Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he'll look back at a 4-3 road win against the Calgary Flames:
In the locker room, on the bench and in the lineup—that’s what a veteran presence can do for a team. With Matt Cullen back on the ice for the Wild, we saw a balanced attack against the Calgary Flames. The Flames made a late charge, but the Wild was able to hold on for a much-needed road win.
The Wild jumped out to the good road start it wanted, scoring just 2:17 into the opening frame, played a smart road period and poured it on the rest of the night. It was a full 60-minute effort the team has been searching for lately and, with Cullen back in the lineup, the team looked whole (we’ll get to Cullen in a bit).
It was Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise teaming up on a hard working goal to get Minnesota on the board first. When it comes to crunch time, teams need their best players to step up and lead the way. After getting the club on the board first, the top line continued to push.
Five minutes into the second period, we saw consecutive shifts of the best aspects of the club’s top line: a tenacious forecheck. Charlie Coyle crossed the blue line and waited for his linemates to gain speed into the zone. He made a soft chip pass to a streaking Parise. The line held the zone and created several chances by cycling the puck and finding defensemen Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter at the points.
The next time out, the line did the same thing, resulting in two Grade-A chances for Koivu. Parise set him up twice with soft area passes with the center cutting to open ice in the offensive zone. With Cullen back in the lineup, teams can’t just key in on the Wild’s top line and it showed with the depth of scoring tonight.
It was great to see Matt Cullen back on the ice for the Wild tonight. While the team was on its seven-game win streak in March, the centerman had been the catalyst on the second line. When Cullen was out, the team struggled to find its groove offensively. Teamed with Jason Zucker and Devin Setoguchi, the trio plays with speed and gives the Wild another offensive scoring threat. Cullen re-entering the lineup balances the four forward lines and it really showed in tonight’s contest. Cullen added an assist on Pominville’s second goal of the game (we’ll get to him) and was a factor at both ends of the ice.
Cool moment in the second period as Cullen drove to the net against another St. Cloud State University alum, Ben Hanowski. The Calgary rookie made his NHL debut tonight and was tied up with Cullen in front of the net. After Flames goaltender Joey MacDonald froze the puck, the veteran gave the rook a welcome-to-the-NHL tap on the pads. Great to see two Huskies in action and the gracious Cullen recognize the young Hanowski. Cooler moment for the Little Falls native was scoring his first NHL goal in the third period.
With Cullen in the lineup, it stabilizes the rest of the forward lines. I really liked the way the Kyle Brodziak, Jason Pominville and Pierre-Marc Bouchard played together tonight. Brodziak especially had a good game, and the Wild needs the centerman in the final two weeks of the season. He played 15:42, with 1:34 shorthanded, fired three shots and was a plus-1. The exact stat line you want to see out of the center.
Although he was not credited with an assist on Pominville’s goal, Brodziak started the play with second-effort on a faceoff in his own zone. He and the opposing center were tied up on the draw. The puck shifted to the other side of the Flames player and Brodziak made a spin move to get past him, then found Bouchard for an outlet pass that got the play rolling and eventually led to the Pominville goal…
The Trade Deadline Day acquisition of Pominville is paying big dividends for the Wild. Since coming to Minnesota, Pominville has four goals and two assists in six games, including two tonight. The forward has a high hockey IQ and has started to kill penalties, but his offensive game has stood out for Minnesota.
In the third period, he showed why he is considered one of the smarter players in the NHL. He led a 3-on-3 rush with Brodziak and Bouchard heading to the net. He was unable to find either forward, so instead of trying to shoot to score from a bad angle, he put the puck into goaltender Joey MacDonald’s pads. The netminder kicked out a big rebound and Calgary was unable to clear, but it was still a smart play by the forward. Instead of wasting an opportunity by sailing the puck over the net, he tried to create a chance for his oncoming linemates by putting the puck on pads (POP). Heady.
It’s hard to hear about the terrible events today in Boston and concentrate on anything outside the families and those impacted by the senseless act of violence, especially something like the simple game of hockey. The bombings at the Boston Marathon help put things like sports in perspective of what is truly important. When watching the horrific scenes on television, one thing that really stuck out was the first responders and others who ran into the blasts to help neighbors, strangers and those who could not help themselves. It was a moment—during the worst of humanity—we were reminded of the best people have to offer. They put themselves in harms way, rushing to the scene without thinking twice about the possible repercussions.
Tonight the Flames honored its military with Canadian Forces Appreciation Night. Stick tap to those in our allied forces and our own fighting for our safety back in the USA.
The NHL postponed tonight’s game in Boston between the Bruins and Ottawa Senators, and it was the right thing to do. All of our thoughts and prayers should be with the brave city of Boston.