Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-1 loss against the Nashville Predators:
As the Wild continues to search for a winning answer, it was a contentious end to another Central Division game, as the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators showed the bad blood in the relationship. Matt Cooke and Shea Weber had a run-in, as did Nate Prosser and Mike Fisher. With the Preds taking the National Hockey League lead in points at 60, the hostilities in the Central will be on high alert the next time these two clubs meet in Nashville on Feb. 26.
For the second consecutive game, the Wild outshot its opponent, but couldn’t solve the opposing netminder. Pekka Rinne (who we’ll discuss later) was on his game, making 36 saves and earning the game’s First Star.
Charlie Coyle scored the Wild’s lone goal, a backdoor tap-in that Rinne lost track of. It was Coyle’s fourth goal of the season. Assisting was Christian Folin and Nino Niederreiter, who marked his 20th point of the season (14-6=20).
Zach Parise returned to the Wild lineup after missing the previous two games to be with his family during a difficult time: the passing of his father, J.P. Parise. Yesterday, Zach met with the media to talk about his father and smiled when he said that his dad would’ve been disappointed that he didn’t play in the two previous games. However, it’s hard to imagine what kind of emotions Zach skated with today. J.P., a former Minnesota North Stars forward, and his son were tight, and the father taught Zach the game. Hopefully, the ice rink is a place where Zach can get momentarily forget about the pain that he’s carrying.
Parise brought his typical tenacity and hard work, lessons he learned from his father. The forward registered the game’s first shot on goal and tirelessly pushed forward the rest of the game firing three shots on goal and skated in 23:08 TOI.
Today, Parise was on a line with Thomas Vanek and Erik Haula. It was apparent that Vanek was trying to feed Parise and try to get him a goal today. In the first period, Vanek crossed the blue line with the puck, held up and waited for Parise, who used a speed burst to create more separation. The Austrian forward launched a saucer pass and Parise whacked a backhand one-timer on net. Reading the play, it was only a sliding save from Rinne that kept the puck out of the net.
Later in the period, Vanek had a step on Weber. As he skated down the right side of the ice, the blueliner was closing the gap. Vanek faked a shot and tried to make a backhand pass to Parise, who was racing up the left side, but his pass was out of reach. If it would’ve connected, it would’ve been a tap-in for Parise, but it was just out of reach. If Vanek had to do it again, he probably would shoot, but was clearly trying to get his teammate a goal today.
Forward Ryan Carter has been a good physical addition to the Wild this season. The White Bear Lake native is willing to mix it up with anyone and is always around the opponent’s crease creating havoc. Today, he had a little run in with Nashville defenseman Victor Bartley, the two had words after Carter gave Bartley a good crosscheck to the ribs after Rinne covered the puck.
Later in the period, Carter finished a hard check on Bartley in front of the penalty boxes. After the hit, Nashville forward Paul Gaustad challenged Carter on Bartley’s behalf, and the two dropped the gloves. Carter put Gaustad in a headlock and the Preds forward’s helmet popped off. I’m not sure why, but as soon as there was a little separation between the combatants, the linesmen immediately jumped in and ended the fight. Maybe linesman Steve Barton is a fellow Minnesota State University, Mankato alum, because the two shared a tender moment following the tussle. NHL.com correspondent Dan Myers was totally peanut butter and jealous of Barton.
At the midway point of the National Hockey League regular season, Rinne is the clear-cut favorite for the Vezina Trophy. After struggling through injuries last season, Rinne has returned to form and led the surprising Preds to the top of the NHL standings. Coming into today’s matinee, the netminder had the most wins (27), third in goals-against average (2.00) and fourth in save percentage (.929). Although goaltenders never win the Hart Trophy, Rinne has to be under consideration this year.
Rinne is a supremely athletic netminder, producing saves that would make a contortionist pull a hammy when he gets caught out of position. As a big goaltender, his size also plays a large role when opposing shooters stare him down. With Rinne taking up so much space between the pipes, shooters often try to pick a corner and frequently blast pucks wide of the net, rather than just putting it on goal.