Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 7-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning:
Tonight’s game started out about as quickly as an ice road trucker carrying a payload of bricks. Through the first eight minutes of the game, the Minnesota Wild registered the game’s lone shot on goal. Then the ice melted and the Wild took off like a racecar, scoring on its next two shots and a total of four in the first period. The scoring touch continued as the club added two goals in the second period and one in the third.
Hockey can be a funny game. Coming into the contest, the Wild’s team shooting percentage was 6.67. Tonight, Minnesota improved that dramatically. After two periods the team racked up six tallies on only 14 shots on goal, and seven on a game total of 22. The Wild’s shooting percentage was 31.8, the fourth highest percentage in the team’s history.
The Wild remained unbeaten on home ice, moving to 3-0-0 at Xcel Energy Center. One stat that did fall: the team finally gave up a goal on in the State of Hockey. Good thing it came in a contest with offensive cushion. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper earned his fourth win with 19 saves.
One thing that made this year’s incarnation of the Wild look so appealing was its potential depth of scoring. Well, tonight we saw that potential come to fruition as the team had goals from six different players. All four lines and two defensemen netted goals for the club tonight. The last time the Wild had six different goal scorers was on Oct. 7, 2006, a 6-5 win against the Nashville Predators. The last time that the Wild posted seven in a game: a 7-4 win in Dallas on March 25, 2013.
Minnesota scored in a variety of ways tonight, including a breakaway shorthanded goal from Jason Zucker. It was a two-goal game for Zucker and the forward now leads the Wild with four tallies. Three players scored their first markers of the season: defenseman Marco Scandella (more on him in a moment), Mikko Koivu and Erik Haula.
Jared Spurgeon has been getting a lot of shine lately, and for good reason. Of course, he scored his second of the season for good measure, jumping into a 2-on-1 with Thomas Vanek, going to the net and finishing a nice plate of sauce pass from the forward. However, somewhat overlooked this season has been his blue-line partner, Scandella. Tonight, the Montreal native pulled off a rare feat—the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Scandella has been a rock on the back end this year. When Spurgeon gets an itch to jump into the play, Scandella anchors the blue line for his partner and shuts down odd-man rushes like a bouncer rejecting a fake ID from a college kid. Tonight, Scandella got into the offense himself, jumping up in the play after a clean D-zone breakout. The big blueliner took a pass from Jason Pominville just outside of the Lightning’s zone in full stride, took the puck wide on his backhand and dropped his shoulder like a charging bull drops his horns. He then pulled it to his forehand and chipped the puck past Evgeni Nabokov for his first of the year. The goal opened the floodgates for the Wild and the club didn’t look back.
Just a few shifts later Scandella dropped the gloves with Brian Boyle. He completed the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with an assist on Zucker’s second goal of the night. Scandella’s game has continued to evolve this season, and he and Spurgeon are emerging as a formidable second pair.
There are always moments of levity in hockey and its always better when they come in a game like tonight. During the second period, Ryan Carter’s skate blade broke and he was wobbling around the ice like Bambi. For a hockey player, there is no inferior feeling of inadequacy as when your skate blade breaks. However, the center did the only thing he could’ve done: scooted himself to the front of the net. With the Wild in the defensive zone, he was unable to stay with a Lightning attacker. So, Carter got down to one knee and pushed himself to the crease area with his good blade to try and block any incoming shots. It was a noble effort because he was essentially a sitting duck in front.
Of course, Carter was somewhat lucky because the play didn’t last very long and there was a stoppage after Kuemper covered the puck. He was helped off the ice by his linemate, Matt Cooke. At least Carter had a buddy to lend him a hand, er, skate. Of course, the situation reminded me of poor Mike Rupp, who wasn’t quite so lucky a few years ago during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=244240
Either every Wild fan coordinate before the game or tonight was the very popular blaze orange hat giveaway from Gander Mountain. Xcel Energy Center looked like the side of a Minnesota highway during road construction season. I have absolutely no data to back this up, but the blaze orange hunting caps are probably the Wild’s most popular swag. On the road, we see these things in the stands in visiting arenas often, as they are easy to spot from any press box.
No, Wild employees don’t get all the swag the team gives away; especially when it’s a popular item. So, don’t ask me if I can snag one. You have to buy a ticket. Yesterday, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wore one (he’s a little higher up on the food chain than a lowly scribe) and said that people even ask him for the cone-colored cap.
Tonight, @mnwildLIVE, the account that I’ve primarily run since taking over as Managing Editor, reached 10,000 followers (#humblebrag). We try to have a little fun and bring more than just your typical in-game updates. Thanks to all the fans that follow, and for not bombarding me with tweets on the very, very, very rare occasion that I make a tweepo.