Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 1-0 win against the Calgary Flames:
The Minnesota Wild snuffed out the Calgary Flames for its second-straight road win in western Canada. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk was a fireman, ousting every one of the Flames 30 shots for the shutout, his second in a Wild sweater. It was the first time that Calgary was held goalless this season.
Dubnyk’s best work came in the third period as the Flames turned up the heat (okay, I’m done with the bad puns, promise). The netminder denied “Johnny Hockey” (more on him in a moment) with a lightning quick glove and followed that up with a breakaway stop on Paul Byron. He might’ve saved his best for last, stoning Mikael Backlund with a tippy-toe save with just a few precious ticks left on the clock. The netminder was moving extremely well, as he controlled his rebounds and was helped by his defensemen as they cleared the shooting lanes for clean looks.
With the Wild win, the Western Conference playoff race gets a little bit tighter. Minnesota is five points back of the Flames, currently sitting eighth in the West, with the Los Angeles Kings (four points), Dallas Stars (one point) and Colorado Avalanche (one point) all within striking distance. Things are getting hot in herre (sorry, I couldn’t resist throwing it to Nelly).
When Thomas Vanek signed with the Wild this summer, the first thing mentioned by fans within the State of Hockey (including myself) when dissecting the addition was his goal-scoring prowess. One thing that was often overlooked was his playmaking ability as a set up man (I should’ve know better, as I was the recipient of a number of backdoor tap-in goals during our time together with the Sioux Falls Stampede). In his time in a Wild sweater, Vanek has been more of a facilitator, setting up teammates. Tonight, he reached a helper milestone, tallying his 300th-career assist on Zach Parise’s first period goal.
The assist mark didn’t come on a beautiful tape-to-tape saucer pass, but it was hard work and a heads up decision by the Austrian that made the play. Following an offensive zone faceoff, Vanek won a one-on-one battle against Flames forward Jiri Hudler to keep the puck low. He then tracked it into the corner, stepped into the lane and picked off a Mark Giordano outlet pass. The puck went to Parise and the forward did the rest…
A netminder’s worst nightmare is when a goal scorer gets the puck alone in front of the net with time. That’s exactly what Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller faced after the hustle play by Vanek. Parise swooped out from behind the net and picked up the loose puck. The forward made a quick deke, opening up Hiller’s wickets, and depositing the puck into the back of the net for his 20th goal of the season.
Following the goal, the forward had a wide celebratory grin as the cameras panned in on him and his teammates. You might’ve noticed the stitches on his bottom lip and a missing tooth. Well, the dental work was fresh — he lost it when a puck hit him in the mouth during the Wild’s last outing in Edmonton, we didn’t get a chance to discuss Parise’s missing chicklet in those Takes. The missing molars are a part of the territory for hockey players and the Calgary media was very interested in discussing Parise’s pearly whites in his availability following the team’s morning skate. The forward had fun talking about it, as painful as it looked for him to flash a smile. I’m guessing it wasn’t as painful of a grin following his goal tonight.
This morning, defenseman Matt Dumba was recalled from Minnesota’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. The blueliner grew up in the Calgary area, so he had a number of friends and family at the game tonight.
Before the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo talked about how the blueliner wants to be an impact player, but still needs to learn when to push it and when to pull back. Tonight, the bench boss was cognizant of the young D-man, giving him a number of shifts alongside steady-as-a-rock veteran, Ryan Suter, during offensive zone faceoffs. The blueliner has a big shot from the point and Minnesota tried to utilize it for offense off the draw. As Dumba gains more experience, his decision-making process will fire quicker and he’ll become more comfortable in every zone.
Calgary has an exciting rookie with a memorable nickname in “Johnny Hockey” Gaudreau. The 21-year-old recently applied for a trademark for “Johnny Hockey” in both Canada and the United States. So, until that goes through, we’ll be able to liberally use “Johnny Hockey” on dot com without the fear of paying residuals to Gaudreau.
Of course, Gaudreau won the Hobey Baker the same year that “Johnny Football” Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, the college football equivalent. Thus far, “Johnny Hockey” has had a much more successful venture into the pros than “Johnny Football,” unless you measure success in times appearing on the nightly sports talk shows for off the field behavior. “Johnny Hockey” appeared in the NHL All-Star game; “Johnny Football” appeared in da club. “Johnny Hockey” has 37 points (15-22=37) in his first season with the Flames; “Johnny Football” played in five games and racked up a QB rating of 42.0. “Johnny Hockey” definitely wins the battle of the Johnnys.