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 against the Winnipeg Jets:
The Wild is finding ways to win the close ones, tonight taking out a division foe that was red-hot coming into the contest. Minnesota extended its win streak to a season-high four games, while ending Winnipeg’s four-game streak. The Wild also has gained a point in each of its last eight games. With tonight’s win, Minnesota moves into second place in the Central Division, trailing the Chicago Blackhawks by two points.
The team is showing that it knows how to win in a number of ways—the last two game winners have come late in the third period. Tonight the team’s captain, Mikko Koivu, supplied the team’s offense. After the first few shifts in the opening period, you could tell that Koivu was on his game. He finished with both of the Wild’s goals, was plus-1, fired three shots and won 65-percent of his faceoffs in 20:13 of ice time. He deserves his own Takeaway tonight…
When Koivu is fired up, you let him do his thing. Maybe it was the loud visiting fans (we’ll get to that), but whatever the reason, the Wild captain seemed especially energized. After getting tripped up in the neutral zone in the first period, Koivu went for a big hit on Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien that shook the glass and end boards. The 30-year-old can be physical, but it’s rare to see him try and run someone with that much vigor.
Koivu kept the intensity from that Finn-ished check (couldn’t resist) into the rest of the game. He got the Wild on the board in the first, Finn-ishing (last time, promise) on a Zach Parise rebound. In further evidence that he was pumped up for tonight’s game, he raised his left arm and then gave a little pump with his right. How do you say, “Heck, yeah” in Finnish? Because I think that’s what he said after the goal. Of course, he was a little more pumped when he blasted a one-timer past Pavelec for his second snipe on the night and game winner.
Koivu wasn’t the only one playing physical tonight, as both teams were throwing big hits all over the ice. There was no resting on this Sunday and were plenty of options for nominees for Wild.com’s Allstate Hits of the Week.
While it’s nice to see teams from the Eastern Conference because fans get to watch star players that they normally don’t get to see live very often, it’s good to go against an opponent from the division again. Familiarity breeds contempt in hockey and there is nothing better than the physicality that typically comes from facing a divisional opponent. The Wild will travel to Winnipeg later this week, so the bad blood should continue north of the border on Saturday.
What more could be said about goaltender Josh Harding this season? The netminder improved his record to 12-2-2 on the season and moved his goals-against average to 1.25. If he been great, and he has, the goaltender has been unbeatable at home, going 10-0-0 at Xcel Energy Center.
After the Jets scored its first goal of the game, on a Dustin Byfuglien redirect that Harding had no chance on, Winnipeg fans in attendance started a “Har-ding” mock chant (we’ll get to them in a moment). Well, it didn’t have the impact they’d hoped for because the backstop shut the door for the rest of the game, making a handful of crucial stops down the stretch. However, his most impressive stops came in the second period on Byfuglien. The blueliner hammered a one-timer from the top of the circle, but Harding made a HUGE glove save and left it in the air like the Statue of Liberty. Harding has one of the quickest gloves in the National Hockey League and it’s great to see him locked in and giving the Wild a chance to win every night.
Tonight had a very collegiate-like atmosphere and it probably had something to do with the amount of Canadians at Xcel Energy Center. When the Jets come to Saint Paul, the team always brings along a caravan of fans from Winnipeg. And with Jets fans, comes their battle cry, “Go, Jets go!” Tonight, might’ve been the most boisterous the Winnipeg fans have been, starting multiple “Go, Jets go!” chants before the puck even dropped.
However, State of Hockey fans responded once the game started with “Let’s go Wild!” chant of their own. I’m especially proud because before the game they responded with boos, but realized that if they were vocal, they could drown out the northern invaders. When the Jets fans started a “Go, Jets go!” Wild fans countered with a louder “Let’s go Wild!” Don’t think the effort goes unnoticed by the players, as they responded with a strong effort and an even better win.