Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-0 loss against the St. Louis Blues:
Coming into the game, both head coaches expected a tight-checking affair. Well, that’s exactly what we got, especially after the Blues were able to capitalize on its early chances. After the first period, neither team could get much going in the offensive zone as passing lanes were continually cut off and mistakes were at a minimum.
Tonight you could see why the St. Louis Blues are considered one of the best teams in the National Hockey League. While it wasn’t a dominating performance by any means, the Blues jumped out to a 2-0 lead and went into lockdown mode like Jodie Foster in Panic Room. Losing the team’s leading scorer Zach Parise (we’ll get to that) didn’t help the Wild’s chances at a comeback, either.
It looked like a great start for Minnesota, as Zach Parise re-directed a Ryan Suter point shot past Jaroslav Halak only 30 seconds into the game, but the ref quickly and emphatically waved off the goal, signaling the puck was hit with a high stick. The Situation Room in Toronto reviewed the play and concluded:
The video review was inconclusive in determining whether Zach Parise's stick was below the level of the crossbar when he deflected the puck into the St. Louis net. Therefore, the referee's call on the ice stands. No goal Minnesota.
After watching the replay a few times, I can see why Wild fans would be upset with the decision. However, the ref on the ice ruled that it was a high stick and there was no definitive angle that showed Parise’s stick was below the crossbar. The biggest problem was that Parise’s stick started well above his head because Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo lifted it up and he brought it down on the puck, and the point of contact was impossible to determine by the replays available in Toronto. Of course, the Blues scored just 50 seconds later to take the lead and the early momentum.
The called-back goal wasn’t the only bad break for Parise tonight. In the first period with the Wild on the penalty kill, Blues forward Alexander Steen hammered a slap shot from the point. Parise went to one knee to block the slapper and the puck hit him square in the foot. Parise was able to skate off under his own power and was late coming out of the locker room in the second period. He tried to battle through it, but left again and didn’t return in the third.
Let me tell you, there is no worse place to block a shot than the foot (well, maybe there are a couple worse, like the face or, um, moving right along). When you take a puck to the foot, it starts to swell in your skate and you can actually feel it throbbing in your boot. If you take it out of the skate between periods to ice it, the foot will well up like a Thanksgiving’s Day belly. Trying to get the skate back on is an uncomfortably tight fit, and each notch you tighten in the laces hurts. When you do get back on the ice, each stride is painful and, depending on what part of the foot gets hit, severely limits mobility. Parise is a tough and as durable as a competitor you’ll find in the NHL, so it must’ve been painful to not finish the game…
While we don’t know how long Parise will be sidelined (fingers crossed it won’t be long), it follows a disheartening trend of late. On the recent road trip, the Wild has been playing shorthanded with Josh Harding, Mikael Granlund, Torrey Mitchell and Keith Ballard all missing games. In professional sports, injuries are just another part of the game. No team in the history of the NHL has ever had its entire roster play a full season (didn’t look that up in a stat book, but trust me), and playing shorthanded comes with the territory. With Ballard on the verge of returning we’ve already seen the Wild’s depth on the blue line and goaltending, and now it will be the forwards’ turn to step up.
Minnesota returned one of its depth players up front tonight, Mike Rupp. The hulking forward made his season debut after a conditioning stint with the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. Rupp skated 5:07 and registered two shots. The Wild returns home to face the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday; we’ll have to wait and see if the team will need to dip into the AHL for another forward.
Coming into tonight’s contest, the Blues had the number one ranked power play in the National Hockey League at 25.6 percent, while converting on 29.8 percent of its chances at Scottrade Center. Watching the team’s morning skate, the top unit was moving the puck with the precision of a Katniss Everdeen arrow.
However, tonight the Notes couldn’t catch fire on the man advantage, because the Wild snuffed out all three of the team’s power play opportunities. The Wild was able to contend entry plays and the killers did a great job of clearing pucks whenever they had the opportunity.