Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 win over Winnipeg:
In today’s world of 24-hour sports coverage, social media and sports-talk pundits finding storylines on slow news days, three games without a win can seem like an eternity. But over the course of an 82-game season there are plenty of ups and downs, and three-game winless streaks are more common than some pundits might want you to believe. However, a three-game stretch is no reason to freak out like Carrie Mathison on Homeland when she’s off her meds. Likewise, a three-game win streak is not a reason to start planning a Stanley Cup parade. The way a team responds and plays during the skid is important as breaking out of a losing streak. Tonight, the Wild stuck to its early-season blueprint and was rewarded with a tight win over the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1.
Now, let’s get nerdy on why you should be confident the Wild won’t go too many three-game stretches without a win if it continues to play like it has in the first four games of the season. For the fourth-consecutive game, the Wild outshot its opponent, tonight firing 30 shots on goal compared to Winnipeg’s 15. Coming into tonight’s contest, the Wild averaged 62 percent of the total game shots (take your team’s shot total and divide by the game total), good for fourth in the league. If the Wild can keep this up (it held a 66.6 percent advantage tonight against the Jets), the shots are going to start going in and the team is going to win a lot more games.
The Wild wants to be more of a puck possession team, and the above stats are a good starting indicator of puck possession, without getting into Corsi and Fenwick (don’t be scared, we’ll save those buzzwords for a bigger sample size), showing Minnesota is controlling the puck more this season. The best way to control the puck is to start with it off of the opening faceoff and tonight the team owned the circle, winning 73.8 percent of the draws and setting a team record in the process.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo shifted the lines around for tonight’s contest breaking up the top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. Tonight, Nino Niederreiter was on the top line with Parise and Koivu, and was up to the task registering three shots on net. Niederreiter was flying around and in the second period, made an inside-out move that led to a backhand scoring opportunity and showed off his soft hands. He also was complementary on the forecheck, holding the puck down low and creating space for his linemates. For his efforts, Niederreiter was named the game’s third star.
Meanwhile, it looked like Jason Pominville settled in nicely on the wing with Mikael Granlund and Dany Heatley. Granlund and Pominville just missed connections on a couple of quality scoring chances.
Yeo move the lines around in the hope that it would create depth in the team’s offense in 5-on-5 situations. It seemed to have worked, as the team scored two even-strength goals, with the third line having a hand in both…
Amongst Wild fans, the “agitator” Matt Cooke moniker that has typically prefaced descriptions of him is quickly being replaced with “goal-scorer” Matt Cooke. The 35-year-old has a nose for the net and showed it again tonight, popping home his second goal of the season.
After a Kyle Brodziak faceoff win, Clayton Stoner carried the puck down the right wall and found Torrey Mitchell behind the net. Mitchell swung out past the goal line, turned and fired. Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made the save, but the puck rested underneath his pad. Cooke, aware that the whistle hadn’t blown, poked at the puck and Pavelec’s pad and the biscuit slid into the back of the net. Instead of giving up on the play when the puck disappeared under Pavelec’s pad, Cooke busted hard to the net and was rewarded for a heads up play.
On Tuesday, Josh Harding was handed about as unfair of a loss as a goalie can get, giving up a penalty-shot goal after coming in cold after Niklas Backstrom suffered a knee strain. Harding didn’t allow another goal in the 20 shots he faced, but since it was the game’s third goal in a 3-2 game he was credited with the loss.
Tonight, Harding didn’t have to be spectacular, but was solid making 14 saves for the win. At the end of the game, Harding made a last-second save on a redirected shot, getting just enough to push the puck wide. With Backstrom sidelined, this is a great opportunity for Harding to take the reigns and earn more playing time.
Hate to say I told you so…who am I kidding it’s one of the reasons I got into this. Earlier this season, I was on 1390 The Fan and my buddy Dave Overlund asked me which Wild player I thought would have a “breakout” season. While technically you could consider last year a breakout, since no one could’ve predicted the type of impact he’d have as a rookie, I answered Jonas Brodin.
While on the surface this might seem like a copout since he was named to the All-Rookie Team and pretty much everyone who follows the Wild and the League closely knows how good this young man is, I thought he’d have more of an impact in the offensive zone. He’s more comfortable on the ice and with the NHL game, and expected him to use his supernatural skating ability to jump into the play more often (like he did on his goal tonight), creating scoring chances and spring teammates for open looks. With an expanded offensive game, people around the League would take notice and Brodin would have his name thrown around amongst the top tier of blueliners in the game.
Only through four games this season, Brodin has matched his rookie output for goals and, in the process, made me look smart. Really, there are two morals to this story. First, Brodin is really good and it was easy to see that he’d take a big step this season. Second, in any situation bet on Brodin, he’ll make you look like you know what you’re talking about.