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Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways vs. Colorado

by Mike Doyle / Minnesota Wild

Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 1-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche:

Since last season’s epic seven game first round Stanley Cup Playoff series, the Minnesota Wild has owned the Colorado Avalanche. In three games, the Wild hasn’t allowed an Avalanche goal, shutting out an opponent three times in a season for the first time since 2007 against the Edmonton Oilers. Winning it’s fifth straight tonight, the Wild leapfrogged the Avs, moving into ninth in the Western Conference standings.

Devan Dubnyk pitched his second straight shutout and fourth with the Wild. He’s only played nine games. The netminder probably could’ve caught up on some sleep in the first period (we’ll get to that), but had to be sharp as razor wire late. With the Avalanche on the power play in the third period, Dubnyk made five saves to keep them off the board. Of course, he had a little help, as defenseman Jonas Brodin swatted away a puck that snuck behind the big netminder. I’m not a betting man, but I’d risk all my chips that Dubnyk will be between the pipes on Monday when Minnesota hosts the Vancouver Canucks.

Not a superstitious goaltender, Dubnyk also debuted his new Wild mask tonight. Here’s a WildTV of him explaining the design.

The opening period was more lopsided than the foundation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Wild totally dominated the Avs, outshooting Colorado, 17-4, and out -attempting them, 34-6. It was only the play of Semyon Varlamov that kept the game from becoming an avala…, um, landslide in the Wild’s favor. Last season’s Vezina Trophy runner-up saw more rubber than the Springfield Tire Fire.

The lone goal in the first period came via a perfect redirection by Charlie Coyle on a Marco Scandella point shot. The Scandella rip was coming in waist high, hot and heavy. Varlamov was in a half-crouch position, attempting to meet the puck with his blocker. However, Coyle tipped the puck down and to right, through Varlamov’s five-hole. Changing the horizontal and vertical direction of the puck makes it twice as hard for a netminder to track, and that’s exactly what Coyle did on his seventh of the season.

The Wild has scored the first goal of the game in five straight games, coincidentally, all wins. This season the club is 20-5-3 when scoring first, so needless to say, it’s important to get the lead. When Minnesota gets on the board first and isn’t chasing, it’s able to get into a rhythm both offensively and defensively. The Wild is one of the more disciplined teams in the National Hockey League and doesn’t give opponents much in the way of opportunities when it is leading.

The time when opponents can make up ground on the Wild is on the power play. But the Wild has been perfect in that area in the last five games, killing 12 opponent man advantages during the win streak. Stick tap to PR Intern Megan Kogut for pointing out all the stats in this Take.

After Mikko Koivu lofted a high puck out of the defensive zone, Jason Zucker used his blazing speed to get behind the Avalanche. With Zucker primed for a clean look at the Avs net, defenseman Nick Holden made a desperation dive and tripped the wing. The 23-year-old was moving so quickly at the time of the trip, he was able to pop up and still make a backhand move against Varlamov, which the goaltender stopped.

At first look, the Las Vegas product would’ve had a decent argument for penalty shot because Holden left his feet to take him down. However, Zucker was able to recover and still get an uncontested shot on goal, negating the “loss of a clear scoring opportunity” needed to award a penalty shot. If Zucker would’ve stayed down or lost control of the puck, he likely would’ve had his second penalty shot attempt of the season.

Keeping a puck in at the blue line is a crucial detail of the game that is often overlooked. If a team is able to retain possession in the zone, it can lead to a greater number of scoring chances and lessen the time in the neutral zone or playing defensively. Clearly, the most common way for a player to keep the puck in at the blue is by playing it with his stick, but two Wild players used unconventional but equally effective methods tonight.

In the first period, both Brodin and Jason Pominville used their skates to keep the puck in at the blue line. With the biscuit being wrapped hard around the end-boards and Avalanche players in hot pursuit, both stepped in and made a hockey-stop kicks to knock the puck low in the zone to teammates. They were perfectly timed plays to use their momentum and the blade of their skates to maintain possession

Bonus Take

Stick tap to former Digital Media Manager Ryan Stanzel as he moves to the next phase of his career with Best Buy. Stanzel has been with the Wild since 2007 and took over as DMM in 2013. Technically my supervisor, he pretty much allowed me to run Wild.com the way that I saw fit, which is every employee’s dream. Good luck, you’ll be missed #LastStanz.

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