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 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames:
Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Wild was struggling to find its footing offensively? Well, those days are just that—a distant memory—because the team continued its, er, hot play tonight against the Flames. The Wild had been playing too well and was generating too many offensive chances to continue to be snake bit. Even when Minnesota was going through its struggles, the locker room remained positive and believed that things would turnaround. As bad as the drought was, the floodgates are now open just as wide.
While the Wild had some loose play at times at the start of each period, Josh Harding had another strong outing when the team needed him. Until Minnesota, er, poured gas on the flame at the end of the game, Harding allowed the Wild to find its stride. Harding made 24 saves for his eighth win on the year.
Charlie Coyle found himself in a familiar spot tonight: on the wing with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. The duo of Parise and Koivu has been through a number of wingers this year trying to find a permanent fixture, however, they couldn’t seem to find a match 5-on-5. Of course last season when Coyle was recalled from the AHL, he remained with the top line for much of the season. In training camp, it looked like Coyle was primed to move to center and take over his own line. But, after a lower-body injury sidelined him for a month, coinciding with the emergence of Mikael Granlund in the middle, it only seemed natural to slot Coyle on the wing again.
Well the move paid immediate dividends, as the line scored the game’s opening goal. Parise and Koivu played give-and-go down low, and Parise took the puck from behind the net and fired a bad-angle shot. Coyle went to the net and created havoc, while Koivu followed up the rebound for his second of the season. Coyle looked strong tonight and fits well on the line because he’s so tough to knock off the puck along the wall. The line generates a ton of chances on the forecheck, which creates momentum throughout the Wild lineup. The line also generates momentum for itself: Parise had a decent night (2G, 1A), while Koivu was pretty good too (1G, 2A). They must’ve been jealous of all the play that the Graninoville line has been getting lately and wanted to remind us all that they are still explosive offensively.
Early this season while the Wild was struggling to score at even strength, its power play buoyed the offensive output. After a slight slide (if you can call two games without a PPG a slide) the team’s power play is back on track, scoring for the second-straight game. After its first power play was negated by a penalty, the Wild took advantage of its second chance. The team moved Coyle into the slot and Jason Pominville back to the point on the first unit. The top unit moved the puck around the perimeter like children playing connect the dots. After zipping the puck around the offensive zone, Ryan Suter made a cross-box pass onto the tape of Parise. Flames goaltender Reto Berra made the initial save, but Parise banged home his first of the game.
On the other end of the special-teams spectrum, the Wild’s penalty kill was uncharacteristically shaky to start the season. It looks like the shorthanded unit has settled in, not allowing a PP goal in its last two games. Minnesota only allowed the Flames to generate two shots on the power play tonight.
Zenon Konopka has filled up boxscores—the penalty minute and faceoff columns—since signing with the Wild. Tonight, he marked the goal column for the first time in Iron Range Red. It was also his first point as a member of the team. He nearly had a point earlier in the game after making a laser pass on a 2-on-1 to Torrey Mitchell, but the winger couldn’t handle the puck. On the pair’s second odd-man rush, they reversed roles.
Mitchell came trough the neutral zone with a ton of speed, weaving in and out of the Flames defense. He and Konopka isolated Calgary defender Dennis Wideman, and Mitchell slipped the puck to Konopka. The tough guy showed a softer touch with his granite hands and went upstairs. On the play, Konopka looked like a pure goal scorer, but his celly was a little different case…
One of my favorite things about hockey: the facial expressions when players are showing raw emotions. For Konopka, after he scored he looked slightly stunned like he was thinking, “Whoa, that was sweet. Did I just do that?”
After Parise scored his second of the game, on one of the nicest passing sequences you’ll ever see, he looked like he was in awe of how good the play Koivu and Suter just made. Parise looked shocked at how much of an open net he had to shoot at and his expression might’ve been tagged with OMG.
Finally, when Matt Cooke was called for a matching minor penalty along with the Flames’ TJ Galiardi for unsportsmanlike conduct, you could see him shrugging his shoulders and mouthing, “For what?” like a school kid getting sent to the principals office.
All three reactions were spur of the moment and all had different emotions, but all were reminders of the humanity and emotions coming from the players on the ice.