Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 loss against the San Jose Sharks:
The Minnesota Wild was nipped by the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center, again. Minnesota moved to 1-9-1 in its last 11 games in the Shark Tank, a name that the sponsors have allegedly wanted us to stop using. However, the arena has been exactly that and Minnesota has been covered in chum when visiting.
Despite the shot disparity (which we’ll cover in a few Takes), Minnesota had a chance to steal one in San Jose. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper had a rebound game after being pulled in his last outing against the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 5. The netminder made 28 saves, many of them while tracking the puck well.
Kuemper’s counterpart, Minnesota native Alex Stalock was equally impressive, making 19 saves for the win. Tonight wasn’t a back-and-forth goaltenders’ duel (yes, social media, I know the difference and it was a play on words in my story from yesterday) with each netminder one-upping the other, but it was two solid performances from the netminders.
As good as the two goaltenders were, our contemporaries were even better with their “Stalock It Down” headline on NHL.com. Wild.com always enjoys a good pun, so stick tap to those clever folks.
The Wild was without two blue line pieces tonight against the Sharks. Marco Scandella served the first of his two-game suspension for his illegal check to the head of the Islanders’ Brock Nelson. Additionally, Keith Ballard is out indefinitely after suffering facial fractures and a concussion after getting hit into the boards by New York’s Matt Martin.
It seems like the Wild has played the entire season without its entire top-4 intact on the backend. Ryan Suter (28:37), Jonas Brodin (26:12) and Jared Spurgeon (23:03) all had to play big minutes with Scandella out, and the Wild got a strong effort from its most inexperienced D-man…
With two defensemen out of the lineup, rookie blueliner Christian Folin was re-inserted into the lineup. The 23-year-old made the most of his opportunity, scoring his first career goal on a blast from the point. The Wild was applying pressure in the offensive zone and forward Tommy Wingels threw a blind pass up the middle trying to clear the blue line. However, Folin read the play, picked off the pass and wired a slap shot over Stalock’s glove.
The slapper showed off Folin’s heavy shot and as the youngster gains experience, we should see him utilize it more. It seemed as the game went on, Folin gained confidence with the puck and was making crisp breakout passes after moving his feet, especially during the latter stages of the third period with the team trailing. With a pair of defensemen out of the lineup, this is an opportunity for Folin to show he’s ready to be an everyday contributor in the NHL.
I’m not sure if Jordan Belfort and Donnie Azoff were running San Jose’s shot counter tonight, but the opening period numbers added up like the accounting at Stratford-Oakmont. The folks on Twitter noticed that there were gaps in the shot count and former Wild forward, Wes Walz, tweeted that San Jose is notorious for the juicing up totals for the home team.
Here are a few numbers to chew on. The Sharks are one of the League leaders in shots for, tied for fourth (31.7 per game). At home, they’ve averaged 32.9 in 12 games (not counting tonight’s), not that much of a deviation. However, the Sharks’ opponents are only averaging 24.8 shots per game in San Jose, while the team gives up an average of 33.94 shots per game away from home. The Sharks have given up more than 30 or more shots at home only twice, while on the road opponents have totaled 30 or more shots in 14 of 18 games. Meaning, the Sharks are tighter than a wet pair of hipster’s jeans at home and looser than a rapper’s pants in the mid-90s on the road. Or, there is some funky number crunching going on in Silicon Valley.
Tonight, Sharks forward Joe Thornton picked up two assists to pass Jean Beliveau on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,220 points (39th). Unlike Beliveau, who won 10 Stanley Cups as a player, Thornton has suffered numerous playoff disappointments in his career. However, playoff failure doesn’t mean Thornton is a loser and shouldn’t be considered a great player.
In a team sport, you’re often defined by team success in the postseason. Yes, the Stanley Cup is the ultimate prize, but failure to win a ring doesn’t make Thornton’s, or any other player who never hoisted Lord Stanley’s chalice, accomplishments any less meaningful. Often times, it’s easy to get caught up in the “winning is everything” attitude. Well, there are plenty of players with their name on the Cup, who are much less accomplished than Thornton, and getting their name on the Cup doesn’t make them “winners.” It means they played on the team that performed the best at the end of the year. Sure, Thornton might end his career with as many Cups as you and me, but he should be considered as one the best in his generation.