Following Wild games, Manager of Digital Content Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-0 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of the First Round:
During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is often extra effort, rather than skill, that helps a team advance. Well, it helps when your skilled players are also the ones who are your workhorses.
In a game where the Minnesota Wild had all four lines rolling, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund came through with the extra effort, helping vault the team to a 2-1 series lead against the St. Louis Blues. The Parise, Pominville and Granlund line earned its own take tonight, totaling six points, and the rest of the team executed its speed game perfectly. Meanwhile the Blues looked frustrated with the Wild’s ability to shutdown any transition or give away any opportunities.
After a strong five-on-five game, Nino Niederreiter was rewarded with an empty net goal. He, Charlie Coyle and Thomas Vanek played a strong game, often matching up against the Blues top lines. Coyle (three hits) and Niederreiter (four hits) took it to the Blues, who before the series were expected to be the more physical team.
Minnesota kept the Blues chances to a minimum throughout the 60 minutes, and if it did falter, goaltender Devan Dubnyk was there to shut the door for his first career playoff shutout.
With the series shifting back to the State of Hockey, the Wild wanted a quick start. However, after a scoreless opening period, the club didn’t get off its speed game. Granlund started the team’s first goal, using his legs to beat Game 2’s hero, Vladimir Tarasenko, through the neutral zone. He lost the puck, but Parise backed him up and fed a wide-open Pominville for a tap in.
It was the result of a won one-on-one battle and a no-quit attitude that led to the team’s second goal. First, Pominville won a loose puck battle along the half-wall and centered a pass to Parise, who wasn’t able to handle it cleanly on his backhand. However, he stuck with the puck and outmuscled Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and popped the puck over the glove of goaltender Jake Allen. There were plenty of examples of the Wild outworking the Blues and when added up, led to the win.
After Game 2, Dubnyk owned up to a mistake, saying the Blues’ second goal was on him. Well, in Game 3 he came back with a vengeance, playing mistake free between the pipes. The netminder earned his first career postseason shutout, stopping all 17 shots he faced. While the Wild kept the Blues offense in check, Dubnyk was there to snuff out any spark St. Louis tried to turn into fire.
Dubnyk only faced 10 shots through the first 40 minutes of the game, but Wild fans were itching to chant the customary “Duuuuubs!” Even when the netminder played the puck behind the net, there were smattering of “Duuuuubs!” screams throughout Xcel Energy Center. While Dubnyk gets his own chant, Minnesota fans went after his nemesis, too. From the opening puck drop, the Wild faithful would echo a taunting “Al-len! Al-len! Al-len!” In the third period, when Niederreiter iced the game with an empty net, the fans started an “Al-len!” mantra even though he didn’t give up the goal.
There seems to be a boiling point to every playoff series, when emotions spill over the edge of the pot and onto the burner. Sometimes it starts as a slow simmer that heats up over time into a rolling boil, while other series explode because of a singular incident. The Wild’s first round matchup against the Blues hasn’t had a seismic event that turned the blood bad between the teams, but with each passing game there are little incidents that push the hatred higher — like Steve Ott’s foul display at the end of tonight’s game. Despite the Blues agitator’s best efforts, the way a few of the younger Wild players reacted to the antagonism it seems like the series might not reach 100 degrees.
In two separate instances, Minnesota smiled in the face of an opponent like they were trying to take a picture, rather than attempting to intimidate them. Ott has made a career of being a bully and agitator, but apparently, Wild rookie Matt Dumba hasn’t followed his career as a pest. In the second period, Ott attempted to lay a hit on Jonas Brodin, but whiffed and nearly tumbled into the Wild’s bench. Dumba tried to help him stay in the box a little longer by grabbing his sweater. Ott must’ve said something funny, because Dumba cackled in his face. In the first, Jason Zucker sped around Kevin Shattenkirk for a one-handed shot attempt. After the whistle, Shattenkirk got up in his face like he was on the reality show “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” Rather than taking the bait, Zucker laughed in his face. The Blues can keep up the shenanigans and the Wild will keep its heads, laughing on the way to victory.
Everyone steps up their game during the postseason and that includes the in-arena promotions. During the first intermission, the Wild unveiled new fan-participation promotion: the Treasure Island Phrase Game (think Wheel of Fortune without Pat Sajack and Vanna White). The fan was given the letters R, S, T, L, N, E. He then added I, O and C. Here’s how his board looked before getting 10 seconds to guess the phrase: IT’S _L_ _ _O_ _ SE_ _ SON.
Now, anywhere outside of the State of Hockey the answer would’ve been “It’s Allergy Season,” before he added the O. However, pretty much everyone inside the building knows what time it is, with the exception of the guy who was chosen for this particular promotion. With time winding down and the pressure of the entire Xcel Energy Center arena screaming the answer, he finally answered (tentatively), “It’s Playoff Season.” Maybe he was just doing it for effect, wanted more time in the spotlight or had a few casuals before the game, which slow down his brain’s response time. Regardless, he came through in the end and won the fabulous prize.