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 New York Rangers
It’s okay to take a breath State of Hockey.
The Wild needed the full 60 minutes to come away with a victory against a tough Eastern Conference opponent. After three-straight losses (two in shootouts) Minnesota gets back in the win column with a hard-fought victory over the Rangers that came down to the wire. The Wild killed off a delay of game penalty on Kyle Brodziak (still don’t like that rule) with less than three minutes remaining, then Darcy Kuemper and the defense shut down New York with goaltender Cam Talbot off for an extra attacker. You know that the killers and the guys on the bench wanted to lock it down for Brodziak, after playing a solid game.
Brodziak helped get the Wild on the board first, with a hard-working setup. The center was in on the forecheck, finished a hit, then knocked the puck off Rangers forward Rick Nash’s stick. The puck went to Nino Niederreiter who was in the slot and slapped a one-timer past Talbot. The Rangers scored in the second on a Derek Stepan power play goal, which set up a tie game heading into the third…
Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville (the PPG Line) formed a fellowship (foreshadowing) in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 30. In the last 11 games, the line has combined for 33 points (12-21=33), including tonight’s game winner off the stick of Parise. The goal was actually a showcase of each of their skills. Up first, Granlund is becoming a wizard (more foreshadowing) with the puck. He sparked the play by coming out of the corner and cutting to the front of the net. The puck slipped to Pominville, who fought through a check to find the biscuit at the left side of the crease. The wing had a couple of whacks, and was denied. Parise, like a bloodhound, sniffed out the loose puck and finally chipped it home for his 23rd of the season. Head Coach Mike Yeo called each of the Wild’s tallies “playoff-like goals” because they came on second-effort chances. Overall, it was a playoff-like contest, with each team not giving an inch.
Back to Chekhov’s gun of this Takeaway: Granlund’s ongoing development as a magician. Granlund’s puck-handling ability is looking more and more like sorcery, as if he’s been dabbling in the dark arts. His name sounds a lot like everyone’s favorite white wizard, Gandalf. So…if we combine the two, what are we left with? Grandalf. Think about the nickname after a couple of puffs of Halflings' Leaf and let me know what you think.
Yesterday, Yeo called Kuemper a water-off-the-duck’s-back kind of guy. Parise said that he’s a bit cocky, in a good way, not the annoying, arrogant loudmouth way. Tonight, he showed a little bit of both; making 29 saves on his way to the Second Star of the Game. The most impressive thing about the 23-year-old, might be his ability to bounce back after a tough outing. He doesn’t seem to let a bad game derail him and comes back confident, like he did tonight.
In other goalie news, today was a positive step for netminder Josh Harding. He skated with goalie coach Bob Mason before the morning skate. While we don’t know if he’ll return this season, by all accounts, Harding is feeling much better after being placed on Injured Reserved Jan. 2 in his continued battle with multiple sclerosis, which is great news.
With the new realignment rules, all other 29 National Hockey League teams will visit Xcel Energy Center this season. This is great for two reasons, first, which we’ve discussed in this space prior, State of Hockey fans will see the superstar players residing in the Eastern Conference.
The second reason is cool for the players: Minnesotans returning home to skate in front of friends and family. Tonight, Hastings native Derek Stepan and Saint Paul product Ryan McDonagh were in the building, and judging by the spattering of Ranger blue in the stands, had quite a few friends and family visiting. There are so many players around the league with State of Hockey ties, whether they were born and raise here, have significant others from the state, or went to school in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it’s a opportunity for them to play in front of friends and family for a night.
Everyone knows hockey is a tough sport, even for those in the media. FOX Sports North Color Commentator Mike Greenlay was calling the game from in between the benches during the first period when he was clipped in the face by Mats Zuccarello’s errant high stick. Like a true hockey player, Greenlay took the shot to the noggin like a champ, hardly flinching. The former NHL goaltender continued to broadcast, with blood splattered all over his shirt while holding gauze underneath his left eye.
To the surprise of this writer, Greenlay stayed between the benches—aptly named the suicide box—for the rest of game. Stick tap to Greenly for not being a stereotypical prissy television guy concerned with whether or not his tie is on straight, getting zipped up with five stitches between periods and powering through the blow.