Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-0 shutout victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins:
The last two weeks of the National Hockey League regular season always seems a bit chaotic thanks to the multitude of teams trying to climb into the final few playoff spots. Actually, this Game of Thrones quote sums up the push for the final postseason spots quite nicely (Yes, the show starts its fourth season tomorrow, so if you’re not caught up, stop reading. You’ve been warned):
Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb. They refuse, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.
- Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
Sixteen teams in the League will make the climb into the postseason, and from there, attempt to ascend to the Iron Throne (the Stanley Cup). Just like when you play the game of thrones, in the NHL either you win or you die (well, actually you don’t die per se, you make a golf reservation). The Minnesota Wild is yet to lock up a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but continued its climb to the seventh Wild Card spot against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins. After four games away from home, the Wild knew the importance of this one and came out like a horde of Dothraki horsemen, jumping out to a three-goal first period lead…
Minnesota was as explosive as Wild Fire in the opening period. Erik Haula scored just 1:42 into the first period. After Matt Moulson chipped the puck behind the Pens defensemen and Haula flew faster than a raven to race around then batted in a backhander past goaltender Jeff Zatkoff.
Up next, it was the Wild’s captain Mikko Koivu attacking like a dire wolf. On a two-on-two rush through the neutral zone, Zach Parise (who we’ll talk about a little bit later) moved the puck to his center on the right side and headed to the net. Koivu delayed, cut to the middle of the ice and fired a low wrister against the grain with Parise crashing the crease to create a screen. The shot was as true as an arrow from Ygritte’s bow and found a hole past Zatkoff.
Stephane Veilleux was rewarded for his hard work and capped the first-period run. In fact, the entire fourth line played like dragons tonight, which deserves its own Takeaway…
Veilleux has been a loyal Wild banner man this season, doing whatever the coaching staff asks of him whenever he is called upon. His goal came off a hard working play, typical of the type of effort the veteran brings every time he’s on the ice. After getting the puck in deep, Veilleux charged forward like Khaleesi‘s army of the Unsullied. He finished a check on Brooks Orpik, causing the defenseman to throw the puck up the wall. Cody McCormick was in perfect position to intercept and moved it to Veilleux in the slot for a one-time goal.
After sitting three-games as a healthy scratch, McCormick moved to center for the first time with the Wild and, along with the assist, scored his first goal in a Minnesota sweater. McCormick isn’t as big as the Hound, but he might be as tough. Last week against the St. Louis Blues, McCormick was cut and received stitches on his eyelid. I asked him about it and the forward said they were unable to use Novocain because it was too close to his eyeball, so instead they “freezed” it, while he kept his eye open and looked up at the ceiling. Nothing on the ice seems to frighten the forward and he played that way again tonight. No word on whether or not he fears fire like Sandor Clegane.
Man built the Wall to keep the wild things out of Westeros. Well, Minnesota General Manager Chuck Fletcher traded for Ilya Bryzgalov to keep the Wild in games down the stretch and it’s paid off with the netminder improving his record to 5-0-3 since joining the club. Tonight, he must’ve resembled a 500-foot block of ice to the Penguins. Bryz protected the Wild net like the Night’s Watch protects the Realm, making 20 saves for his second shutout with Minnesota. He was rewarded with the game’s First Star.
Bryzgalov’s best save came in the second period on dangerous Pens sniper, James Neal. With Pittsburgh trailing and pressuring, Neal found himself wide open in the slot after a cross-ice pass. It looked like it would be a sure goal for the Pens, but Bryzgalov’s paddle came out of nowhere like the Red Wedding, and the stop was the dagger in the gut of the Penguins. The Lannisters send their regards.
Tonight on Koivu’s goal, Parise notched his 500th career point. He added another assist, setting up McCormick’s goal, too. It was his 115th career multi-point game and 12th this season, tying Koivu for team lead. The Wild is now 9-1-2 when Parise has a multi-point game this season and 26-4-7 when he tallies at least one point.
If Parise were in the Game of Thrones, he’d fit in best with the House of Stark. He plays an honest game and lives by the code of hard work. Opposite the Starks, however, Parise often finds himself in the right place at the right time, scoring goals around the net. Let’s just hope that Parise doesn’t follow the Stark’s storyline whatsoever and stays away from red themed weddings, impetuous inbred monarchs and backstabbing Iron Born.