Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes:
Like the rest in the State of Hockey, the Minnesota Wild loves Hockey Day Minnesota. The team moved to 7-1-1 all-time on HDM. It also was the Wild’s sixth-consecutive victory on Hockey Day Minnesota.
Maybe it’s just because the day sticks out as a designated celebration of the greatest sport on earth, in the state, but it always seems like something memorable happens on HDM. This year, it was newly acquired goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, playing against his former team, the Arizona Coyotes, which garnered the headlines. Dubnyk made 25 saves and was named the game’s second star. He finally had his Minnesota shutout streak snapped at 93:26.
Most importantly, the club played well in front of the netminder. The Wild had all four lines rolling and forechecking, as Minnesota controlled the play for the first two periods. With the team protecting a one-goal lead, Dubnyk shut the door in the third. It looked like Jason Zucker would take over the team lead in goals, but an empty netter from Zach Parise locked the forwards at 16 apiece.
After Dubnyk’s first game in Buffalo, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo praised his ability to play the puck behind the net, leading to easier breakouts by Wild defenders. When a goaltender is able to set up the puck in a good position, it greatly helps relieve pressure on defensemen from incoming forecheckers. The netminder was at it again tonight and actually added an assist on the team’s second goal. Dubnyk stopped the puck behind the net and with Coyotes forward Martin Erat bearing down on defenseman Marco Scandella, the goaltender bypassed them both with a wrap, which went to Zucker on the wing. Zucker and Justin Fontaine played give-and-go at the blueline and the wing roofed a backhand past Yotes goalie Mike Smith.
His former mates tested the netminder in the third. His two best saves came late in the period with a one-goal lead. Forward Martin Hanzal tried to shove a puck past the goalie and defenseman Keith Yandle came in for the rebound, but Dubnyk stuck his big pad out and then covered it for a whistle, killing the momentum. Following the game, FOX Sports North’s Kevin Gorg was interviewing the goaltender and fans started to chant, “Dooooooobs.” Winning your first two games will garner love from the local supporters.
Two Wild skaters hit milestones tonight: forward Ryan Carter played in his 400th and defenseman Marco Scandella skated in his 200th. Scandella returned to the lineup after missing the previous five games with an upper-body injury. This morning’s skate was the first time he was on the ice with the club since suffering the injury on Jan. 6. Scandella did his best Allen Iverson impression foregoing practices to play in the game. In the third period we saw his patented slapper at the 13:28 mark of the period, but Smith made a look-what-I-found glove save. Scandella was a plus-3, skated in 24:48 TOI and had two shots on goal. And you want to come in here and talk about practice? Practice? C’mon man.
Carter skated on a line with Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter tonight. The trio was an offensive zone, puck-possession machine tonight, holding the puck from Coyote defenders for long chunks of time like they were playing a game of keep-away….
I’m not sure what the Coyotes did, maybe they made fun of his mother or called him names, but Coyle played like a gorilla that just had his banana stolen. One of the nicer guys you’ll meet off the ice, the Weymouth native had a rage in his eyes tonight. The Wild center was throwing around Coyotes defenders like they were pennies at a wishing well. In the second period, the center skated with the puck in the offensive zone and ran over two Arizona defenders on his way to feeding Jared Spurgeon in the slot for a Grade-A attempt. Later in the period, he threw down Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Kyle Chipchura, which started a little tussle between both clubs.
On his first period goal, Coyle used his massive frame to gain position and easily cut through a Sam Gagner hook, like a sprinter crossing through the finish-line tape. He then knocked home a pass from Niederreiter for his fifth of the season. The 22-year-old is most effective when he’s using his size and engaged physically. However he got himself pumped up and in the mad mood tonight, he should try to get to that place every game.
Today marked the ninth installment of Hockey Day Minnesota, the state’s annual celebration of the best sport on ice (yes it’s both; read earlier). This year, the high school hockey portion of HDM was held at Saint Paul’s Holman Field, an active airport. With the Saint Paul skyline hovering as the backdrop for the rink, it was another fine day of puck with tight, competitive games throughout. Saint Paul Johnson topped Luverne, 6-5, in the opener; Hill-Murray repeated history from HDM 2008, winning in overtime against St. Thomas Academy, 3-2; and in the girls’ game, Cretin-Derham Hall edged the Duluth Northern Stars, 5-4.
Last night, there was a warmup at Holman Field, as Minnesota Warriors Wounded Veterans skated in the first game, Saint Paul Police took on Saint Paul Fire and the MN National Guard played the Canadian Armed Forces. Sergeant Jason Brubaker and firefighter Andy Bieze gave tonight’s “Let’s Play Hockey!” call. Brubaker must’ve been especially pumped for Hockey Day Minnesota, because the policeman gave one of the more enthusiastic intros, channeling his inner Ric Flair. Wooo!