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 win against the Dallas Stars:
Coming into today’s matinee, the Wild had been about as successful as a fingerless thumb wrestler in Dallas. The team had only five wins in 27 tries in the Lone Star State. However, with the 2-1 come-from-behind win, the Wild is streaking—winners of two straight in the Big D.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper had a bounce-back performance, stopping 27 shots and was named the game’s First Star. Against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, the netminder was replaced after allowing goals on his first two shots. The 24-year-old showed his mental toughness and played a confident game, challenging shooters and controlling his rebounds.
Recently on the road, the Wild has allowed the game’s first goal. Tonight was no different. However, the club stayed with its game plan and responded by tying up the game before the third period. The team then took the win in the third to snap a three-game road losing streak.
When the Wild was at Ridder Arena, on the campus of the University of Minnesota on Monday, the team worked extensively on pucks on pads: putting low shots into the goaltender’s leg pillows and crashing the net for the rebound.
Today, Mikael Granlund skated the puck through the neutral zone with speed and slipped a pass to Charlie Coyle just inside the blue line. Coyle placed a low shot to Kari Lehtonen’s blocker side. While it didn’t hit the netminder’s pad, it was perfectly placed because Lehtonen had to adjust to his right to blocker it down. Granlund, for his part, drove the lane like a fullback going through a hole, and chipped the loose puck into the back of the net. The goal was a good reminder that practice makes perfect.
Ryan Carter has been a great acquisition in the early going for the Wild. Coming off a two-point game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, the forward was at it again, beautifully setting up Erik Haula for the team’s first goal of the afternoon. He picked off a pass in the defensive zone and was off to the races. He settled the puck at the offensive blue line and waited for Haula to join the rush. He made a saucer pass that softly floated like a hot air balloon right onto Haula’s stick. The Finn went post and in for his second of the year.
While his recent scoring streak has been a bonus (2-7=9 this season), he does a lot of the little things that go unnoticed in the stat columns. Earlier in the second, the Stars were on the power play and pinning the Wild in their zone. Carter muscled the puck away from a Stars defender and then pushed the puck into the neutral zone, won another battle and iced the puck, allowing the rest of the killers change.
As a writer, afternoon games are the best, especially when they are on the road. No morning skate, you don’t have to wait around all day for puck drop and game is done early enough to enjoy the rest of your evening.
All the things that make a road matinee great for a scribe make them a pain for a player. The day after traveling, you want to get the jetlag out of your legs and without a morning skate you have to do it during warmups. Sometimes the rust stays with you into the first period. When you’re feeling a bit stiff the best way to get into the game is to get physical. Minnesota isn’t the NHL’s most physical team, but used it to get into the game. The Wild got off to a slow start, but responded by playing the body and scrumming after the whistle. It worked because the club started to generate chances in the second-half of the opening frame.
Two big physical players were entered into the lineup today. Stu Bickel became the 20th Minnesota-born player to skate for the Wild. He’s also the 12th former Golden Gopher to play for the team. Today, he skated on the wing and threw around his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame on the forecheck.
The Wild recalled 6-foot-5, 215-pound defenseman Justin Falk yesterday and he joined the team against Dallas. In the opening period, he threw one of the biggest hits of the year. Stars forward Ryan Garbutt was skating through the neutral zone with the puck. Falk was backing up, but when Garbutt chipped the puck into the zone, the blueliner timed it perfectly, stepping up and laying a clean shoulder into the Dallas forward’s chest. After the hit, Stars forward Antoine Roussel came over to try to fight Falk, who dropped his gloves, but Bickel stepped in, dropped the gloves and knocked him down to the ice before things escalated.