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 Red Team win over Team White during an Inter-Squad Scrimmage from Wild Training Camp:
It was fantastic to see NHL hockey back on the ice at Xcel Energy Center, albeit a little strange to see the Minnesota Wild in both their home reds and whites. With the Houston Aeros in the State of Hockey for the week, the Wild and Aeros were split into Red and White for an Inter-Squad Scrimmage.
There were 13,096 fans in the stands to welcome the boys back on to the ice. Jared Spurgeon scored twice (one empty netter), while Jake Dowell and Nick Palmieri scored during the regulation. There was an overtime period, but we’ll get to the OT goal scorer shortly. Steven Kampfer scored the lone White goal.
Fans also welcomed the two players they have been salivating to see in a Wild sweater since July 4: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. We could probably spend all Five Takeaways writing about the pair, but we’ll get to their impact on the scrimmage shortly…
After missing the majority of the last seasons with a concussion, Pierre-Marc Bouchard has been symptom free for weeks and was out there tonight participating in full contact. While PMB is never going to be a player dishing out massive hits, as an offensive player, he is the target of opposing checkers. Tonight, he wasn’t shying away from contact or the corners—a great sign.
When a player returns from an injury, the immediate concerns is ‘How they will respond to contact?’ While the scrimmage lacked the big hits you’d see in a regular-season or playoff game, Bouchard wasn’t hesitant going into the corners and was getting bumped around a bit.
As everyone knows, the forward’s game is predicated around skill and it was fully on display in the scrimmage. In the first period, he was behind the net and floated a saucer pass, between two defenders, right on the tape of Spurgon for a scoring opportunity in the slot. The Sherbrooke, Quebec native is most dangerous in space, easily witnessed during the pseudo overtime period. He was a magician controlling the puck and swerving between defenders in open ice, and that was before he roofed a backhand shelf with eight seconds left in the extra session.
He also helped controlled the power play from the blue line with the number one unit alongside Suter, Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. Although the unit didn’t score on the man advantage, it is exciting to think about Bouchard setting up his teammates from the left point for one-timers.
The two players that the fans inside of Xcel Energy Center were most excited to see were Parise and Suter. Even with a shortened training camp, Parise’s tireless work ethic was evident. Yes, he was held off the score sheet, but the forward doesn’t need to score every game to have an impact. He had 21:59 of ice time and two shots on goal, both created by busting hard to the net. The Minnesota native also killed penalties and played solid defensively, blocking two shots. When skilled players like Parise, Koivu andHeatley are put together, expectations are high, and they should be. However, it will take some time for the trio to adjust to playing together. One place Parise’s skill will help immediately will be in shootouts. He scored in the team’s shootout on a backhander today.
The blueliner from Madison, Wis., is so smooth carrying the puck up the ice and makes everyone around him better with precision passing. He helped set up Bouchard’s goal, with the other assist going to Heatley. The biggest benefactor from Suter’s play will be his defensive partner, Spurgeon. Suter and Spurgeon are both smart players, having tremendous positional play, making it easier on forwards in both the offensive and defensive zones.
Clearly, this was a game for the guys who will be appearing with the Wild on opening night. However, it was impossible not to look at the youngster playing in the game, especially when they played as well as they did. The line of Jason Zucker (who turned 21 today), Charlie Coyle and Johan Larsson were outstanding, controlling the puck on the forecheck and creating several good scoring chances. Don’t be surprised if we see one, if not all, of these players in a Wild uniform in the (near) future.
Mathew Dumba also was impressive today. His skating ability and shot were the most recognizable part of his game. He blasted a one-timer on the power play, which bounced around in front of the net before being knocked in by Palmieri. The most impressive thing about Dumba was his confidence and poise on the blue line, especially on the man advantage.
After the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo acknowledged, “There are some things we need to work on.”
He didn’t elaborate on what the team needed to work on, but the team’s transition game isn’t yet in mid-season form. But with under a week of practices, not to mention two teams splitting into two teams, shaky transition is to be expected league wide. Timing and knowing where your teammates are before you get the puck is one of the toughest things to ‘get back,’ but with the Wild’s skill and depth it will come.
Yeo still needs to speak with the players regarding rest vs. rust, so we’ll see if the team practices tomorrow and to what extent. But the Wild bench boss said that he wants the team to work on a few things, so check in with the Wild.com blog View From the Lighthouse on tomorrow’s practice.
Bonus Takeaway: There were so many story lines from today's game, we needed a bonus Takeaway for the player of the game, Jared Spurgeon. Some might’ve wondered why Spurgeon was going in the shootout. However, the coaches obviously knew what they were doing and his shootout goal was so sick, writing about it wouldn’t do it justice. Just watch this clip on WildTV.