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 loss against the Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center.
The result notwithstanding, the Wild did many things on Saturday much better than in its previous four games.
Not playing to the tune it felt was melodic to a winning playoff rhythm, the Wild wanted to strike the right chord in its regular season finale against the Calgary Flames.
And over the first 40 minutes, the Wild checked off the items interim Head Coach John Torchetti laid out for its to-do list. Minnesota established its forecheck early, and was on it often.
What that can do, and did, is shift the field position of the game: the Flames, under constant pressure, were flipping pucks out of their defensive zone to the neutral zone, or from the neutral zone into the Wild's end. That added up to play being tilted toward the Flames goal line.
The shots on goal reflected that: Minnesota outshot the Flames 31-11 over the first two periods,
It saw the Wild take a lead into the third period, before two late goals flipped its fortune and the result of game 82.
"Then we got frustrated … and tried to do it a little bit individually, and then two neutral zone turnovers, which we stressed about going into the game," Torchetti said. "Looking for something that's not there."
But there is plenty of good the Wild can take out of that game, and use to build into the coming days before it begins the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Dallas Stars.
"It doesn't matter who you play in the West," Devan Dubnyk said. "Pick one: It's going to be an extremely difficult series, and that's no different with our upcoming series here."
A new face and an old, new face teamed up to put the Wild ahead 1-0, and each has a nice story to his place in the lineup.
The primary assist came from Ryan Carter, not new to the Wild, but a player who had missed the past nine games with an upper-body injury, and also was away from the Wild a bit of extra time when his wife Erin gave birth to their third daughter, Lillian Grace.
The goal belonged to Zac Dalpe, playing in his second game for the Minnesota Wild. Just to see Dalpe on the ice is a testament to his work ethic: he sustained a torn labrum in his hip that required surgery, and then, upon returning, a knee injury that kept him out an extended period. The injuries limited Dalpe to eight AHL games this season.
And with the Wild and Flames tied in the second period, Carter, from the seat of his pants, shoveled the puck over to Dalpe, who snuck a backhand shot inside the far post and past Niklas Backstrom.
Having been on 11 power plays in its past five games, Torchetti said the Wild needed to work harder even-strength to force its opponents to commit more penalties.
Through two periods, the Wild had been on four power plays, and was getting on the man-advantage through that hard work Torchetti asked for. On the game, the Wild had five power plays.
Chris Porter, whose North Dakota Fighting Hawks won a national championship on Saturday, fought through a stick check in the first period to draw a hooking penalty.
Nino Niederreiter drew two minors of his own, one in making a good read at his blue line and forcing Dougie Hamilton to impede his progress and trip him, the second when Niederreiter got involved after the whistle behind the net, and Calgary took two penalties to his one.
The fourth penalty came when Jason Pominville pivoted with possession along the end boards, drawing a boarding call against Hamilton.
In the third period, Charlie Coyle muscled his way past Matt Stajan, who ended up hooking Coyle.
Those four power plays led to 11 shots on goal, and though the Wild didn't score, they were minutes spent peppering Backstrom with shots and in Calgary's zone.
It was a big year for many Wild players, some of whom set career highs and took the next step in becoming major contributors on this roster.
Of the Wild's "25-and-under" group, Coyle, Erik Haula, Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and Jared Spurgeon (now 26, but a club member until he celebrated his birthday in November) all set new benchmarks in various offensive categories.
Coyle was one of five Wild ironmen (along with Granlund and Niederreiter), playing in all 82 games, and established new bests in goals and points. Niederreiter surpassed his previous highs in assists and points, and in scoring 20 goals, became the first Swiss-born NHL player to post consecutive 20-goal seasons. He also has continued to make major strides defensively.
Haula, one of the Wild's hottest players down the stretch, set highs in all three major offensive categories, and has continued to blossom as a stellar, two-way, shutdown center. Granlund's 13 goals and 44 points was more than any he had in a previous season, and Spurgeon created a new ceiling in both goals and points.
The Wild talked in the preseason about needing its youth to continue to mature and bridge the gap, lessening the load for its veterans, and it certainly did that this season.FIFTH TAKEAWAY
With this being the final regular season and home game of the season, there were many special in-arena activities to help conclude another special year at Xcel Energy Center.
During the second period, the University of Minnesota women's hockey team was honored for winning its fourth national title in five years. Quite an accomplishment for the Gophers, who are currently in the midst of one of the most dominant stretches in all of amateur or professional sports.
The Wild also set an attendance record this season for home games with another sellout on Saturday night, 19,247 in attendance. It was the Wild's 600th sellout in franchise history — including pre and postseason games — bringing this season's average up to a record 19,062.
But perhaps the most significant moment on Saturday came before puck drop, when local Bantam A player Josh Karels did the "Let's Play Hockey" announcement.
Karels has a terminal immune-deficiency disease, but has continued to play hockey. On Friday, he and Dubnyk donated $3,7000 to two local charities with strong hockey ties.
Dubnyk reached out to Karels to help him out, and in turn, Karels told Dubnyk they should team up to donate money for those who need it more.
Karels' story, and more specifically, the attitude and demeanor he has maintained is, in a word, remarkable. Karels, who is in-and-out of hospitals, stood in Xcel Energy on Friday next to Dubnyk, oversized checks in hand, less than a week removed from his last stay.
And since then, Karels has been emailing his hockey coach with a list of summer goals and which camps he would like to attend. His attitude, selflessness, and strength are characteristics that should inspire and motivate.