Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens:
The Minnesota Wild was missing a key cog tonight and needed all hands on deck against the Montreal Canadiens. Minnesota was without Ryan Suter for the first time since the blueliner signed with the club in 2012. The team’s D-corps stepped up in a big way. The trio of Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin all played more than 25 minutes in the game, and helped limit the Habs to only 19 shots. It was only a late desperation goal that broke goaltender Darcy Kuemper’s shutout.
While the defense held good neutral zone gaps to keep the Canadiens’ forwards out of transition, the forwards did their part on the forecheck. Missing one of its stars, it was a team-effort victory for Minnesota. The Wild continues to pour shots like a popular bartender, throwing 35 tries on Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. In total, 10 players had multi-shot games, while Jason Zucker had a team high of five (more on him in a moment).
The Wild had a big void on the blue line tonight with Suter missing the game with an illness (the team is hopeful it’s not the same strain that has been floating around the locker room). Suter is the National Hockey League’s ice time leader since joining the Wild and as strong as his lungs are, he’s also been an ironman. Tonight was the first game he’s missed since putting on a Wild in 2012, ending a streak of 153-consecutive games. That roughly equals the amount of ice a polar bear sees in a lifetime.
In his absence, the Wild relied on a bevy of its young blueliners against the Canadiens. The club recalled Folin from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League yesterday and he tallied his first assist of the season. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he wanted Folin to be more aggressive this go-round and tonight he followed the directive. In the second period, he ripped a high shot after a faceoff win that was redirected in by Jason Pominville. The forward was more trying to get out of the way of the high, hard heater from Folin and somehow duck-and-tipped it past Price. In the final period, Folin took a hit from behind from Eric Tangradi, who was ejected and given a five-minute misconduct. After seeking the attention of athletic trainer Don Fuller, Folin was back on the ice and finished the game.
There’s nothing better than a quick start in hockey and the Wild came out firing. The team scored faster than it takes to get through the drive-in at McDonalds, lighting the lamp only 19 seconds into the contest. Of course, the goal came from one of the team’s speediest forwards, Zucker. The wing’s 10th goal of the season is a good reminder that good things happen when you put the puck on the net.
After clean faceoff win by Mikko Koivu at the left dot in Montreal’s zone, Zucker picked up the puck and circled around towards the goal line. From a nearly impossible angle, he took a high shot towards Price’s blocker. The puck bounced around on Price’s back, like Happy Gilmour’s putt to win the Gold Jacket at the Tour Championship, before going to its home behind the netminder. The price was right for Zucker.
Prior to the game, the 2014 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class dropped a ceremonial puck at center ice. Tomorrow night Karyn Bye Dietz, Brian Rafalski, Jeff Sauer and Lou Vairo will be formally enshrined into the Hall during an induction ceremony and dinner at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center. Additionally, the celebration will have a presentation of the Lester Patrick Trophy to Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the National Hockey League and Paul Holmgren, president of the Philadelphia Flyers. Bob O'Connor will receive the USA Hockey Builders Award.
This year’s class has a couple of State of Hockey ties. Bye Dietz was employed by the Wild during its formative years, helping grow the game on a grassroots level. She also was a television analyst for the Girls’ High School State Hockey Tournament. Sauer is a Saint Paul native and crossed the border to become a legendary college coach at the University of Wisconsin.
Stick tap to the 2014 U.S. Hall of Famers.
The Canadiens played tonight’s game with heavy hearts as new of one of the franchise’s all-time greats, Jean Beliveau, passed away at the age of 83 yesterday. Beliveau was one of the game’s most respected superstars, whose grace on the ice was matched by his conduct off it. There has been an outpouring of stories, tributes and kind words in regards to the former Montreal captain. One of my favorites comes from Stephen Brunt, who gives an anecdote about Beliveau, unprompted, calling his father-in-law, who was terminally sick with cancer. It is one of the many stories about Beliveau, the man, which have come out today. Before the game, the Wild played a video tribute for Beliveau and observed a moment of silence, along with Murray Oliver, the former Minnesota North Star who passed away on Nov. 23.
Of course on the ice, the former Habs captain lead the team to 10 Stanley Cups, won the Hart Trophy three times and was the first recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1965. I was far too young to have seen him play, but followed the Canadiens as a youngster and found many stories of how Beliveau was a class act. The way that he handled himself on and off the ice is a lesson that even those of us who never had a chance to witness his greatness can take away.
Rest in peace, Jean Beliveau.