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 loss against the New York Rangers:
College students coming back from spring break often find it difficult to jump back into class on Monday after seven days of living it up in Mexico. While the Minnesota Wild’s four-day respite was far from an island vacation, it came at a time when the team was hotter than a co-ed’s sunburn. So, the first day back in class after a spring break, the Wild found itself in a 2-0 first period hole to the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers.
Despite falling behind, the Wild showed its moxie in trying to battle back. There were plenty of signs of compete from the Wild, including several blocked shots on many Rangers power plays. The club fought, clawed and scrapped to even the game in the third period. However, New York came out on top and, in the process, clinched the Metropolitan Division title.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wants the club to play with desperation and it will get another chance to pick up more ground in the Western Conference on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wild had a four-day layoff before tonight’s tilt. For a team that was as hot as an armpit in a sauna, the break wasn’t necessarily wanted. Yeo talked about how he would’ve preferred to just keep on rolling along. In the first period, the club showed some signs of rust, its passing wasn’t as crisp as it had been in previous outings. Despite the sluggish start, the Wild had plenty in the tank in the second and third periods. The club looked like it had as much jump as it has had in the last month.
With five games remaining on the schedule against teams all primed in playoff positioning, the reprieve should play out to be more beneficial than harmful for the club overall. The team’s February and March schedule was a bear (trust me, I’m fatigued and I only type) and it had a chance to reset for the stretch run. Rest versus rust is always a question during an extended break, but the corrosion quickly fades and having jump is better than dead legs.
Tonight’s contest was a good example of the when-in-doubt-throw-the-puck-on-net strategy. Both of the Wild’s goals came from defenseman Matt Dumba, not necessarily putting the puck on goal, but putting it towards the net.
On Jason Pominville’s second period tally, he and Zach Parise were in the blue-paint area. Dumba took a pass on the rush and lofted a backhand towards the Rangers’ cage. The puck ricocheted off of Pominville and past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Down in the third, Minnesota was putting everything on net and Dumba launched a rocket one-timer. Though the biscuit went wide of the target, it bounced off the boards to Tommy on the spot, Thomas Vanek, who slammed home his 21st of the year.
From the New York state of mind, the club’s second goal came from a bad angle. Rangers forward Rick Nash was set up on the goal line on the right side and threw one at Dubnyk. The puck banked off the goaltender, one he’d like to have back.
It seems like the leaves were turning vibrant colors the last time the Wild was a healthy club. Now, with the trees starting to bud with spring, the club is looking healthy again. Tonight, Kyle Brodziak returned to lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury suffered during a fight with Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brodziak was immediately thrown into a familiar shorthanded role tonight. At the end of the second period with 56 seconds remaining, the center was on the ice as the Wild was down 5-on-3. To make matters worse, he broke his stick with several seconds left on the clock. No matter, the forward did his best silverback gorilla imitation, swinging his arms low to try and intimidate the Rangers power play out of shooting. Going after a loose puck, he went full-on Donkey Kong throwing barrels trying to swipe the puck out of the zone with his glove. The crowd and teammates gave the forward a hero’s welcome as he left the ice after time expired in the period.
This week, defenseman Nate Prosser (lower-body) and forward Matt Cooke (sports hernia) also returned to practice. Once they are healthy, Yeo will have some tough lineup choices to make (it’s already started, actually; Erik Haula was a healthy scratch tonight). However, it’s better to have depth, players to plug in and working for spots, than not enough capable bodies.
The Wild kicked off the first of its annual Fan Celebration to close out the season. Tonight, all fans receive a scratch-and-win card upon entry. Prizes included Wild jerseys, autographed memorabilia and Sun Country airline vouchers.
Saturday marks the popular “Jerseys Off Our Backs” night, as the club hosts the Detroit Red Wings at 6 p.m. Random fans will be selected to receive game-worn jerseys delivered and autographed by the players themselves in a special on-ice postgame ceremony.
For the final home game of the regular season, Minnesota skates against division-rival Winnipeg on Monday. All fans in attendance will receive a commemorative team poster crafted by the hotshots in the Wild’s creative department.