Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 shootout road win against the Calgary Flames:
Finally. That’s what had to be on the collective minds of the Minnesota Wild after Niklas Backstrom denied Alex Tanguay for the team’s first road win on the season on its fifth try. Sure, it wasn’t a Picasso of road wins, but the Wild gutted out two points with stingy defense, and the help of two great shootout moves and two big shootout saves by Niklas Backstrom.
The Wild’s netminder put together his second-straight game of allowing only one goal. After being relieved after two periods against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, Backstrom has rebounded with two big games and has been the difference maker for the Wild. With five straight starts, it will be interesting if Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo continues to ride the hot hand and allows Backstrom a revenge game against the Canucks or goes with Josh Harding, who played well in relief for Backstrom against Vancouver. We won’t have to wait long as the team travels to Vancouver to face the Nucks tomorrow night.
Finally. That’s what had to have been going through Kyle Brodziak’s mind when he scored his first goal of the season, breaking a scoreless tie in the second period. With the Wild forechecking, Ryan Suter pinched along the left wall and the puck caromed off his body right on to the tape of Devin Setoguchi. Seto pump faked a shot on Flames’ netminder Leland Irving and found Brodzaik at the left hash mark. Instead of trying to rush a one-timer, Brodziak collected the puck, made a move to his forehand outstretching Irving, and a Flames defender, to slide it into the empty net.
It’s hard to stay patient when you’re not scoring. You rush shots and grip the stick a little tighter. That’s what makes Brodziak’s first goal of the season all the more impressive. The Wild center didn’t pump it into the pads of Irving; he took what the goaltender gave him and gave the Wild a 1-0 lead.
Tonight, Mikko Koivu reached another milestone in his NHL career: Game 500. Koivu is a two-way center that can impact the game without making a dent in the scoring column. The Wild’s captain logged 21:29 of ice time, registered three shots, won 55 percent of his faceoffs and scored the shootout winner on a filthy move (we’ll get to that shortly). Out of the Wild’s four minutes shorthanded, Koivu helped kill 1:24, and is a cog in the team’s shorthanded unit that has been solid all season. At only 27, the Wild’s former first-round pick is coming into the prime of his career and tonight was a good example of his all-around game.
The Wild again was stingy defensively, only giving up 24 shots on goal in three periods and overtime. The Wild defenders were typically quick at breaking out of the zone, led by the team’s rookie blueliner Jonas Brodin. The 19-year-old looks calmer than an old fisherman trolling on Mille Lacs Lake. In the second period, Brodin had the puck and he was the last defender in the Wild’s own end. He pulled a spin-o-rama move and fired a pass across two lines to Cal Clutterbuck, leading to a shot on goal.
Outside of a two-on-one that resulted in a Jiri Hudler goal, the Wild didn’t allow many odd-man rushes, either. The defensemen were wise when they decided to pinch and had good gaps for most of the game. The entire blue line played a pretty solid team game in its own end, as well. While the Wild still tries to find its game offensively, the blueliners will have to continue its strong defensive play.
Through two shootouts, the Wild has looked outstanding, winning both times. While traditionalists spout their distaste for shootouts, you can’t undermine their significance, especially in a shortened season.
Tonight, we witnessed something in the shootout more unusual than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe. Three players in a row used, and scored on, essentially the same move. Zach Parise, Jiri Hudler and Mikko Koivu made triple dekes that would’ve made a young Gordon Bombay lose his mind. All three, left handed shots, skated in on the left side and dropped their shoulder, faking a shot. They then pulled the puck across the crease to their backhand, then whipped it back to their forehand and slipped the puck into the empty net. Three-straight goals in a shootout are hard enough to come by, but three players using the exact same move, leaving the goalies completely out of position, is as rare as a Canadian who doesn’t love to dance…
Seriously, if you had been in the Saddledome tonight, you’d think the national pastime of Canada was busting a move, not hockey. Every time there was a stoppage and fans were shown on the Jumbotron, they were party rockin'. It didn’t really matter if it was a man or woman, old or young, they all had dance fever. Through years of being around hockey, I knew my Canadian teammates enjoyed cutting a little rug on a Saturday night, but tonight Calgary’s arena resembled Studio 54.
Maybe the dance fever was spread by the large dude, who would shed Flames T-shirts, wave them above his head, passed out the shirts amongst the crowd and implored fans to do the same. How does one go about getting that job? Does he do it every game? Does the team employ him? Is he paid in beer and an unlimited supply of T-shirts? These are all answers I intend to investigate the next time the Wild is in Calgary. If there is a hefty guy in Vancouver doing the same, I’m going to have to investigate all of Canada.