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Five Takeaways From Wild Vs. Canucks

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

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 6-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center.



FIRST TAKEAWAY



What can you say about that Zach Parise goal? 



Head Coach Mike Yeo has said time and time again Parise's relentless work ethic embodies Minnesota Wild hockey. His latest goal on Tuesday, sure to be featured on the highlights, makes relentless sound too passive.



It was Parisean to a tee, and it put the Wild ahead 3-0 on the power play.



As the puck worked its way across the zone to Parise, he got handcuffed on a one-time shot, falling to the ice while Ryan Miller made a sprawling save. Parise didn't wait to get back up, corralling his own rebound, and from his knees, throwing it toward the crease, only to have it carom off the inside of Miller's leg and back to him.

"I felt like I should have put in the one-timer," he said.

Parise wasn't done, and finished the play by popping back to his feet, and, on his third shot in four seconds, put the Wild ahead 3-0 (VIDEO). 


"I saw [Miller] was pretty far out of the net, and there was just a [defenseman] trying to block it," Parise said. "I gave myself a little bit of a shooting angle and put it in.

"There was enough room there to find it."

It was a huge night for Parise, who also picked up an assist, the 350th of his career. He took eight shots on goal, and since returning from an injury on November 27 has eight points in nine games, and seven in his past five.



SECOND TAKEAWAY



Those new Minnesota Wild forward lines, well they looked swell. 



Yeo decided to put Mikko Koivu with Jason Zucker and Thomas Vanek, each forward skating on his off-wing.

Also together was a line of Charlie Coyle centering Nino Niederreiter on his left, and Justin Fontaine on his right. 

And it just clicked. 


"We had a good shift or two in Phoenix there," Vanek said. "In San Jose I thought Mikko and I and [Coyle] played well together; we generated a lot, just nothing went in."



The Koivu line, as Vanek predicted, fed off Zucker's speed. His mobility opened things up for his two linemates, who in turn used that space to create puck possession. 



On Zucker's goal, his first in 10 games, he used his speed to win the puck back below the Wild's goal line, and then flashed through the slot, catching the attention of two Canucks. 



That gave Koivu space to fire-wire the puck across the zone, and the gears were in motion. Jared Spurgeon pinched down to support, he and Zucker had a quick give-and-go, and the Canucks were out of sorts. 

The sequence ended with Koivu again going cross-ice, finding an open Vanek, who made the extra pass to Zucker atop the crease for the goal (VIDEO).

"For us as a line tonight it just seemed that it was going in, and the puck was finding the net," Koivu said. "You want to stay on it, and make sure you keep doing the right things defensively, and for sure offensively."



The line wasn't done. In the second period, Vanek would retrieve a dump-in, wheel behind the Canucks' goal, and lay a perfect pass to Koivu, who had a free one-timer and scored his 150th career goal (VIDEO).



It was a four-point night for Vanek and Koivu, who each had a goal and three assists, and continued to play well off each other, with Zucker complementing the duo.

"If I would have guessed that Mikko and Thomas would have had four points tonight — I'm not that smart," Yeo said. "I knew that Thomas and Mikko had some chemistry last game together, and both are very creative players."

THIRD TAKEAWAY



Not to be forgotten was the other new line, which, likewise, had a huge night. 

Coyle looked like a man possessed, and he got involved in ways that make Coyle effective.


"He was another guy who, last game, we liked what he did with Mikko and Thomas," Yeo said. "He brought that home tonight."

His second shift of the game was a great example. Coyle pulled up at the blue line on a zone entry, taking a pass and carrying it in. He toe-dragged around Ben Hutton before firing a shot that got under the arm of Ryan Miller, but just trickled wide.





Coyle was hardly done. He went behind the net, and again went one-on-one against Hutton, using his size to muscle past him and draw a holding penalty. The ensuing power play resulted in a Wild goal, which Coyle doesn't get an assist on, but helped create nonetheless. 



(Coyle would later draw a penalty in the second period throwing the puck into space, and winning a footrace. That penalty also led to a power-play goal.)

"Charlie's game — he had one sleepy game in Arizona where he wasn't great, but he wasn't bad — but overall, the last three weeks, he's been playing really good hockey," Yeo said.

Niederreiter, who Yeo said was doing things a bit too deliberately on Monday, played a more straight-ahead game, and that suits him quite well.



Eventually, the line produced an even-strength goal on a passing sequence akin to a video game highlight.



Fontaine and Niederreiter chased down Matt Bartkowski as he attempted to carry the puck out of Vancouver's zone. The former took over, and used his frame to will the play toward the crease. 





As Niederreiter glided below the dot, he pivoted on the puck, and passed it back to Matt Dumba at the point. In one motion, Dumba spun and shoveled it over to Marco Scandella, who, with Coyle providing a screen in front, scored the Wild's sixth goal of the game (VIDEO). 



The in-zone work was what Yeo said he thought, in theory, the line could produce, with Coyle and Niederreiter two large pillars that were tough to move.



FOURTH TAKEAWAY





There were so many things that went right on the Wild's power play that it has been looking to incorporate, it's hard to know where to start, so we'll chronologically dissect its first of three goals.



The Wild won two faceoffs in the 27 seconds it took Minnesota to score on the power play in the first period. That's two free zone entries, and in terms of orchestrating puck movement, winning the faceoff is a duty-free catalyst.



Then came the puck movement. The Wild made crisp passes around the zone, facilitated by its positioning. As Yeo had said, the Wild had been getting in its own way on recent power plays, but was only off by a matter of feet. It's why the Wild's power play didn't look like version 2.0, sans how smooth it operated.



Finally came something that Parise said the Wild's power play was lacking: cycling the puck high in the zone. A penalty kill is supposed to operate in a square, and by vertically moving the puck it distends that square.

The Wild won a faceoff, worked the puck up high, and Vancouver chased.

"We knew they were going to do that," Ryan Suter said.

It gave the Wild space to operate down low, and all of a sudden, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek had a two-on-one, and the former fed the latter for an easy tap-in (VIDEO).


"You don't want to give them a chance to reset," Parise said. "You want to make quick plays, and the plays are there. We watched a little video finally just to see what we were missing, and the options are there, we had to see it."

It was the first time the Wild has scored three power-play goals in a game since January 14, 2014 against the Washington Capitals.

"Tonight we were able to get a couple of seams," Parise said. "We did a good job of making two-on-ones all over the ice, and we were able to cash in, and get a lot of good chances, and good shots."

FIFTH TAKEAWAY



It's nice when the things you incorporate in practice click in a game. The Wild had been playing very well during a current seven-game point streak (4-0-3) entering Tuesday night, but wasn’t shy from saying it had room to improve. 



And two of the major points of emphasis in recent Wild practices not only worked against the Canucks, they created tangible results.



Those areas were the Wild's power play and the two newly formed lines. Again, we're talking about a team that came in on a seven-game point streak having allowed two even-strength goals against in its past five games. It wasn't exactly in shambles.



Minnesota was close offensively, the floodgates were ready to open, and on Tuesday night, they did, and then some.

"The talk in San Jose, I was hoping we were going to break out that night, but I knew if we could keep playing the same way, that offensively, things would start clicking a little bit more," Yeo said.

The Wild took a season-high 41 shots on goal, and wasn't just flinging them from the outside, having also said it needed to spend more time on the offensive interior.


"What did we score one or two goals the last five games? It was bound to happen," Suter said. " We were defending well, guys were buying in, and it was bound to happen."

There was also an edge to the Wild's game, not a physical one, but one that saw the Wild not let up. Minnesota also lamented its past performance against the Canucks this morning, a 3-2 loss in late November.

"We've had the puck more, and we knew that creates more opportunities to score goals, and it creates more counter-attack opportunities," Yeo said. "So we knew if we could stick with it, but maybe get a little hungrier around the net, that we could break loose."

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