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 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs:
On the second night of a back-to-back, the Wild controlled play for most of the night, but it was the opportunistic Maple Leafs that took advantage of its chances. The Wild played with jump from the opening whistle, forechecking with a reckless abandon, but couldn’t convert on its chances. Minnesota outshot the Leafs, 38-14, but Toronto came away with a three-goal victory, one on an empty net with under a minute remaining.
Getting outshot and winning games seems to be the Maple Leafs’ current modus operandi, as the team is 25th in the league in shots against (34.2 coming into tonight). But you can throw numbers out the window with this Leafs team because the only one that matters is 6-1-0, the club’s record. It will be interesting if the team can continue to win games while getting outshot and out-chanced.
After nearly a decade of playing in Buffalo, Jason Pomiville is used to playing in the Eastern Time Zone. For the second-straight night, the 30-year-old scored on the man advantage. Once again, he benefited from a Mikko Koivu pass, but this time Pominville made much more of an individual effort to cap the play.
From the right corner, Koivu moved the puck to Pominville in the slot while the righty was jockeying for position against the Leafs’ Tyler Bozak. Pominville slid in front of the Toronto forward and used his skate to catch the pass and kick it up to his forehand. His first attempt was stopped by Leafs netminder James Reimer, but Pominville collected the rebound and quickly went upstairs, bar and in.
Pominville has moved from the point to the slot on the first unit, and as the right-handed shot on a left-handed run overload, will be getting a lot of looks from the slot. However, there is a subtle beauty to watch Pominville move in and out, high and low for open ice. It’s like he is a dancer, flowing with the movements of the puck and his linemates with a mix between choreographed and improvised steps.
Much has been made of Matt Cooke’s evolution as a player throughout his career. As he leads the Wild in scoring this season, he’s getting attention for his offensive prowess. But one of the most impressive things about Cooke through seven games this season has been his discipline.
As a guy who opponents don’t particularly like to play against, Cooke is often a target for post-whistle aggression. While a lot of the bellicosity towards the forward stems from past reputation, Cooke has zero penalty minutes as a member of the Wild. Tonight, Paul Ranger fired the puck over the boards for a delay of game penalty. Cooke raised his arm in the air to bring attention to the infraction and the ref made the call. However, Ranger must not have liked the fact that Cooke tattled on him and tried to engage the forward. However, Cooke has been around the block a few times and didn’t fall for the bait and laughed in Ranger's face as he sat for two minutes.
Throughout the course of an NHL season, there are questionable plays that look like they could be penalties on either team. But depending on which side you’re on, you’ll probably feel like the ref blew the call. On these borderline plays, there are a few ways the refs can call things, that will inevitably make one fan base feel like they got hosed.
First, they can ignore the play completely and just let things go on without an infraction. The no-call enrages both sides because they think the other team definitely should’ve been tagged for a penalty. They also can make a judgment call and whistle one player for a penalty, in which one side is outraged. Or, they can call both players for penalties, evening things out. This often leaves fans both perplexed and steamed.
One of those perplexing calls was made in the second period of the game tonight. Nino Niederreiter was crashing the net and looking for a pass when Cody Franson hit him from behind, causing Niederreiter to veer off-course and run into Leafs goaltender James Reimer. Franson was tagged with an interference penalty for hitting Nino, but Niederreiter was also given two minutes for goaltender interference. (Scratching head) Whatever fan base you’re a part of, that doesn’t seem right. But, calling matching minors seems fair is a way for referees to acknowledge a player did something illegal without assessing full blame on either player.
Phil Kessel seems to get a lot of flack from fan bases around the League. Whether it is getting picked last at the NHL All-Star Game or hacking at the back of the legs of a giant like he’s trying to chop down a tree, Kessel is often the butt of jokes.
But tonight he did something that was pretty classy. With a minute remaining he was on a 2-on-1 rush with the Wild’s net empty for an extra attacker. He moved the puck to Mason Raymond on the wing and Raymond tried to saucer a pass back to the breaking Kessel. However, the pass was heading right for the empty net. Kessel easily could’ve slammed the puck home for the goal, but he let the puck slide past the goal line for Raymond’s second of the game; pretty nice move from a guy who is universally derided around the NHL. I would've snatched that empty netter like it was an unclaimed Benjamin in a dark alley.