Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 5-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche:
Not a bad start to the 2014-15 NHL season for the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild’s win against Central Division foe, the Colorado Avalanche, in the season opener felt a lot more lopsided than the 5-0 score indicated—if that is even possible. Minnesota dominated in all facets of the game and the Avs, with a lineup filled with young speedsters, looked a step slow all night. The Wild won footraces, one-on-one battles along the boards and out-transitioned the Avalanche.
Minnesota made it look easy, setting a number of team and individual highs in the game (we’ll get to that). Darcy Kuemper made stops when he had to, earning a 16-save shutout, the third of his career.
Of course, these two teams will meet again on Colorado’s ice Saturday. Tonight, it looked like the Avs knew they weren’t going to win, and were already on the plane home midway through the game. It would be shocking if the Avs don’t come out with a much-improved effort in front of its home crowd in two days.
After all the build up and talk about last season’s back-and-fourth, seven-game series (much of it perpetuated by people like me) between the Wild and Avs, highly anti-climatic isn’t a strong enough expression to describe tonight’s contest. While Minnesota managed a lone first-period goal, it outshot the Avalanche in the opening frame, 17-5. Things got better, or worse depending on which color you were rooting for, in the second period as the Wild peppered 21 shots to Colorado’s eight. Varlamov must’ve felt like I-94 with the amount of rubber he was seeing. The netminder was finally broken, giving up four goals in the middle period.
Tonight was a complete team effort, with the Wild’s four lines and three defensive pairs continually pounding the Avs like waves rolling on a beach. Only they were crashing the Avs crease, totaling 48 shots. Minnesota took more shots than a frat house on pledge week. The total was a franchise single-game record. Although the Wild’s power play was held off the board, the club killed all four of Colorado’s power play chances and didn’t allow a shot in the process (shout-out 1390 The Fan). While we could go down the list and give some shine to everyone in the Wild lineup tonight, one trio was particularly bright…
The line of Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville looked like they were high schoolers playing pickup against a band of squirts without skates at times tonight. The trio combined for 16 shots, two goals, five assists and was a plus-flipping-10. And they hardly played in the third. The only thing that stopped the line tonight was the final buzzer.
Granlund, Parise and Pominville were clicking from the opening of training camp and kept it going tonight. Against the Avs, Parise was the catalyst. He had nine shots and was a forechecking banshee, creating turnovers like a French pastry chef. He set up two goals after pulling pucks out of scrums down low in the offensive zone and finding defenseman jumping into the offense…
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo spent a lot of training camp talking about how the team wanted to generate more offense from the blue line. Well, it looks like the plan has been implemented, as the Wild got a pair of goals from defensemen, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon.
Suter’s goal was an impressive display of power, as he uncorked a one-timer blast past Varlamov. But it probably wasn’t his most notable play of the night. The blueliner started the rush in the first period that got the Wild on the board. From his own zone, Suter made an indirect pass behind the skates of Mikael Granlund that bounced off the boards and right onto the tape of the centerman, in stride. Not sure if the 29-year-old is a pool player or was an ace geometry student, but he knows angles better than Dr. Isosceles himself.
The other goal scorer from the blue line, Spurgeon, was equally impressive tonight. The 24-year-old has improved offensively in each of his first four seasons and was joining the rush all night. Most impressive about Spurgeon is that he knows when to take a chance offensively and when to back away. Not really a hot take here, but Spurgeon is going to take another big step offensively this season.
Xcel Energy Center’s new video board is real and it’s spectacular.
Even the most jaded members on press row had to have at least a few hairs on the back of their necks stand up when the Wild played the pregame video tease. The show started with an ode to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and continued with inspiring highlights set to fist-pumping music. Check out the game tease on WildTV, here.
The team’s game operations also unveiled a few of the bells and whistles we didn’t see in the preseason. One new feature was the Shift Cam, a picture-in-a-picture view of game action and an isolation of a Wild player. I’m sure there’s plenty more in-game entertainment in the works, but tonight’s on-ice product was enjoyable in itself to keep them locked up for now. Fans will have to wait until Oct. 23 when the Wild hosts the Arizona Coyotes before we see what else the crew has to offer. Now, if we can only get them to drop the creepy kissing noises during the Kiss Cam…