Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 loss against the Anaheim Ducks:
The Wild will look back at tonight as a “shoulda, woulda, coulda” game.
Minnesota was on the front porch plenty of times and had its chances to bogart a win from the defending Pacific Division champs, the Anaheim Ducks. However, nearly every time the Wild knocked, Anaheim netminder Frederik Andersen closed the door. The goaltender made timely saves and had lady luck on his side more than a few times as the Wild was unable to extend its one-goal lead. Only Jason Zucker was able to slip one past Andersen, who moved to 4-0-0 on the year.
The game turned into a goaltender’s duel, as Minnesota had a young standout of its own in net tonight…
Darcy Kuemper has been hotter than a tiki torch in an active volcano to start the season. Tonight, the Ducks ended Kuemper’s goalless streak, but the netminder set an individual record for longest shutout streak to start the season at 163:46. The youngster bested the previous high, 157:44, set by Niklas Backstrom. The 24-year-old always seems to keep his cool and a level head, even when he’s losing his helmet.
In the second period a bouncing puck hopped over Ryan Suter’s stick, and right onto the tape of Ducks forward Devante Smith-Pelly in full stride. The Anaheim wing fired a puck on net and followed the rebound. Kuemper made both saves, losing his helmet in the process and stayed with the puck as it went into the corner. Luckily, the ref saw the goaltender lose his lid and blew the whistle.
Kuemper’s shutout streak finally came to an end at the 4:02 mark of the third period as Andrew Cogliano sent a backhand shot past him on a breakaway. Moments later, Kuemper made the save of the game after a centering pass hit Jonas Brodin’s skate. The puck deflected towards the empty net and Kuemper laid the paddle down and sent it away from the goal line.
Tonight, Ryan Carter played center for the first time this season. Before the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he liked the way Carter has been able to pick up the team’s systems and the way he played in the opening two games. The team’s bench boss wanted to give him a chance at the pivot to see if the Wild could add him to the depth chart up the middle.
Along with the added defensive zone responsibilities of a centerman, Carter said that taking faceoffs would be the toughest thing to adjust to. Apparently he didn’t lose his touch at the dot, going 5-2 on faceoffs tonight. The White Bear Lake native played another strong defensive game, logging 2:23 shorthanded, and registered his first point in a Wild sweater, assisting on Zucker’s second period goal.
The Wild’s power play has been unluckier than 13 broken mirrors, but the team’s penalty kill has been on point through three games. Tonight, Minnesota killed all four of Anaheim’s power play chances and hasn’t given up a goal while shorthanded this season, killing all 11 penalties it’s faced so far.
The club has been as aggressive as a hungry pit bull going after a steak this season, not allowing teams to get set up in its zone. Coming into the game, Anaheim’s PP was clicking at 23.5 percent, but was unable to create consistent pressure against the Wild tonight. The club has been good at keeping the puck to the perimeter, and tonight was no different. Anytime the Ducks did get a chance, there would be a swarm of Wild defenders trying to thwart the play. Every time Kuemper made a save, it seemed like there was a Minnesota player there to clear the rebound or ice the puck. The power play will eventually get going, but if the killers can keep this up, the Wild will have formidable special teams play this year. Now they just need to capitalize on the PP.
Tonight was the Ducks’ home opener and there was plenty of pomp before the game with a red-carpet event outside the Honda Center, video teases and player introductions. One thing that Anaheim avoided in the entire pregame hullabaloo was a banner raising ceremony. Last season, the Ducks had the best record in the tough Western Conference and were Pacific Division champs. However, the club was ousted in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a seven-game series to eventual Cup champs, the Los Angeles Kings.
Before the game, Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said that it was a nice season to come out on top of the Pacific, but in the end it didn’t really matter because they fell short of their ultimate goal: the Stanley Cup. The Cup is the final goal for all 30 teams, but only one can raise it. Every banner that doesn’t represent the Cup is pretty much rafter dressing and doesn’t mean anything to the players or coaching staff. It was refreshing to see an organization, which happens to be down the road from Disneyland, skip a superfluous celebration.