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 4-2 season-opening win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Minnesota Wild is automatic
in home openers at Xcel Energy Center (we don’t count last year’s “home” opener in Helsinki, but we definitely count the first game against Edmonton at home last year, which was a win), but this one felt veeeerrrry
different from previous home opening victories.
Yes, if the Wild had lost, I’d be saying “It’s only one game. Still plenty of season to go.” But since they won, and won pretty convincingly with a dominant effort, I’m saying this is going to set the tone for a very, very good season. Punch me in the face for jinxing the team if you want, but I’m not backing down. In fact, I won’t back down…ever…unless threatened.
Anyone who watched this game has to be feeling the same way. This top line is better than suspected, at least after one game (more on that in Takeaway #2). The young defensemen looked extremely poised and confident with minimal errors. Niklas Backstrom
was dazzling. The forecheck was relentless, even with a lead. Rick Nash and Jeff Carter were held almost completely in check. It was all good from start to finish.
“I thought we had a great start,” said newly minted Head Coach Mike Yeo, who secured his first win as an NHL coach in one try. I’d like to give credit to our fans because I thought we had electricity in the building right from the start.”
Don't get me wrong, the combination of Mikko Koivu
, Dany Heatley
and Devin Setoguchi
looked good in preseason. They all put up at least six points (Koivu had seven) in just four games. But, there were flashes, and then there were stretches that were less than thrilling.
That’s preseason, and it maybe it sounds unfair, but those guys aren’t going to go full boar in the preseason. They can get away with that. They’re not trying out for spots, and they’re trying not to get hurt. Yes, they want to develop some chemistry, but that can come in practice as well. If they’re going to show up with performances like this on a nightly basis, it’s going to be on like a pack of wolves running free in a butcher shop.
These guys were spectacular together. It seemed like every time I looked up from my computer, a pass was sliding toward the stick of one of these guys, and they were unleashing one-timers like it was a practice drill. Poor Steve Mason, who is under a lot of pressure this season in Columbus, looked dazed by the onslaught.
They combined for two goals, two assists and 12 shots. I thought I counted more.
I’ll take youth and inexperience on the blue line all day long if it looks like this. Yes, there was one foul up in the third period when a wayward Clayton Stoner
pass ended up on a two-on-nobody with Backstrom making a perfect poke check.
But for the most part, the young defensemen asked to step up with the departure of Brent Burns more than pulled their end of the rope. In fact, the offensive ability supposedly lost in Burns was showcased pretty nicely on Marco Scandella
’s beautiful rush
that he buried for his first-ever NHL goal.
“That’s what he can do,” said Yeo. “He can make plays, but he’s a guy defensively that you can count on.”
The play was the result of another smart and skilled play by Jared Spurgeon
, who still looks like he should be posing in a PeeWee team photo.
By now, you’ve heard the story of the two 11-year-olds in Faribault, when one of the brothers – Nate Smith – made a $50,000 shot from center ice. The only problem was his brother, Nick, was the person who was supposed to take the shot. So they didn’t get the 50K.
They did get a shot at redemption tonight. After doing the “Let’s Play Hockey” declaration to start the game, the boys were on the ice during the first intermission. After answering three trivia questions correctly, they were able to take a shot from basically the top of the crease.
I don’t know which brother took the shot this time, but he buried it. And the prize was a Polaris ATV. That’s not a bad consolation prize, if they can share it.
There’s always plenty of pomp and circumstance surrounding Home Openers, but that’s what makes them so fun. There’s a buzz in the air, and the team pulls out all the stops with a summer to prepare for a grand occasion such as this. Tonight’s pregame ceremonies did not disappoint.
I loved the player introductions on the video board, which incorporated landmarks from around the State of Hockey (my obvious favorite was Koivu’s image plastered across Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge. There was the video tease
that recapped the big offseason, and it continues to make Mike Yeo look like “The Man.” Have a look for yourself.
And of course, there was the touching tribute to our fallen teammates, and friends to many around here: Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra. Again, have a look for yourself
Now, kick yourself for not being here.