much better taking care of the puck, and the neutral zone, an area that Parise said after morning skate Minnesota needed to improve in, was a much crisper element of the Wild's game.
"We have such a group of players in here as far as breaking the puck out and handling the puck, that's where that really comes into play when it's a tight game," Dubnyk said. "Not getting worried, and throwing the puck away, and throwing it off the glass when you don't need to.
"We have all the tools in here to make plays with the puck whether we're tied, or winning by a goal, and you saw that tonight.
"It was more of what we're used to in here."