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Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Nashville

by Mike Doyle / Minnesota Wild

Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways, presented by Wells Fargo, that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 shootout win against the Nashville Predators:

No surprise as tonight’s game between the Wild and Nashville Predators was a low-scoring, tight-checking affair and came down to a shootout. Coming into tonight, five of the last six meetings between Minnesota and Nashville had been decided by one goal, with the lone exception being the teams’ first meeting of the year on Jan. 22 when Nashville scored with 17 seconds remaining for a 3-1 victory. With the win, the Wild snapped a five-game skid in Nashville.

Whether you’re a fan or not of shootouts, they are undeniably important. The Wild improved its shootout record to 3-1 on the season.

Mikko Koivu swung out wide on his forehand and looked like he was going to pull his patented backhand shelf move, but instead went five-hole on Pekka Rinne. It looked like Rinne expected the high-glove shot, because the big netminder’s legs were wide open as he was trying to takeaway the top of the net.

Matt Cullen now two-for-two in shootouts this year and 21-49 (42.9%) in his career. Cullen started out fast and slowed down once he got to the slot, something that is becoming more prevalent in the National Hockey League these days. The veteran must’ve noticed that Rinne’s five-hole was wide open on Koivu’s move, because he fired a pin-point shot along the ice, beating the Nashville netminder through the wickets for his ninth career shootout clincher.

I don’t think anyone thought that Ryan Suter would get a standing ovation in Music City tonight, but the booing aimed at the blueliner was more incessant than many would’ve guessed. Not only every time he touched the puck, but every time his skates touched the ice, the former Predator was booed—unless the Nashville faithful was yelling Soooooooooter (highly doubtful).

Suter’s impact on the team’s offensive from the blue line was again on display in Nashville. With the team on a second period power play, the defenseman received a pass from Mikko Koivu and walked along the blue line to the middle of the ice. Instead of blasting a slap shot, Suter kept his head up and wristed a shot through traffic that was tipped home by Zach Parise

Five of Parise’s team-leading nine goals have come on the power play. The team’s power play has started to come alive of late, scoring in three straight games and five of its last six contests.

The team had another great power play opportunity in overtime, as Rinne was called for playing the puck outside of the trapezoid. On a 4-on-3, we almost saw a carbon copy ending of the last time these two teams met at Xcel Energy Center. Devin Setoguchi moved to the left faceoff circle and Suter found him for a one-time blast. Rinne just got a piece of the shot and it trickled off the post. Parise was on the doorstep but just couldn’t pop home the rebound before a Predators defender swept the puck out of harms way.

Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was outstanding again tonight, rebounding from his last outing against Chicago. The netminder is now 20-2-4 in games after being pulled (non-injury) all-time.

It just goes to show Backstrom’s mental toughness and focus that he can rebound so well after being pulled. Goaltending is as much mental as anything else and Backstrom was locked in tonight.

Remember last season when Backstrom was struggling in shootouts early and there were some folks calling for the Wild to put in a cold Josh Harding during shootouts? Well, that was a ridiculous notion then and Backstrom seems to be have a lock in shootouts this season, tonight earning his 20th career shootout win and moving to 3-1 this season.

The Wild played a solid sixty-five minutes of road hockey tonight and got better as the game went on. After being outshot in the first period, 9-5, the Wild turned its offensive game around and outshot Nashville, 29-25, in the game, including six shots in overtime.

More impressive was the team’s defensive play. Aside from the power play goal, Minnesota didn’t give the Predators much of anything to sniff at. This was a result of good defensive zone pressure, but also good offensive and neutral zone play as the team didn’t have too many long stretches in its own end.

Bonus Take:

There was a lot of amateur action going on in the State of Hockey today. Today marked the end of the High School State Tourney at Xcel Energy Center. In the Class A game, St. Thomas edged Hermantown in a thriller, 5-4, while Edina topped Hill-Murray, 4-2.

The women’s Gopher hockey team topped North Dakota, 2-0, to remain undefeated on the season and win the WCHA Tournament at Ridder Arena.

Finally, St. Cloud State and the Gophers share the MacNaughton Cup for the WCHA regular-season championship. Congrats to all the teams, especially SCSU—bring home the Broadmoor fellas.

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