Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 loss against the Colorado Avalanche:
After the way things ended in Denver the last week between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, tonight’s contest had more buildup than a summer blockbuster. While fans were expecting The Hunger Games type of conflict, it was nearly impossible to live up to the hype.
Following a fight in the first minute of the game between Chris Stewart and Cody McLeod, the teams settled into a hockey game, with the Avs taking the advantage for the first time this season. Coming into the contest, the Wild won the first four games of the series by a margin of 12-1, three times in shutouts. So, the Avalanche flipped the script and exacted revenge on the scoreboard.
Along with gaining points with the home faithful for dropping the mitts with McLeod, Stewart scored his first goal in a Wild sweater. It came on an interesting play, to say the least. The wing carried the puck across the blue line and fired it into the corner with enough steam that it bounced back out to him, as he lined up a one-timer. He whiffed on the shot, but Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie kicked it into his own net. I’ve seen players make a pass into the corner meant for a teammate, but it was the first time I’ve seen a player make a self-pass into the corner and a play that might have to be added to the beer league repertoire.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon rejoined the lineup after missing the previous eight games with an upper-body injury. The blueliner hasn’t seen game action since Feb. 18, so they eased him into things, skating in 17:34. It typically takes a player a few games to get back into game shape and to shake off the rust. Spurgeon might not have been jumping into the play like he typically does, conserving effort for the backend, but he’s smart enough of a player to stay well positioned and safeguard energy.
Tonight, he was mostly paired with Jordan Leopold, but the club ran a tighter rotation in the third period as it was trying to comeback and Spurgeon saw increased minutes. The Wild still awaits the return of his usual defensive partner, Marco Scandella, who is out with an undisclosed injury.
Before tonight’s contest even started, the hostilities between the Wild and Avs spilled off the ice. In a bizarre turn of events prior to the game, and without prompting, Colorado Head Coach Patrick Roy had a few unkind words about Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo, who wasn’t covering the game today. From Roy’s pregame media scrum (and possibly the first time quotes have been used in the Takeaways):
“This morning I was reading the paper, I was reading an article by Mike Russo. And I thought it was very unhealthy for the game of hockey…Reading that article, it’s almost like he’s suggesting somebody going after Cody McLeod. And I don’t think hockey needs this today. The game of hockey is a healthy game and a reporter going in that direction, I don’t think it’s healthy for our game and I don’t think it’s what this rivalry should be all about.”
He went on to say that the article was “garbage” (a word that’s been tossed around since McLeod took a run after Mikael Granlund in the waning moments of the game in Colorado. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo called McLeod’s move garbage and Roy responded by saying Matt Cooke’s hit on Tyson Barrie during last season’s playoff series was garbage) and if anything happens to McLeod, he hopes that Russo has good lawyers. He also said that tonight’s game wasn’t about revenge.
A few observations. First, Roy still reads the newspaper, which is what you’d expect from an old-school kind of coach. Second, he continually brings up the Barrie injury, even though no one is asking about the Barrie injury. Third, nothing in the article in question was all that inflammatory, off base or inaccurate, so I’m not quite sure why he said Russo needs a lawyer (at least his article said that the coach and players were joking in several instances, unlike his counterpart over at the Denver paper).
One has to wonder what triggered the outspoken Roy to go after a writer and what the coach’s motivations were. It was kind of a strange move and thing to be thinking about just a couple hours before the game. My guess is that he was trying to change the narrative: the Avs are quickly fading in the Western Conference playoff picture and the Wild had dominated the season series. Or maybe he wants Russo to gain few more Twitter followers. Regardless of his intentions, my only hope is that Roy never reads the Takes and calls them garbage.
In reading the article, maybe Roy’s problem was that McLeod was referred to as “Public Enemy No. 1.” Well, it’s an accurate assessment. His role is to be an agitator, play with an edge and get under the skin of the opposition. He’s an enemy in every away building he visits, just as he’s loved in the Mile High City. That’s the reason he’s in the League and what he gets paid to do.
Less than a minute into the contest, Stewart and McLeod dropped the gloves, almost in a let’s-get-this-over-with type of fight (funny moment post-fight: Stewart, in his first time going into the home box, accidently went to the visitor’s, a place he’s frequented in this building). After the tussle, the bad blood between the teams seemed to subside and the clubs got to playing hockey. Of course, because sports always seem to work out with preordained narratives, McLeod scored the game’s first goal.
Stick tap to all the amateur action in the State of Hockey yesterday. Lakeville North completed a perfect season, skating past Duluth East in the 2A title match, 4-1. The Panthers are the 17th team to go undefeated and the first large-class team since the Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars in 1992-93. Future St. Cloud State Huskies and brothers, Nick, Jack and Ryan Poehling, led the way combining for three goals and five assists Saturday.
In a thrilling Class 1A championship, Hermantown had an improbable rally—scoring twice in the game’s final 33 seconds—fall short as East Grand Forks won its second consecutive state title in overtime, 5-4.
At the collegiate level, the St. Thomas women’s team won the M.I.A.C. playoff championship, while Hamline University won it on the men’s side. Congratulations to all the champs. Remember: once a champion always a champion, no matter what level.