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 overtime win against the Nashville Predators:
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Minnesota Wild didn’t need the luck of the Irish in Nashville, just a hot goaltender and a solid penalty kill until it could find its game in the third period and overtime. With a win tonight, the Wild set a franchise record with its eighth straight road win and continues to wreck havoc in the Western Conference. The Wild’s confidence is higher than a rainbow and the team might be down, but is never out during its current run of success.
Similarly to the club’s last outing against the St. Louis Blues, the Wild was outdone in the second, but came back with a big third-period effort. This time though, it was an overtime winner on a rocket of a one-timer from its youngest member, Matt Dumba, who won it for Minnesota. The goal set a team record for fastest overtime winner on the road, coming only 22 seconds into the extra session.
Starting in his 29th consecutive game, Devan Dubnyk continues to make key saves when the team needs him. Tonight, the 28-year-old made 21 saves through the game’s first two periods and the Wild took over in the third, outshooting the Preds 11-6 in the frame.
Charlie Coyle scored the Wild’s two goals in regulation, first by going hard to the net and then by blasting a slap shot high past the glove of Preds netminder Pekka Rinne.
Along with Dubnyk, the Wild’s pot of gold during its hot play has been the penalty kill. The team’s killers kept Minnesota in the game tonight. With the Predators owning the momentum at the end of the second period, the Wild killed a crucial 5-on-3. Forward Kyle Brodziak took one for the team, blocking a Shea Weber slap shot from the point, and then used the old hidden-puck-in-the-pants trick to shave off more time. Moments later, a rebound popped up in the air and Jonas Brodin used a baseball swing to knock the puck out of harms way.
The PK starts with the goaltender, but your killers have to have a fearlessness when it comes to blocking shots, because they’re going to get pelted by the opposing team’s best shooters. A good killer is also good at anticipating where the puck is going and strong on his stick to win one-on-one battles to clear the zone. Minnesota has a number of players, both among its top lines and throughout the ranks, contributing to the PK. Minnesota has killed 60-of-63 opponent PP chances in its last 24 games. Coming into the game, the Wild had an NHL-best 86.7 percent penalty kill.
I’m not sure the last time the Wild had three lefty-righty defensive parings in its lineup, but that’s the way the D-units were matched up tonight. Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba started the game, while Ryan Suter was with Jared Spurgeon, and Jordan Leopold was with Christian Folin. Typically, Brodin plays his off side with Suter, but tonight he moved to the left alongside Dumba.
Nate Prosser will be out for an extended period of time, considered week-to-week with a lower body injury, so Folin was back in the lineup for the first time since March 6. In Prosser’s absence, the 24-year-old blueliner was playing a physical game, finishing checks and was willing to mix it up with Predators forwards.
Leopold added his first point with the Wild since coming to the team on Trade Deadline Day. The blueliner notched his first assist by jumping into the play and firing a shot on goal, something those in the State of Hockey have seen before. As a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the blueliner was the Hobey Baker Award winner his senior year, scoring 48 points (20-28=48) and helping lead the team to the National Championship.
Unfortunately, I had the displeasure of playing against Leopold during his Hobey season and it was easy to see he had the skill set to play in the NHL. The Golden Valley native isn’t as explosive as he was back when he was patrolling the Gophers’ blue line, but he’s still a good puck mover from the backend. With the Wild’s d-corps depleted with injury, he’s been a calming, veteran presence since coming back to the State of Hockey.
The National Hockey League general managers are meeting this week in Boca Raton, Fla., and have made a few interesting recommendations for the game. The GMs recommended the League go to a 3-on-3 format for regular-season overtime, starting as early as next season. This season the American Hockey League has experimented with fewer players in OT, beginning with 4-on-4 play for the first three minutes of a seven-minute overtime, followed by 3-on-3 play after the first whistle past the three-minute mark. The other option is moving directly into 3-on-3 to start the extra frame. I’m a fan of the AHL’s version of overtime this season, which will open up the game for skill players to create space and generate more scoring opportunities.
The general managers also recommended a limited video-replay challenge, which would be issued by a coach — like a challenge flag in football — for scoring plays involving the potential of goaltender interference. If you think back to Feb. 28, when the Colorado Avalanche’s Cody McLeod ran into Dubnyk, resulting in an Avs goal, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo would’ve been able to challenge that scoring play. Rather than a flag like in football, I think the coach’s challenge should be a Family Feud-style button and if the goal is called off, a bright red X and buzzer goes off on the video board before taking the goal away.