Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens:
Now that game had a little bit of everything that makes hockey the best sport in the world: speed, skill and physicality. With the National Hockey League’s realignment, the League also implemented a rule that each team in the Western Conference will face each team in the Eastern Conference twice, once at home and once on the road.
Sometimes as a fan, the concern is that the games against an unfamiliar opponent might not have the intensity of a division rival. This wasn’t the case tonight. It was only the 12th time the Wild and Canadiens faced each other, but there was no lack of physical play or intensity. Without dropping the gloves, both teams finished checks and played an entertaining brand of hockey.
Three key pieces of the Wild returned to the lineup tonight after missing significant time. Keith Ballard, Jonas Brodin and Charlie Coyle all returned against the Canadiens. Coyle missed the most time with a knee sprain, suffered in only the second game of the season. Ballard and Brodin both took pucks to the face and Brodin wore a full mask to protect a broken cheekbone. Ballard made an immediate impact, assisting on Justin Fontaine’s first period goal and picked up another on Jason Pominville’s game-winner. Coyle looked like he missed no time, getting two good looks in the opening period that forced Habs goaltender Carey Price into making a pair of big saves. Brodin did his usual Brodin things, but looked like a high school player with his bubble cage, which was kind of a weird sight to see. Well, I guess he doesn’t look that much older than a high school kid, so we should be used to it by now.
Throughout a season, every team in the NHL will be forced to miss man-games due to injury. It always happens. It’s a testament to the team’s depth at all positions that the Wild is able to keep rolling along without having some impactful players on the ice. All three have spent time on both the power play and penalty kill units and all three are a welcome addition back into the lineup.
Well it finally happened, Mikael Granlund passed to someone besides Pominville. Of course, it came after the two hooked up for the Wild’s second goal of the game. Pominville and Granlund skated into the offensive zone on an odd-man rush. Pominville cut high, Granlund pulled up, but instead of giving it back to his favorite target, he fooled everyone in the building by making a pin-point pass to Nino Niederreiter, who redirected it into the top corner.
Pominville got his revenge on his best friend for not passing to him in the third, as Zach Parise and Ballard assisted his game winner. All kidding aside, I don’t think we need to keep talking about the way that Pominville and Granlund are able to find each other. Late in the third, they tried to turn the tables, as Pominville fed Granlund for a one-timer, but Price made a big save. When Granlund gets his first goal of the season, my bet is Pominville picks up the assist.
Some coaches are known for switching line combinations like they are changing clothes. Coming into the season, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wasn’t one of those coaches. However, with the team struggling to score and an injury to Coyle, the team’s bench boss has been moving things around like pieces on a chessboard.
This is a credit to Yeo for not being satisfied and continuing to look for winning combinations. Via various social media outlets (I know, I should stay off there) a lot of fans have questioned the line shuffling. Well, that’s why tweeps aren’t in charge of NHL clubs. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, the Wild wasn’t broken, but it was having trouble scoring 5-on-5 goals, so Yeo shook things up. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to light a fire and the Wild put up four tonight all at even strength. Looks like the strategy is starting to work.
Tonight kicked off one of our favorite months in the National Hockey League: Movember. Yes, one of the reasons we love Movember is because of all the sweet soup strainers around the league, but the movement is more than growing out a moustache for a month. Movember’s goal is to raise awareness and funds for cancers affecting men.
This season, Zenon Konopka will captain the Wild Mo Bros. Go to Wild.com/movember to see all the action from your favorite moustached men. Tonight, before the game, media members including FOX Sports North’s Kevin Gorg and Mike Greenlay got a clean shave before the game and are joining the team. With so many youngsters on the team this season, the real question that is on my mind: Who will have the worst (which also turns out to be the best) moustache? Early money is on Brodin at 3 to 1, but Granlund is right behind him. Jared Spurgeon looks like Magnum P.I. compared to those two.