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 overtime win against the Nashville Predators:
It was only fitting that on the Wild’s final game before the Olympic break, a Sochi-bound player would play the role of hero. With a point hanging in the balance in overtime, Nino Niederreiter flew into the zone, made a quick stick move and fired a puck past Predators’ goaltender Carter Hutton’s blocker 2:16 into sudden death.
It was the second-consecutive game with a goal for Niederreiter, who will represent Team Switzerland in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Games. Of course, we’ll get into the Olympians in a few takes.
Tonight, the Wild wanted to end things on a high note and earned the win with a complete team effort against its Central Division rival. Minnesota outshot the Preds, 36-18, scored on the power play and snuffed out any chances when it looked like Nashville was attempting a rally. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said before the game that he wanted the boys to bring a playoff-like mentality, and the team brought that type of mindset and effort into tonight. The win was a great way to leave things heading into the break.
Also heading to Sochi and scoring tonight was Team USA captain, Zach Parise. The forward scored his 19th of the season on a beautifully executed passing play on the man advantage, and quite possibly a better shot. The puck started at the right point on the stick of another Olympian, Ryan Suter. He moved it to the half-wall to Jason Pominville, who found Dany Heatley in the slot. The big winger was in position to shoot, but moved it all the way to the left side onto Parise’s stick.
Parise took the pass in stride and snapped a high wrist shot over Hutton’s blocker. Let’s hope we see a lot more of that in Sochi (and when Minnesota returns to action on Feb. 27 in Edmonton when the regular season resumes against the Oilers). The Wild must’ve found a chink in the netminder’s armor because all three of Minnesota’s goals beat Hutton on the blocker side…
With Marco Scandella out of the lineup, the Wild had to change some things around on the blue line. Jonas Brodin moved alongside Nate Prosser, and in the process moved to the left side. For most of his time with the Wild, the left-handed Brodin has been teamed with Ryan Suter and has played on the right point—his offside. Playing on the left side paid dividends tonight.
Niederreiter created an offensive zone turnover, stealing the puck from Preds defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Brodin saw this and jumped into open ice down the left side. Niederreiter zipped a cross-ice pass onto the tape of Brodin, who took a strides and fired home a wrister low past Carter Hutton’s blocker.
Coincidentally, Blackhawks blueliner and a member of Team Sweden’s roster, Johnny Oduya has been sidelined with a lower-body injury. Double coincidentally, Brodin is from Sweden. Interesting. Well, the tourney starts on Wednesday and in case Oduya can’t participate I know a guy who would love to take his spot…
Before the game, the Wild organization honored players from both clubs in a send-off celebration before they head to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Wild will be well represented at the Games with five players on their countries rosters. Parise and Suter (for the second time each) will represent the United States, Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu are set to skate for Finland, and Niederreiter will play for Switzerland. Of course, Koivu has been out since Jan. 4 after having surgery, so his availability is still up in the air. On the other side of the ice, the Predators will send Shea Weber (Canada), Roman Josi and Simon Moser (both Switzerland) to Russia.
As great as the ceremony was, it produced something even better (at least to me) this Gold Medal worthy photobomb from Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine. Get to the podium for two-man photobomb and fire up O Canada.
Sure, it will be tough to go a few weeks without Wild hockey, but the Olympics are worth it. Ever since the National Hockey League has allowed its player to participate in the Games, it has been can’t-miss event. Obviously, I’m a huge homer and will be rocking red, white and blue for two weeks, but this is the best tournament with the best players in the world. Along with the other events, I’m excited to watch some great hockey (especially as a fan). Let’s get it going…USA! USA! USA!
There is an underground movement (I’m looking NHL.com’s and Wild.com contributor Dan Myers) to bring back the home whites. For those of you who didn’t follow hockey pre-2003 and don’t know what “home whites” means, the NHL home teams used to wear white sweaters in their own barns. Only in the last decade has the home team worn colored sweaters. There are a number of reasons for this, but now is not the time nor place to get into the reasons. Anyway, the Wild wore white at home tonight against the Preds and they looked magnificent.
All fans in attendance were given white Wild T-shirts and asked to wear them for a Polar Vortex night. While many complied, there were still specks of other colors infiltrating Xcel Energy Center tonight. The Polar Vortex attempt was promoted on Wild.com all week and via the club’s social media channels, so there’s no excuse for being unaware about the blizzard-like conditions of a white maelstrom the team was trying to create inside the building. If you’re reading this now and didn’t wear white or throw on the shirt, I guess you’re too cool for school. If you did wear white, you get an A+ in meteorology.