Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 7-1 loss against the Dallas Stars:
Some games, for whatever reason, you just don’t have any legs, any jump. For the Wild, tonight was one of those games. After a win last night in the State of Hockey, the Minnesota Wild skated with visibly heavy legs in Dallas.
The Stars benefited from League scheduling: last playing at home on New Year’s Eve a 6-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes. Dallas looked rested, flying around the rink with jump in the first period and outshooting the Wild, 12-5. Minnesota took three penalties in the first period (slashing, hooking and holding), all of which could’ve easily been chalked up to fatigue, as players were reaching or using their sticks while the Stars moved their feet. Of course, things didn’t get any better for the Wild as Dallas took control of the game in the second with a five-goal outburst.
The Wild played in its fifth of 13 back-to-back games tonight moving to 2-1-2 on the backend. Playing on back-to-back nights is never easy, but until tonight the Wild has been strong in the second game. The Minnesota to Dallas trek is probably the most difficult trip the Wild has to make on consecutive nights (one of the reasons this writer has never made it and worked from home). After yesterday’s win against Toronto in the State of Hockey, the Wild arrived at the hotel in Dallas around 3 a.m.
There is nothing worse than the feeling of having no legs in hockey — it seeps into every aspect of your game. It starts with lactic acid coursing through the legs like it’s being poured through a funnel. Your gloves start to feel like they’re filled with cement. It seems like you wouldn’t win a one-on-one battle against a one-armed man. There’s no time to make a play and your opponent is closing down every possible lane. Sometimes you can’t explain it. Tonight, it looked like the back-to-back with travel caught up with Minnesota.
Wild forward Thomas Vanek skated in his 700th career game tonight and marked the occasion with a power play goal. After signing with the club as a free agent on July 1, 2014, the wing has skated in every game with the Wild this season. His offensive production probably isn’t where he’d like it to be through 37 games, scoring seven goals and adding 17 assists, but he looks like he’s finding more of a rhythm in Forest Green, Iron Range Red and Wheat.
After yesterday’s contest, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Vanek has become a more vocal leader in the locker room. This indicates that he’s become more comfortable in the room with teammates and his role on the club. Yeo said that it also suggests that the 30-year-old is more engaged in all facets of the game, which has been a benefit because the offense also has increased. After tonight’s tally, Vanek has five goals and five assists in his last 12 games.
If you thought the score sheet was bursting at the seams in the second, the penalty summary was the coat Tommy Boy wore during the fat-guy-in-a-little-coat dance. There was a pretty decent donnybrook, which was about as close to a line brawl as you’ll see in today’s game and accounted for a majority of the period’s penalty minutes.
The puck trickled into the crease and Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen covered it. Going to the net, Wild forward Ryan Carter dumped Stars defenseman Jason Demers over the top of the goaltender. That’s when all hell broke loose. Stars forward Vernon Fiddler came in and started throwing haymakers like he was in a bar fight in a Western movie. Wild defenseman Stu Bickel ended up taking on both Demers and Trevor Daley. Resulting from the melee, 68 minutes in penalties (Bickel received 39 PIM) were assessed and somehow the Wild ended up having to kill a 5-on-3 advantage for the Stars.
Jason Zucker returned tonight after missing four games with an illness. The day after Christmas, the forward came down with the stomach bug that is making its way through the Wild locker room. The wing lost nine pounds while he was sick and said it was pretty much as bad as he’s ever felt.
Despite the layoff, the 22-year-old had some jump tonight. Conditioning might’ve been a factor, but wing has enough speed to make up for his lack of practice or game time. For Zucker, the most difficult thing might be getting his timing back, but that will come with more some practice and game action. He skated in 14:02 TOI, five hits and three shots on goal.