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 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators:
The day after the National Hockey League’s Trade Deadline, the Minnesota Wild might’ve debuted some new faces at Xcel Energy Center. However, the club brought the same effort that has catapulted the team back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Acquired at the deadline yesterday, both defenseman Jordan Leopold and forward Chris Stewart (more on both of them in a moment) were in the lineup and contributed to the team’s 14th win since the All-Star Break. Sean Bergenheim, who the Wild picked up last week, skated in his first game in front of the home faithful and his chippy play dug under the Senators skin. The newcomers still need to acclimatize and adjust to their new teammates and systems, but we saw glimpses of what they can bring to the lineup.
When the Wild selected Dumba with the seventh pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, I immediately started watching YouTube clips of blueliner. It seemed like every highlight was a big shot, a rush from the backend or a crushing hit. In the elevator at the hotel in Pittsburgh, I mentioned this to Minnesota General Manager Chuck Fletcher, who responded, “He certainly is explosive.” Since being recalled from Iowa on Jan. 29, we’ve seen that explosiveness. Tonight, his first goal, a one-timer from the top of the left circle was a bomb.
The blueliner notched the first two-goal game of his career. He has four in his last seven games since being recalled and is tied for third amongst goals by a rookie defenseman (6). With the injury to Jared Spurgeon, and now Marco Scandella, there is a void to fill on the blue line. The Wild’s greenest defenseman has taken the need for an increased role and started to blossom with the opportunity.
A day after another active trade deadline for the Wild, the team’s two newest members debuted against the Senators. Completing a trilogy of NHL Trade Deadline Days, Minnesota acquired a forward from the Buffalo Sabres. Stewart is happy to be on a playoff contender after spending nearly two seasons on the last-place Sabres. A change of scenery can be a great thing for a player, while moving to a contender can be exciting and motivating.
Stewart played with some pep in his step in his first game in front of the home faithful. In the first period, he laid a big hit on Sens defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, which drew a roar from the crowd. The forward brings size (listed at 6-foot-2, 231-pounds) and physicality to the team’s lineup. He also has the ability to chip in offensively by going strong to the net. Last season, when Matt Moulson was acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline he didn’t produce the amount of goals the Wild would’ve liked from him. One good thing about picking up a player with size and grit: physical play doesn’t go into slumps. If he can continue to bring energy, and occasionally add to the offense, Stewart will be a hit in Minnesota.
The State of Hockey is very familiar with the Wild’s other Deadline Day addition. The club acquired Minnesota native, Jordan Leopold, from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Justin Falk and a 2015 fifth-round pick. Drawing more attention then the actual deal was the letter Leopold’s daughter, Jordyn, wrote. Somewhat overlooked by viral nature of the media’s attention span, was the fact that the Wild picked up capable veteran blueliner, whose game should fit in with the team.
In his first game back in the State of Hockey, the former Golden Gopher was quickly thrust into action. Defenseman Nate Prosser was sick, tried to play, but left during the second period and didn’t return. So with only five Wild blueliners, Leopold had an expanded role in the game. In the opening period, he nearly scored on a one-timer from the point through traffic. In the third, he was a big part of the team’s perfect PK against the Sens, at one point blocking a shot and clearing the puck out of harm’s way. Leopold skated in 17:19, fired two shots on goal, blocked four shots and was steady on the blue.
While he wasn’t acquired at the deadline, it was the addition of goaltender Devan Dubnyk that turned around the club’s fate. The netminder set a franchise record with his 21st straight start and was in net for a shootout for his first time with the club.
If you’ve seen any interviews or read anything on the netminder (time for a shameless plug: check out the latest Wild Magazine issue with Dubnyk on the cover, the feature story written by yours truly), he seems like a mild mannered, nice guy. However, once he straps on the pads, it’s a different story. The 6-foot-6 goaltender likes to mix it up with opponents trying to jockey for position around his crease. In the team’s last outing, he body slammed Cody McLeod after the Avs forward pushed him into the net for a goal. Tonight, with the Sens on the power play, he chopped the back of Alex Chiasson’s legs like he was making kindling. I’d ask the netminder what gets him so riled up, but I’m kind of afraid to ask. Even his celebrations are looking kind of violent these days.