Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks:
The Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. The 4-1 series was all Chicago on its way to raising the Stanley Cup. However this regular season, the series went to the Wild, 3-1-1, after tonight. We all know that the playoffs are what matter most, and Minnesota is looking to build down the stretch and make a major dent in the postseason this spring, so its season series with the Blackhawks is a good indicator that it can hang with any team in the league come playoff time.
Tonight, the Wild and Blackhawks were both missing key players to wrap up the season series. On the Wild’s side, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter were out with upper-body injuries, suffered in Monday’s win against the Los Angeles Kings. On the other side, the Hawks were without its two best players, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But both teams showed their roster depth in a shootout decision going to Chicago.
After a close call in the opening minutes where he had to make a sprawling save after giving the puck away, Ilya Bryzgalov was locked in again tonight for Minnesota. The netminder made 24 saves and remained unbeaten in regulation since getting traded to the Wild, 4-0-3.
My good buddy Wayne Gretzky didn’t earn the nickname “The Great One” for his chess skills. The greatest offensive mind the game has ever seen had a pretty good idea of how to put the puck in the net. His greatest quote about goal scoring was probably, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” amazing for both its truth and simplicity. Tonight, we saw what Wayner meant on Erik Haula’s third period goal.
With the Wild trailing 2-1 in the third period, it was time to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at the Blackhawks’ net. Well, Haula threw a wrister through traffic from the right circle that fooled Chicago goaltender, Corey Crawford, beating him to the glove, short side. In hockey, you never know how that little flat black orb is going to bounce and Haula showed why you follow The Great One’s advice and put the puck on net.
After a mid-season sophomore slump, Charlie Coyle has emerged and been on fire of late. The 22-year-old has points in six of his last seven games, totaling seven points (4-3=7) during that span. Coyle has been a physical presence lately and it’s changed the dynamic of his game. He’s been more engaged, aggressive and an overall beast on the forecheck and down low.
Coyle’s goal tonight was a display of two laws of physics: Newton’s First Law of Motion and Doyle’s First Law of Goal Scoring. After a broken transition play, the Wild’s top line established a forecheck in the Hawks’ zone. As the puck moved to Ryan Suter at the left point, Coyle went from the high slot and B-lined it to the front of the net (Doyle’s Law: if you want to score goals, get to the blue paint). When the puck moved across the ice to Spurgeon, Coyle was in good position in front of Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford for a screen. Spurgeon’s point shot was partially blocked by Chicago defender Niklas Hjalmarsson. However, the puck remained in motion (Newton’s Law: a body in motion tends to stay in motion), and it had just enough steam left for Coyle to tip it past Crawford.
My guess is that a lot of you reading the Takes are probably ex-hockey players, and now dabble in my favorite activity: beer league puck. If so, you’re not as good as you once were. However, once in a blue moon, you’ll magically pull off a play that you might see from an NHLer, maybe a backhand five-hole on a breakaway or a top cheddar slapper. So, when you do, you’re obviously pretty psyched.
When you watch enough NHL hockey games you’ll occasionally see a pro pull a men’s-league move. Tonight, Ryan Suter used the old-man backcheck boost (still don’t really have a name for it so I’m open to suggestions @mikedoyle_12). The Hawks were in transition and Suter was on the backcheck, however, Jake Dowell had more speed on the odd-man rush against, and Suter used his stick to give him a little push and an extra step. Well, it worked because Dowell quickly got back into the play and broke up the odd-man chance against. Veteran move.
Between periods, the Blackhawks host a promotional fan puck shoot, where contestants have to make two shots from center ice, first into the net past a board with three hole, and then through a board with a single hole cut out. You might’ve seen the puck shoot in the movie The Dilemma, starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James. Sure it wasn’t a great movie, or good for that matter, but it had a few funny parts, including the puck shoot at the end of the game. James’ and Vaughn’s characters are huge Blackhawks fans, and the former makes the shot to end the movie and goes wild in celebrations as the latter runs onto the ice. Obviously this is fiction, but I always wanted to see the natural reaction of someone shooting their way to glory at center ice.
Eamonn Walker, who stars as Chief Wallace Boden on the television show Chicago Fire, did the feat, scoring twice from center ice. While he didn’t do a Marty McFly guitar solo knee slide (I was hoping, nay, praying for this), he did give a solid fist pump. The London, England native didn’t look like he had much experience with a puck and stick, but showed anything can happen with one shot.