Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways, presented by Wells Fargo, that he'll remember from a 4-2 road win against the Detroit Red Wings:
Well, that was a pretty gratifying end to a great roadie. The Minnesota Wild ended a drought in Detroit, winning its first game in Joe Louis Arena since 2006. So, for the first time ever we got to tweet the Wild won in the Motor City. Tonight also closed out a three-game sweep on the road and a four-game win streak.
After an emotional win in Vancouver on Monday, the first time the team won there since ’09, the Wild was essentially on the road all of yesterday, traveling from the West Coast across three time zones. It would’ve been easy to copout and use the travel day as an excuse to not show up tonight. A month ago, you might’ve had some doubts about how the team would respond, but the club is playing with accountability, and with a busload of confidence. Sure, the team was outshot in the opening period, but it still scored first (we’ll get to that). With Backstrom leading the way making 18 saves in the opening frame, it weathered Detroit’s first-period push and had a bend-but-don’t-break mentality.
Of course, after shaking off the jet lag, the Wild exploded offensively in the second period with a little help from its special teams…
The Wild’s power play scored two goals in the second period in two very different ways.
After a supposed Niklas Kronwall high stick on Charlie Coyle (I only say supposed because it was clearly a shoulder to Coyle’s head, visible from the press box) Minnesota was on a four-minute power play. Things got off to a rocky start and the Wild didn’t mount much offense in the first two minutes. However, after the Wings cleared the puck, the Wild rushed up the ice. Minnesota has been strong at coming up the ice as a unit and with speed, and this rush was no different. Kyle Brodziak found Jared Spurgeon, who was streaking down the right side of the ice. Instead of holding up or simply just chipping the puck in, Spurgeon carried it across the line past a Wings’ defender, then found Brodziak, who busted to the net, for a one-time blast that goaltender Jimmy Howard never had a chance on. I’m always a fan of power plays trying to score off the rush. Why waste an opportunity to try to put the puck in the back of the net?
The second power play goal was a little more traditional. With the Wild set up in the zone, Pierre-Marc Bouchard found Dany Heatley in the high slot. Heatley hammered a one-timer and Howard had to make a quick, left-pad save. The netminder kicked out a rebound onto the stick of Setoguchi, who pulled the puck around the netminder and popped home his second of the game...
Once again, the Wild got off to a quick start, as the club tallied the first goal of the contest for the eighth time in its last nine games. Tonight, it was the Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard unit that dented the scoreboard first. The line has been hotter than an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day lately.
Setoguchi has eight points (6-2=8) on his five-game point streak, tying a season high. Cullen is on a six-game point streak (1-6=7), while Bouchard has a four-game assist streak and six points (1-5=6) during the stretch.
The thing that you really have to like about this line is its speed. All three have great North-South wheels, which puts a lot of pressure on opposing teams defensemen, either on the rush or in the offensive zone while cycling the puck down low. One of the things that has made the Wild a much more dangerous team offensively is its secondary scoring. The way this line is producing, it is starting to look like primary scoring.
Niklas Backstrom continues be The One in the Wild net. Backstrom has started 13 of the team’s last 14 games and shows no signs of slowing down. On Monday, he set a season high with 35 saves. Well, tonight he eclipsed that by one, making 36 saves. In his last 16 starts, he is 12-3-1 and has allowed two or fewer goals in 11 contests during the stretch.
While Backstrom was stellar at stopping the first shot tonight, Minnesota’s defenders were helping him out by clearing bodies in front and not allowing Detroit many second-chance opportunities. Overall, it was a solid team effort for another road win.
In my Five Takeaways in Vancouver, I wrote about little plays adding up to big plays. Well, it happened again tonight on Mikko Koivu’s second period goal. After Detroit got on the board in the second period, cutting the lead back to one, the Wild needed to respond and it did. Rookie Charlie Coyle made a nice play at the defensive zone blue line, finding a streaking Jonas Brodin on the far side of the ice. The play catapulted Brodin and Zach Parise onto a 2-on-1.
Brodin came down the left side of the ice and took some steam off his shot, putting it into the pads of Howard instead of trying to rip one past the netminder. Why? Parise was streaking down the middle of the ice and going to the net. Rather than trying to pick a corner and ripping a shot wide, Brodin shot for a rebound. Howard did kick the puck out, but the rebound was just a little too far left for Parise to have an easy tap in. However, Parise hounded the puck, fed it out front and the rest, as they say, is history. Brodin didn’t get an assist on the play (the puck hit Coyle before Koivu was able to finish), but because he chose to shoot for a rebound rather than trying to pick a corner and missing, the play stayed alive and the Wild made it 3-1. Pucks off of pads is something every young hockey player should be taught, as shooting at the far pad often kicks out a juicy rebound to oncoming players.
We had way too smooth of a road trip on the ice, so on our way to the Detroit airport the players’ bus broke down. With three wins and a sweep on the road, no one seemed to mind and the team was even closer because of the experience, literally. Luckily since it was a nationally televised game, our friends at FOX Sports North weren’t on the bus, so no one had to ride underneath in the luggage compartment.