Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks:
The Wild continues its impressive play, taking down the team with the National Hockey League’s best record, the Anaheim Ducks. Tonight, the club played a complete game and—although it will be called just another win—it is arguably its biggest victory on the road thus far. The club moves to 9-3-1 in 2014, earning points in five of the last six games (4-1-1). After a wretched start on the road, the team is becoming comfortable away from the State of Hockey, going 4-1-1 in last six road games.
Several players had big nights (four had multi-point games), led by Zach Parise’s three-point effort. You knew it wouldn’t take too long for Parise to get on the score sheet, as he scored his first point(s) since coming back from a foot injury. Parise was creating chances all night in transition, helping set up the first two Wild goals and added his own goal in the third. The winger scored on a beautiful backhand tip on an absolute bullet shot from Marco Scandella at the point. Parise’s goal ended up being the game winner, and Erik Haula added a tip of his own in the third for a little insurance.
Darcy Kuemper set a Wild rookie record for consecutive starts with his eighth in a row and was strong again, posting 31 saves. It was a good showing from the team’s blue line overall, as Anaheim’s shot total was a little deceiving, pouring on pressure trailing at the end of the game.
Apparently the bank stays open late in Anaheim. In the first period, Jason Pominville scored a heads-up goal on a broken play.
Capitalizing on a Ducks’ turnover, the Wild rushed through the neutral zone with speed. Parise carried the puck across the blue line on an odd-man rush and Mikael Granlund faked like he was going to go hard to the net, but held up instead. Parise found Granlund for a one-timer in the slot, but Ducks wing Jakob Silverberg went down to block the shot and the puck looked like it bounced harmlessly in the corner. However, Pominville tracked it down and, before Anaheim netminder Jonas Hiller could get back against the post, he banked it off the netminder’s back.
Every once in a while, you’ll see players attempt a bank shot and occasionally it works like Pominville’s goal tonight, and it looks great and makes the netminder look foolish in the process. Consequently, there are times when a player will try it and miss the net completely and the puck will be broken out, making him look foolish. Pominville has the skill and creativity to attempt, and pull off, a shot like that from behind the goal line.
This morning, Matt Cooke told me that in order to stay out of the penalty box the Wild would have to move their legs against a big and physical Ducks squad. On top of keeping the Wild out of the box, the strategy had another positive impact: Minnesota drew a number of power plays.
Cooke got things going in the first period, taking the puck out of the corner and busting hard to the net. He was hooked by Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa for a power play chance. There is nothing that makes coaches angrier than penalties because a player is standing still and uses his stick instead of skating. In the first two periods, Anaheim took four stick penalties (two hooks, a slash and a trip) all because Wild players were moving their feet. The Wild was able to capitalize on one of those chances…
Since Jan. 1, a number of players have been stepping up for the Wild and tonight it was Granlund’s turn. The center was flying all over the place, creating offensive chances with his skating and shot — and scored on a beautiful play in the second period on the man advantage.
After winning the center-ice faceoff, the Wild regrouped and Ryan Suter fed Granlund in the middle with speed. The centerman caught the puck in traffic, moved the puck to Parise on the wall, avoided a hit and busted hard to the net. Parise returned the puck to Granlund, who redirected it on his backhand over Hiller’s shoulder for his fourth of the season. In the 13 games in 2014, Granlund has nine points (1-8=9).
Granlund is typically a pass-first forward, but tonight. It’s pretty evident that the forward has adjusted to the NHL and is creating chances like many of the YouTube mixed tapes we saw before he came to North America. In the third period he made a one-handed move around defenseman Cam Fowler, and even though he didn’t finish on the play, it was the kind of creative move we should see more and more of as Granlund continues his development.
Stick tap to Donnie Fuller, the Wild’s Head Athletic Therapist, who hit his 1,000th National Hockey League game tonight. Fuller is in his 14th season with the Wild and has been with the team since its inception.
Fuller will be the first to tell you, his job is best when he’s not busy because it means the Wild is healthy. However, anyone who’s been around an NHL locker room knows that a trainer’s job is never done, as there are always bumps and bruises to go along with the more serious injuries. Many fans may think that the NHL life is a glamorous one—and it can be—but there are a lot of hours that go behind the scenes to put the product onto the ice, including keeping the players healthy. Whether it is helping rehab injuries, wrapping ankles or wrists, tying up ice bags or even setting up and tearing down the training rooms on the road, the training and equipment staff is often the last to leave the rink. So congratulations are in order to Fuller and here’s to another 1,000.