Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at 2-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks:
This season, the Minnesota Wild has had the defending Stanley Cup champion’s number. Tonight was the Wild’s third regulation win against Chicago. No other team in the National Hockey League has more than one. Overall, the Blackhawks only have nine regulation losses.
The Wild jumped out to a two-goal lead (we’ll get to those) in the first period and goaltender Darcy Kuemper shut the door until Patrick Kane scored with 31 seconds left in regulation. When the Wild is winning in the third period and the opponent is pressuring like the Hawks were tonight, I can’t help but hum “Hold On” by the Alabama Shakes. There is nothing worse than losing a shutout in the final minute of the game, but the Wild closed out the final ticks for its eighth win in 11 games.
The Wild will head out tomorrow for one of its longest road trips of the season, four games and nine days, kicking things off against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Stay inside, cozy up and stay up late State of Hockey.
The big story coming into the night was the return of Zach Parise. The forward missed 14 games with a foot injury and hadn’t appeared in a game since Dec. 23. Getting hurt before the holidays is a dangerous time because of all the delicious chow and extra comfort-food helpings. If Parise packed on any extra holiday weight, he didn’t show it because he had more jump than a kangaroo. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said this morning before the game that they’d monitor Parise’s ice time. In the first, he skated six minutes and that increased to eight minutes in the second, and he finished with 19:34. His season average coming into tonight was 20:31 TOI, so much for easing him into things.
With a break that long, there is bound to be a little rust. In the second period, Nino Niederreiter made a cross ice pass to Parise on a 3-on-2 chance, typically a play as money as Trent from Swingers. Parise fired the puck wide of the net, but with his work ethic and determination he’ll be back to scoring goals, like Trent scores digits, in no time. Despite the rust, there is one thing you can always count on from the forward: maximum effort. He brought it again tonight.
Darcy Kuemper continues to impress and tonight he was a mere 31 seconds and a Kane snipe away from his second-career shutout. Like I said earlier, there is nothing worse than losing a shutout for a goaltender in the final minutes of the game and the players feel worse about giving up a late score than the goalie. Kuemper was on his game from the start, extending to make a tippy-toe save on Marcus Kruger. With time winding down, the keeper kept the Hawks at bay, with a plethora of tough saves.
Kuemper’s game did not go without a few hold-your-breath moments. Twice in the first period, the netminder ventured waaaaaaaay out of the net to play the puck. The goaltender is good with the puck and it’s an element of his game Kuemper will continue to improve, as he gets more comfortable with the NHL game.
Kuemper was so on, it didn't matter what headgear he was wearing. He had an equipment malfunction in the second period and was forced to use Niklas Backstrom's goalie helmet for several minutes.
Kyle Brodziak reached a milestone, picking up his 200th career point with an assist on Matt Cooke’s first-period goal. With his wings, Cooke and Justin Fontaine, the trio has found more chemistry than an eighth grade science lab. The third line is used as a shutdown line, but has scored a number of timely goals, to boot.
Tonight, they drew the unenviable tasks of one of the NHL’s most potent lines: Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. For most of the night, the Blackhawks top trio was quiet, thanks to Brodziak and Co.’s defensive effort.
The Blackhawks must hate seeing Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville in the lineup. Coming into the contest, they teamed for three goals and four assists against Chicago this season.
Tonight, they were back at terrorizing the Hawks getting Minnesota on the board in the first period. Granlund and Pominville rushed in across the blue line along with Dany Heatley. Pominville fed Heatley just across the line, and he then slipped the puck to Granlund crashing the net. It looked like the center would have a good shot on netminder Antti Raanta, but at the last second, he fed a no-look pass across the crease right onto the tape of Pominville. The mighty mites playing during the first intermission could’ve slid the puck into the wide-open net.