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 loss against the Los Angeles Kings:
On the eve of Thanksgiving, it was a turkey of a first period that did the Minnesota Wild in against the defending Stanley Cup champion, Los Angeles Kings. Minnesota seemed a little disoriented, while the Kings came out cooking. Los Angles was playing its second game in as many nights and showed why it’s the defending champs, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the opening period.
The Wild has fared about as well as a holiday dinner in a competitive eating competition in games played the day before Thanksgiving. The team moved to 2-9-2 all-time on the holiday’s eve. This would’ve been a good worthless stat in today’s Wild.com preview because games played on a random day of the year typically is not a reliable indicator for an outcome.
But sometimes numbers form a pattern in sports and sometimes there is a deviation from those stats…
Tonight’s first period seemed about as long as this morning’s snowy commute, as the Wild gave up four first-period goals to the Kings. Sometimes sports follow a familiar road and sometimes it goes crashing into the guardrail. Coming into the game, Minnesota allowed only seven first-period tallies in its first 20 games.
It was a tough day at the office for Darcy Kuemper. The netminder allowed four goals on 10 shots in the opening period and was pulled in relief for Niklas Backstrom to start the second period. Kuemper was playing well in his last four contests, posting a 3-1-0 record with a 1.60 goals-against and .949 save percentage. Of course, those four games came after he was pulled against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 13. The netminder has shown the ability to shake off a bad loss before and he’ll have to have a short memory with the team in action on back-to-back days beginning on Friday.
Defenseman Keith Ballard skated in his 600th career National Hockey League game tonight. It was a dual celebration, as he turned 32 today, of course the game was a birthday gift he’d rather return like an ugly sweater. The Baudette native made stops in Arizona, Florida and Vancouver during his 10-year career before returning to the State of Hockey.
I first met, well, played against, Ballard when he skated for the Omaha Lancers in the United States and I skated for the Sioux Falls Stampede. Even as a teenager playing junior hockey, he liked to drop his patented hip checks (don’t worry, he never landed one on the writer of these Takeaways). His Lancers eliminated us during the USHL Playoffs on the way to the Clark Cup. He then tortured me as a member of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, winning two National Championships during his time with the Gophs. I’ve got to admit, I never really liked the defenseman, mainly because he was always beating my team. Frankly, I hated his Maroon and Gold guts, that is, until he signed with Minnesota a couple of summers ago and I got to know him a little bit in the locker room and on the road. Turns out that he’s a good guy and people are able to drop old grudges (with a little bit of time).
Penalty killing is a tough job. If you’re a defenseman, you have to retrieve pucks out of the corners against forwards bearing down on you with a head full of steam. If you’re a forward, you have to stand in front of rocket one-timers without flinching. Typically, you want to stand closer to the shot coming off the stick. However, when the box is collapsing, sometimes you have to stand in there with several feet of daylight between you and the defenseman winding up. You can either stand in there and take it like the sparing partner of a heavyweight-boxing champion or do something that will quickly get you excommunicated from the PK: flamingo.
Flamingoing is the term for lifting your foot to avoid getting hit with the puck — like the pink bird in water. Tonight, Ryan Carter was left with the choice and he went down to one knee (Tebowing) and took a puck off the foot (ouch). Carter limped off the ice and headed down the hallway, but quickly returned to the bench and finished the game. That’s why he’s one of the Wild’s top killers.
The Wild has traditionally skated at home on the Friday following Thanksgiving. However, Minnesota will cut Turkey Day short and head to Dallas tomorrow before taking on the Stars on Friday. It will be only the second time in team history the Wild will play on the road on Black Friday, the other time being in 2010-11. The Wild is 6-5-1 all-time on the day after Thanksgiving.
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, Wild fans. Hopefully tonight’s game doesn’t spoil your appetite for tomorrow, but I’m sure you’ll have plenty of leftovers to snack on when the Wild looks to rebound in Big D on Friday.