Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 road loss against the Phoenix Coyotes:
On a day that the Wild acquired center Mike Rupp from the New York Rangers for forwards Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri, the team was edged on the road. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo changed up the lines, moving Torrey Mitchell to the third line with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck, and put Mikael Granlund and Devin Setoguchi with center Zenon Konopka. The Wild bench boss said at the morning skate that the shifting in the lineup should send a message.
Well, it seemed like the message was received, as Torrey Mitchell responded with a strong game, along with the entire fourth line. Although Setoguchi and Granlund didn’t find the back of the net, they got pucks deep and created several good chances, but were just unable to connect. It seems like just missing has been the story of the Wild on the road in the early going.
One guy who didn’t miss tonight was Zach Parise. Honestly, what more is there to say about the guy? He is a consummate professional, a good teammate and works his butt off night in and night out. Tonight, Parise scored his 200th-career NHL goal in the second period. He intercepted a Coyotes clearing attempt and walked in from top of the circle down the left side of the ice. He fired a bullet wrist shot past Smith, low to the blocker, short side.
Parise is the combination of workhorse and racehorse, the perfect blend you like to see in a hockey player, a forward with both a tireless work ethic and elite skill. We used to say guys like him had “little kid energy” because he never tires out; he is continually moving his feet, in all areas of the ice, and never gives up on a play. It’s been thrilling to watch Parise work through the first nine games of the season, and look forward to doing it in a Wild sweater for a long time coming.
Charlie Coyle made his NHL debut tonight and sure looked like a future power forward to be reckoned with. Playing alongside Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen, Coyle was the presence along the wall that Head Coach Mike Yeo wanted him to be. He looked poised with the puck and smart on several plays in the defensive zone. In the first period, he won two battles along the wall in his own defensive end, freeing up the puck for teammates to exit the zone cleanly.
As the game went on, he looked like he gained more confidence and had a few scoring chances, registering two shots and 12:44 of ice on the night. On a third period 3-on-2, Coyle passed up a shot and tried to find Cullen on the backdoor, but couldn’t connect. As the forward gets more experience, he’ll learn to fire those chances on net.
Coyotes’ netminder Mike Smith is adventurous, to say the least. The backstop is not afraid to come out and play the puck, regardless of where it is. For defensemen, it’s nice when a goaltender can play the puck—unless of course he gives it to the opposing team. Tonight, Smith’s roaming nearly cost him a few times, but the Wild was unable to convert on the giveaways.
In the first period, Granlund stripped the goaltender of the puck behind the net and threw a centering pass out to Konopka in front of the net. The puck was knocked off Konopka’s skate and trickled towards the empty net. Only a desperation play by Keith Yandle kept the puck from crossing the line. Smith is going to owe his blueliner a cold drink for that play.
The Wild still is searching for its first win on the road this season, but easily could’ve taken that game tonight. Sometimes you just can’t capitalize on your chances, and you run into a hot goalie like Smith.
In the third period with about three minutes left in the game, the Wild had a power play and its best chance to tie it up. Pierre-Marc Bouchard took a cross-ice pass from Ryan Suter and walked in on the left side and picked his spot. The forward ripped a bullet high to the glove side of Smith. The Phoenix goaltender was beat, but saved by his best friend, the post. From the press box, it looked like the puck hit the elbow (where the post and crossbar meet) because of the authority and direction that it bounced off the iron. Sometimes you just need a break to get things rolling, especially away from your own barn, and the Wild just hasn’t gotten one early on the road.