Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 7-3 loss against the Nashville Predators:
The Wild’s drive to 100 points came up just short (98) in the team’s final regular season game. The Wild jumped out to a first period lead, but the Predators came back with six unanswered goals.
Despite the loss, there were a couple of highlights to pull from the game. Jason Pominville hit a couple of season milestones (we’ll get to those) and Zach Parise scored to fall just short of 30 goals (Parise ends with 29). Rookie Erik Haula netted his sixth goal of the season by using his speed and breaking wide, then capped the play with a second-effort backhander. On the play, Jared Spurgeon set a career-high for assists in a season with 21.
In the game, Ilyz Bryzgalov was handed his first loss in a Wild sweater (7-1-3). Nashville bombed pucks from the blue line with players crashing in front to create screens on the netminder. Bryzgalov didn’t finish the game, as John Curry came in for the third period.
In his first full year in Minnesota, Pominville had a banner season, playing in all 82 games and leading the team in scoring (30-30=60). It was the ninth time a Wild player has hit the mark and he becomes the third player (Marian Gaborik and Brian Rolston) to net 30.
Pominville has been an offensive force all season, showing that he can score in a multitude of ways. He was the game’s Second Star and after the game was presented with the 2013-14 Coke Zero 3-Star Award for racking up the most game stars during the season. It is the third time that Pominville has hit the 30-goal mark and sixth time he’s cracked the 60-point mark.
Tonight, Kyle Brodziak ended an iron man streak. After playing in 231 consecutive games, Brodziak felt some discomfort in practice yesterday and was held out for precautionary measures. So, the Wild had to make some adjustments to the lineup.
Nino Niederreiter moved to center for the first time this year between Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine. As you might expect, he had a tough time in the faceoff circle, but held his own in the defensive end while playing a physical game. Jonathon Blum, who typically is on the blue line, was moved to the fourth-line wing with Stephane Veilleux and Cody McCormick. Hopefully the Wild will go into the postseason healthy, and everyone else gets the rest they need. It looks like Mikael Granlund is nearing return after rejoining the team in practice.
Tonight marked the return of Clayton Stoner on the blue line. The defenseman missed the previous 10 games with a lower-body injury. The big blueliner stepped right in and was the physical presence you’d expect. He threw his 6-foot-4, 216-pound frame around in the defensive zone. In the second period, he laid a huge hit on Patric Hornqvist. He also stuck up for teammates, something we’ve come to expect from the 29-year-old. When Shea Weber was going after Matt Cooke, Stoner came in and threw Weber into a headlock and pulled him off the smaller Cooke.
Come playoff time, teams will need to be physical and have depth at all positions. Stoner brings both of those elements when he’s in the lineup. Sometimes, it takes game action to regain your timing, including when throwing hits. So getting him into the mix and acclimated to game speed before the playoffs begins was important.
We learned earlier today that the Wild’s first round opponent is the Colorado Avalanche. The Wild and Avs will kick things off in Colorado on Thursday, April 17. This season, the Avs took the series, but the Wild outshot Colorado in all but one game. With the Avalanche winning the Central Division, the series will start in Denver and they’ll have home ice advantage. Games 3, 4 and 6 (if necessary) will be at Xcel Energy Center.
Here’s Minnesota’s Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoffs Schedule (all times central):
Game 1 – Thursday, 4/17, Minnesota at Colorado, 8:30 p.m.
Game 2 – Saturday, 4/19, Minnesota at Colorado, 8:30 p.m.
Game 3 – Monday, 4/21, Colorado at Minnesota, 6:00 p.m.
Game 4 – Thursday, 4/24, Colorado at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m.
Game 5 – Saturday, 4/26, Minnesota at Colorado, TBA (if necessary)
Game 6 – Monday, 4/28, Colorado at Minnesota, TBA (if necessary)
Game 7 – Wednesday, 4/30, Minnesota at Colorado, TBA (if necessary)
We should know the television schedule tomorrow and all games will be broadcast on KFAN 100.3 FM.