Typically following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
Typically, NHL teams dread the second game of back-to-backs. The opponent usually is coming off a day of rest, and there’s not much recuperation time from the night before.
For the Minnesota Wild, a second game in two days was exactly what was needed after last night’s thumping at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings. Head Coach Mike Yeo said he was looking forward to seeing how his team would respond. In talking to the media prior to the game, he pretty much guaranteed his team would play hard on Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Even he had to be surprised with how his team performed to open tonight’s game. For the first 20 minutes, the Wild delivered blow after blow in a complete and utter domination of the Ducks on the way to a 3-0 lead after one after goals by Kyle Brodziak
, Matt Cullen
and Jared Spurgeon
Obviously, the Ducks woke up after that, which is typical for a team down by three. The Wild held their ground and the perfect response yielded the perfect result: a 3-2 win and a spot at the top of the Northwest Division.
“I was really impressed,” said Yeo. “Really impressed. I saw an awful lot of pride on the ice. Character. Leadership. Right down the line, guys were doing what they had to do. Paying the price. Winning battles.”
That first period…wow! It was easily the most energetic and dominant stretch of 20 minutes for the Wild this season. Every race to a puck ended with a Wild jersey there first. Every hit was delivered by a guy in a white helmet. Every time the puck was in on Jonas Hiller, there were a bunch of green breezers surrounding him and looking to pick up the garbage.
It was outstanding to watch, and certainly made people wonder what Yeo said to his team before the game tonight.
We’re starting to see with Yeo that he’s not allowing bad habits or ugly stretches last long. He seems to be nipping them in the bud, delivering the right messages and getting the results.
Setting the tone for tonight’s remarkable pace was that line of Brodziak, Nick Johnson
and Darroll Powe
. With a couple of Ivy Leaguers (and Brodziak is no dummy either), you’d think this line would be about playing angles and using algorithms to generate their scoring chances. But you would be wrong.
This trio plays an in-your-face, relentless style and when they start out the game like they did tonight, it’s pretty tough for other guys to not give their best efforts.
They got that much-needed early goal when Johnson tried to stuff one in, Powe quickly followed with a shot from the crease and Brodziak burying a loose puck. Ugly and beautiful at the same time.
It wasn’t just those guys though. I’m pretty sure Cullen was flying around all night, but it was tough to make out the “7” on his jersey. I’m quite certain I saw him celebrating after burying a gorgeous feed from Cal Clutterbuck
, but his impact went beyond his team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Cullen added an assist and was relentless on the puck in all zones. He also won some huge faceoffs and fired three shots on goal.
Even during a five-game winning streak, Yeo continues to say “we’re not yet where we want to be.” In fact, last night he said his team was far from where it needs to be.
He likely still believes that, but even if the Wild isn’t completely “where it needs to be,” it’s still nice to be on top of the division.
There’s a long way to go. There are teams right behind the Wild. I’d still rather be in first place at this point in the season than anywhere else.