Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks:
The Minnesota Wild was perfect in Canada this week, capping off the Canadian roadie with a win in Vancouver and completing a three-game sweep against its northern neighbors.
After a pair of one-goal wins in Calgary and Edmonton, it looked like we wouldn’t have a nail biter, as the Wild jumped out to a three-goal lead in the final period. Thomas Vanek cut across the slot and wired a shot, against the grain, off the left post and in for the winner. It was the forward’s 10th of the year and a beauty of a shot, the type of goal that not many players in the can pull off. However, the Canucks made things interesting by scoring twice, but Jason Zucker iced the game with an empty net goal.
Netminder Devan Dubnyk started all three games in Canada and was on point again tonight making 35 saves for the win. The netminder has started all seven games since joining the club on Jan. 14 and is now 5-1-0 with a .935 save percentage and two shutouts. The club seems to have found its defensive game since the acquisition of the goaltender and, for his part, Dubnyk has been sensational when the team needs him to be.
Zach Parise is a volume scorer, going with the law of averages and firing pucks at the net like a gun nut taking target practice. Today, he scored on a shot he probably didn’t expect to get past his Team USA Olympic teammate, Ryan Miller. In fact, judging by his reaction, I don’t think he knew he scored.
The Wild alternate captain took the puck from his own end and fought off Vancouver forward Jannik Hansen from the red line in. With Thomas Vanek busting to the net, Parise threw the puck out front from the bottom of the circle. It wasn’t a hard shot, in fact it might not have busted a carton of eggs on the way to the net, but it fooled Miller, who had his eye on Vanek in the slot. Vanek saw that the puck snuck past the goaltender and celebrated, while Parise continued skating in the corner. It was only after seeing Vanek’s reaction that Parise celebrated with a hey-we-scored smile. Once again, the lesson, as always in hockey: good things happen when you get the puck to the net. Parise knows the rule better than most.
The Wild’s power play has been trending in the right direction and today it was the second unit that got the team on the board. Unit no. 2 has, at times, had difficulty with its zone entries, but executed beautifully to set up a Jared Spurgeon goal. The best power plays enter the zone with unified speed, which puts pressure on the killers and makes it difficult for them to hold the defensive-zone blue line, as they have to back up quickly.
Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter were heading up ice stride for stride and flying in on the left side. The Finn fed the Swiss, who was along the wall, and then busted to the net, which forced the Canucks defender to back down. This opened up a lane for Niederreiter to carry the puck in the zone without any resistance. The forward took it deep in the zone and made a wall pass back to Spurgeon at the point. Using Granlund as a screen, the blueliner wired one past Miller’s glove for his seventh of the season.
Getting punched in the face isn’t a fun proposition at any hour, but just a few minutes after noon seems like an inopportune time to get clocked in the noggin. Only 6:46 into the first period, Ryan Carter and Derek Dorsett dropped the gloves for a pretty good tussle with both combatants landing shots. The fight goes to show you that the players are fired up to play no matter what the hour.
The scrap was payback resulting from Dorsett running around early in the contest. The Canucks forward finished a late hit on Nino Niederreiter on his first shift of the game and followed that up by catching Carter up high. The White Bear Lake native saw enough and tracked Dorsett into the Wild’s defensive zone and they squared off.
Today’s noon (Pacific time) start was pushed up because of the Super Bowl. With Seattle just a few hours from Vancouver there were a number of Seahawk jerseys in the stands today, which had quite a spattering of empty seats, likely because of the National Football League’s championship game and the earlier start time. For football fans, the early game was a nice way to warm up for the Super Bowl between the Seahawks and New England Patriots.
The early start time didn’t matter much for the Wild because the club will be on a flight back to Minnesota during the game. From the sounds of it, most of the Wild players are pulling for the Patriots. Unsurprisingly, New Englander Charlie Coyle has been a fan of the Pats since he was a kid and Erik Haula’s favorite football player is Tom Brady, so he’ll be rooting for the chowder heads. Thanks to some insight from FOX Sports North’s Kevin Gorg, we learned that goaltender Devan Dubnyk is a Russell Wilson fan and wants the Hawks to win back-to-back Lombardi Trophies.
Here are my picks for the game: tails coin toss; first commercial from Budweiser; Rob Gronkowski for the game’s first touchdown; “Dark Horse” first song by Katy Perry during the Halftime Show; Al Michaels making at least one gambling reference on the broadcast; Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.