Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-0 against the Edmonton Oilers:
A faceoff win, a puck battle along the wall, picking up the correct player on the backcheck or blocking a shot. Those are what Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo calls all the small plays that often go unnoticed during a 60 minute contest, but add up to help lead a team to victory. Tonight, on the final game of the Minnesota Wild’s three-game Canadian road trip, the club was full of winning plays.
Arguably the club’s leader in the unofficial category is its captain, Mikko Koivu. Against the Oilers, Koivu was all over the ice making winning plays. Tonight, he entered the franchise’s record book. With two assists, the 31-year-old marked his 114th career multi-point game, which ties him for all-time lead with Marian Gaborik. The Finn earned the primary assist on the club’s first goal, shooting for a rebound that went right to the tape of Nino Niederreiter. On Jordan Schroeder’s goal, he moved the puck to Thomas Vanek and went to the net, which created a big lane for the wings to connect.
The big story, and the story on just about everybody’s mind since his acquisition by Minnesota, was the game’s First Star…
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk sure seems to enjoy torturing his former team, the Edmonton Oilers. Everyone in the hockey world has heard the story by now: Edmonton drafted the netminder in the first round (14th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and last season traded him to the Nashville Predators. After two games in Nashville, the goaltender was again moved to the Montreal Canadiens and spent the rest of the season in the American Hockey League. He signed with Arizona in the offseason and after playing well for the Coyotes, was traded to Minnesota and the rest is history, or at least becoming history.
Since joining the Wild, Dubnyk has gone on an absolute tear. Tonight against his former team, he set a career mark for wins in a season with 21 (12 coming in a Wild sweater). In games against Edmonton this season (including three starts with Arizona), the 28-year-old has gone 5-0-0 with a 0.79 goals-against average and .970 save percentage. Since joining Minnesota, he’s started all 16 games, going 12-2-1 and now earning five shutouts, also a career high.
With Jason Zucker out of the lineup, Justin Fontaine has seen more ice time and responded in kind with more offensive output. For the second straight game, Fontaine scored the Wild’s opening goal (he added his second of the game with 1:15 remaining) and now has five points (3-2=4) in his last four games. The forward has shown a nose for the net and tonight he sniffed out a point shot and used the opportunity by getting to the scoring area. As Zach Parise took the biscuit off the wall and moved it to Christian Folin at the left point, Fontaine moved into the slot. The wing timed it perfectly, using hand-eye coordination and redirected the shot off the crossbar and in for his sixth of the season.
The first National Hockey League game the Bonnyville, Alberta native attended was an Oilers’ game at Rexall Place, so playing in the arena will always be special for the forward. Of course, he bookended the game by scoring with 1:15 left in the contest, again finding a hole in the slot and finishing high on a pass from Parise.
Another Alberta native who always enjoys playing in Edmonton is Kyle Brodziak. Tonight, the forward skated in his 600th career NHL game. Coincidentally, it came against the team that he started his career with. Brodziak was a part of the first trade Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher ever made, coming to Minnesota Minnesota along with a sixth-round selection in the 2009 Draft (Darcy Kuemper) from Edmonton in exchange for a fourth-round pick (Kyle Bigos) and fifth-round selection (Olivier Roy) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, on June 27, 2009.
Edmonton native Jared Spurgeon missed tonight’s contest after taking a puck to the face against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, so the club recalled Folin from its American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. Minnesota sent the young blueliner to Iowa so he could get into game action, since he was scratched multiple games as the team’s D corps was solidified during a 10-game point streak.
For his part, the 24-year-old understands the process of getting reps and playing games, so he welcomed the challenge of going to the AHL. He admitted that after only practicing he was a little rusty when he first arrived in Iowa, but soon got his game back to a good place with the added reps.
In his first game back, it looked like the games in Iowa helped. The blueliner made a nice read to jump into the seam and fire a low tip-able shot on Fontaine’s goal. He moved the puck well from the backend, played in 16:31 with three hits and two blocked shots.
Today, the League launched its enhanced page over on NHL.com today, a look at some of the more modern shot and scoring metrics. However, the NHL rebranded the names of Corsi and Fenwick to more descriptive terms Shot Attempts Percentage and Unblocked Shot Attempts Percentage. It was a good move to rename the metrics in order to try and get more people to understand and accept the stats.
While numbers are important, they don’t tell the whole story. I wouldn’t go as far as Charles Barkley to discredit them, but arguing possession numbers are completely worthless is like believing Sir Charles couldn’t use help on his golf swing. There will always be a need for numbers to analyze trends and predicators, just like there will always be a need for people to watch the game to evaluate talent, also known as the eye test. Things like heart and chemistry—which the numbers-only crowd doesn’t typically like to credit—are intangibles that can’t be quantified but exist and can be tracked with the eye.