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 to the Detroit Red Wings:
Like a guy talking on his phone at a movie, the Detroit Red Wings ruined the matinee for the Wild. Detroit was without two of its superstars, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but continues to roll along. Coming into the game, the Wings were on the outside looking up at the Eastern Conference, but leaps over the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Wild Card spot.
The Wild had plenty of chances in this one, but had trouble cracking Wings’ netminder Jimmy Howard. The goaltender was especially strong in the third period with Minnesota pressuring for a comeback. Charlie Coyle made Howard look silly on a penalty shot (we’ll get to that), but Howard stopped the 10 Wild chances down the stretch including two crucial saves, first on Jared Spurgeon and then a sprawling goal line grab on Coyle.
It was a special teams kind of afternoon, with the first three goals of the game coming on the power play (one by Minnesota and two from Detroit). Mikko Koivu got the Wild on the board with a one-time blast. Typically, Koivu is the one setting up his teammates, but showed his finish tonight. Ryan Suter walked down the wall on the left side and dropped it back to Koivu, who wired a shot over the shoulder Wings’ netminder Jimmy Howard.
The Wild captain is a ferocious competitor, a complete two-way player, and has an underrated shot. Last week, Koivu became the Wild’s all-time leading scorer. The in-house video board played this tribute with some of his career milestones.
Moments after the opening faceoff in the third period, Charlie Coyle came racing through the neutral zone and cut towards the net. Wings forward Johan Franzen made a desperation dive and took Coyle’s legs out from under him, preventing a scoring chance. The ref awarded Coyle a penalty shot.
The big forward slowly approached the net and it looked like disaster was going to strike, as the puck hopped up on him and bounced over his stick. However, the 22-year-old remained calm, corralled the puck then made a stunning forehand-backhand-forehand move and slipped it into the wide open net. As he was scoring he did a victory hop.
It was a matinee game because the inaugural Big 10 Tournament is at Xcel Energy Center this evening (you might’ve noticed the logo plastered at center ice). Ohio State plays Wisconsin in the championship game at 7 p.m. Down 94, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s title tilt is at the Target Center between the Denver Pioneers and Miami RedHawks. Dan Myers’ Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks play Ferris State in the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference final tonight, too.
Honestly, that paragraph felt weird to write. It’s going to take some time to get used to the new conferences. I know that change is good, and we should all embrace it and move forward, I’m partial to the way things were, when the Final Five was in Saint Paul. I’m trying not to turn into “back in my day” guy, but the old matchups and hate in the former WCHA is tough to beat. Maybe it will just take a season or two, but it was hard to follow college hockey this season, even though my St. Cloud State Huskies won the Penrose Cup (I had to Google that because I didn’t even know what the NCHC regular-season championship was called). Rant over. Now I’m going to walk home in the snow, uphill.
I’m a big fan of these matinee games. They serve breakfast at our press meal (one of the perks of the job) and we’re done before 5 p.m. I’m especially glad about the weekend matinee games because we can have some semblance of a social life on these days.
Along with the afternoon contest, I’m now a fan of Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. Before the game he nailed a rousing “Let’s Play Hockey!” chant. It might’ve been my favorite call of the season. I’ve seen my fair share of “Let’s Play Hockey” announcements and, trust me, it’s not easy to deliver a winning call with the pressure of the Xcel Energy Center crowd, as we’ve seen before. Plus, how cool is the name Sharrif? I’m not going to become a Vikings fan, but I’m a big Floyd fan.