Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 5-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers:
The National Hockey League’s three-day holiday break couldn’t have come at a better time for the Minnesota Wild. The club dropped its fourth-consecutive game, tonight losing to the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers, 5-2. Minnesota will need to reset during the break as it starts a tough run of games in January and make up ground in the Western Conference.
At the team’s morning skate, goaltender Niklas Backstrom was penciled in for the start in net. However, the netminder was hit with an illness and unable to go. Netminder Darcy Kuemper, who Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said he wanted to give a night off before the break, sprung into action. Yeo said that he wanted Kuemper to mentally reset, so could you imagine his surprise when he got the call that he’d be starting tonight.
This is the fourth time recently that a member of the Wild has been pulled from the lineup due to an illness leading up to game time (Kuemper, Jared Spurgeon and Mikael Granlund have all missed time with non-mumps illness). This has been one of the strangest seasons because of all the man games missed due to two unrelated strains. Typically, it’s injuries that derail a team’s health, not viruses. Hopefully the team can get healthy with its three days away from the rink. All the Wild wants for Christmas is a healthy second half of the season.
On Saturday night, I wrote a Takeaway about how I wouldn’t want to stand in front of a Shea Weber slap shot. Well, add Wild defenseman Marco Scandella to the list of slappers I’d try to avoid like Larry David attempts to dodge stop and chats. Just ask Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds about the velocity of Scandella’s shot. After an offensive zone faceoff win, the puck moved to Scandella at the left point. The blueliner wound up and hammered a bullet that hit Simmonds. The Flyers forward ended up nearly in the corner after getting knocked down by the shot.
The puck returned to Scandella, who made the most of his second opportunity with Simmonds out of the way. He recoiled and hammered a shot through traffic that cleanly beat Flyers goaltender Ray Emery. Zach Parise, who was screening on the play, knew better and ducked out of the way of the bomb.
Scandella’s clapper from the point isn’t as feared as Weber’s, but it is getting there. It was his third goal in the last four games and his eight snipes on the season has him tied for fifth amongst National Hockey League defensemen, two ahead of Weber.
Minnesota’s early-season struggles on the power play were well documented, and by well documented I mean talked about in the media like Sony pulling “The Interview” from theaters. Recently, the team has started to turn things around on the man advantage. Because of its recent struggles in other areas, the bourgeoning PP has been forgotten quicker than the Ebola crisis.
Charlie Coyle scored his first power play tally of the season, redirecting a Jason Pominville one-timer. Since Nov. 29, the Wild is tied for fourth in the NHL in power play goals. In its first 21 games, Minnesota scored only six times on the PP. The team has lit the lamp nine times in its last nine games.
The Wild scratched two second-year forwards tonight, Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine, which reminded me of a Christmas from my childhood. As a six-year-old, the only present I asked for on Christmas morning was Eggo waffles. However, my father gave me a waffle iron instead. When I unwrapped the present to find an iron and not Eggos, I cried and cried, thinking that my dad didn’t love me because I didn’t receive what I wanted. I didn’t know how to use a waffle iron or even make the batter. I was six and couldn’t even use a toaster. Little did I know at the time, resting my watery eyes upon that unadorned grey box, the iron ended up being the greatest and most memorable gift of my childhood. I learned how to make the batter and use the iron (mom still made them though), and we had delicious waffles for breakfast as a family for years and years to come.
What does this story have to do with the Minnesota Wild or hockey? Well, sometimes individuals have to delay instant gratification (Eggos) for the long haul (iron), as the team builds for the bigger picture (delicious family breakfasts). No player ever wants to be sat as a healthy scratch and can be hard to swallow in that moment; much like receiving a Christmas gift you don’t want. However, sometimes getting scratched can be the best thing for them in long run, though they don’t see it that way at the time. Once they swallow the lump in their throat and realize what is at stake, they can enjoy waffles, er, games for a long productive career.
Tonight’s game might’ve been a lump of coal for the Wild, but they’ve definitely been nice this holiday season. If you frequent Wild.com, you’ll notice the website is running a series of holiday videos. Stick tap to Minnesota’s social gal Katlyn Gambill and video bro Dusty Peterson for getting those together. The recent string of losses might be disappointing, but the team spread some holiday cheer in the videos. Today, the team concentrated on Holiday Music, while previous videos have featured favorite gifts and traditions. Check back tomorrow for the final video, everyone’s favorite topic (at least Ryan Stanzel’s): Holiday Food. Happy Holidays from Wild.com, WildTV and Wild Social!