Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he'll look back at a 2-0 win over the San Jose Sharks:
The Wild extended its winning streak to five games today with a 2-0 victory over the Sharks this afternoon. I’m beginning to think the Wild really likes matinee games, as the club wins its second-straight Saturday afternoon contest. Get in early, punch in, put on the hard hat, get a win and get out.
After a scoreless first period, the Wild took advantage of two power play opportunities and never looked back (well, they looked back at Niklas Backstrom as he was lights out again tonight, but we’ll get to that in a minute). Although time expired on the club’s first goal, and it won’t officially be scored as a PP goal, it was set up on the man advantage. Mikko Koivu ragged the puck towards the blue line and made a pinpoint, cross-ice pass right onto the tape of Zach Parise. The Wild forward buried it over the Sharks’ netminder Antti Niemi for his team-leading 12th goal of the season.
We’ll talk about the Wild’s third-period, power play goal momentarily, but lets get back to the game’s first star…
It really didn’t matter what the Sharks threw at the Wild’s netminder tonight because he continues to backstop the team on its current run. During the club’s winning streak Backstrom has, at times, looked unbeatable. Tonight he was, posting his first shutout of the year. He was named the game’s first star and rightfully so.
With the inclusions of shootouts at the end of overtime during regular-season NHL games, we sometimes forget about the skater-vs-goaltender’s big brother, the original: The penalty shot.
In the first period, Andrew Desjardins was tripped from behind, as he broke in on Backstrom alone. The Sharks’ forward had a clean break negated and the ref awarded him a penalty shot. Desjardins probably doesn’t get too many opportunities in shootouts, as he tried to fire it high to the blocker side. Backstrom easily turned away the shot like he was brushing a fly off his shoulder. No problem.
Jared Spurgeon doesn’t have the hardest shot on the Wild, but he released the Kraken today. Spurgeon typically relies on accuracy more than power, but his third period goal was a combination of both. Ryan Suter slipped a pass right into Spurgeon’s wheelhouse and he went against the grain, high over Antti Niemi’s glove as the netminder was sliding across the crease.
With so many left-handed playmakers on the Wild’s top power play unit (Koivu, Parise and Suter), the right-handed Spurgeon has reaped the benefits. The blueliner has already set a career-high for power play goals (3) through 21 games. He and Suter are beginning to find some power play chemistry, and with Kyle Brodziak doing the dirty work in front screening the opposing goaltender, the defenseman are finding goals more often.
Torrey Mitchell is a mild mannered guy who almost always sports a smile around the rink. Pretty much seems like one of those dudes who is pretty relaxed and doesn’t get too fired up. Well, that was what I thought until I saw him throw down in the second period with Tommy Wingels. The two didn’t make a big production out of it, as they were skating towards the bench jawing at each other. They quickly dropped the gloves and engaged, but it was more like they threw them to the ice and exchanged blows in a good-old-fashioned hockey fight.
Neither players is ‘known’ for dropping the gloves, but that was pretty good scrap, with Mitchell landing a late round TKO. You don’t know if there was some bad blood spilling over from last season, as the two were teammates last year in San Jose. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter because I learned something today, as did Wingels. Don’t mess with Torrey Mitchell.
With the energy building during the National Hockey League’s playoff push, all 30 NHL arenas pledge to observe the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour in order to conserve energy in arenas league wide. It is the second consecutive season the NHL has participated in world’s largest annual public action for the environment.
Today, all NHL arenas will join hundreds of millions of homes and businesses worldwide, switching-off non-essential lighting for one hour. Xcel Energy Center will participate from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., State of Hockey Time tonight. I’ll participate by shutting down my computer and not responding to any emails or tweets, so don’t try to hit me up.
Stick tap to the NHL and all the clubs participating. Go environment!