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 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks:
On an emotional night, the Minnesota Wild attempted to mount a comeback against the Chicago Blackhawks, but again came up a goal short. In the final two periods, the Wild outshot the Hawks, 37-10, but netminder Cory Crawford did his best Pink Floyd imitation, building a wall in front of the net.
For the second consecutive game, Zach Parise was out of the lineup. Yesterday, his father, J.P. Parise, passed away after his bout with lung cancer at the age of 73. The club looked affected by the news in the opening period, but played like a desperate team in the final two. However, it was not to be on this night.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo liked his team’s effort tonight. Minnesota is on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. His message to the team: we won’t make the playoffs with a win or loss tonight, but get back to the things that will give us wins like effort, grit and attitude. The Wild brought that to tonight’s game and will get back in the win column if it continues to bring that effort.
Of all the things that have gone wrong lately, the Wild’s power play has been a bright spot. The team has brought a shoot-first attitude and has been rewarded in recent games. Since Dec. 5, Minnesota has scored 13 power-play goals in 15 games, tied for fourth in the NHL during the timeframe.
In the third period, the Wild went on a 5-on-3 power play after Michal Rozsival was assessed a delay of game penalty for playing the puck with his hand. Off the faceoff, Thomas Vanek bulled over Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and then picked up the loose puck. He moved into the middle and Jason Pominville, starting at the point, slipped into the slot and opened up for a one-timer. The Austrian slid a backhand into Pomiville’s sweet spot. The 32-year-old crushed it off the left post and into the top of the net. The puck went in and out so fast, that only Pominville’s celebration keyed the refs that it went in. He knew where he wanted to go and labeled the puck like a piece of mail.
No respectable St. Cloud State alumni ever wants to give props to a University of Minnesota Golden Gopher, but I’ll cast aside my alliances and give credit where credit is due. Tonight, I have to acknowledge the play of three former U of M standouts: Thomas Vanek, Erik Haula and Jordan Schroeder. The latter was recalled from Iowa of the American Hockey League today and created offensive chances all night long, firing a career-high seven shots on goal.
It seems like there are no more cool line nicknames in the National Hockey League anymore, mainly because there is a lot of line swapping throughout the League. Of course, all being of the former Maroon and Gold persuasion, the trio has a readymade nickname: The Gopher Line. Even Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo speaking to the media before the game referred to them as the Gopher Line. Of course, SCSU alumni would probably call them the Golden Rodent Line. Since the Wild now employs me, I won’t resort to that kind of college-rivalry frivolity or engage in propagandizing that as the new nickname, even though I’m the one who brought it up. They should be known as the Gopher Line, not the Golden Rodent Line. The University of Minnesota’s mascot is not a Golden Rodent.
As an observer, noticing cagey veterans pull off little tricks of the trade is one of my favorite things about this job. It makes me giddier than a hipster at a moustache and pedal bike rally. In the second period, the Hawks were transitioning against the Wild line of Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke and Ryan Carter. Chicago looked to have a surefire 3-on-2 rush, as the line was in on the cycle and deep. However, Cooke used his stick like a slingshot and gave Brodziak a boost to quickly get back defensively. The only thing that would’ve made the play better is if he yelled, “slingshot engaged!” like Cal Naughton Jr.
In the third period, Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith was “pushed” into the net by Mikko Koivu. The blueliner was “hit” into the cage and knocked the posts off the moorings. The goal popped up and looked like it would stay in place, but Keith had to “regain” his balance on the crossbar. You might’ve noticed the strategically placed quotes throughout this paragraph. If we were having a conversation, I’d be the annoying guy making finger air quotes to ensure you understood my sarcasm. Keith shoved the net like it was trying to cut in line outside the club.
Beyond the game of hockey, it has been a trying season for Minnesota. Today we learned that J.P. Parise, former Minnesota North Stars forward and longtime contributor to Minnesota hockey, passed away after a battle with lung cancer on Wednesday. Before the game, the video board inside Xcel Energy Center played a video tribute to J.P. and the crowd observed a moment of silence. It was an emotional day for all in the State of Hockey as tributes to J.P. and his family came in from all around the hockey community.
It’s hard to even imagine the burden that Zach has been playing with as his father fought cancer and his condition deteriorated as the season went along. Defenseman Ryan Suter, speaking to the media before the game, was at a loss for words when talking about J.P. If anyone could understand it would be Suter, who lost his father Bob before the start of the year. However, even Suter said that he couldn’t imagine what Zach was dealing with this season as his father’s health deteriorated. J.P. will be missed throughout the Wild organization and the entire State of Hockey.
Rest in peace, J.P. Parise.