Following Wild games, occasionally Manager of Digital Media Ryan Stanzel will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 loss against the Anaheim Ducks:
Down 2-0 after two periods against the lone NHL team without a home loss in regulation (now 12-0-2), it would have been easy for the Wild to pack its bags prematurely and start thinking of tomorrow night’s game in San Jose. But Minnesota got its first power play of the game early in the third, and Jason Pominville hopped on a Ryan Suter rebound and popped it by Jonas Hiller. It took a highlight-reel save by Hiller at the period’s midway point to keep his team in front and ultimately secure the victory. Charlie Coyle’s speed led to a breakaway, and the rugged forward went forehand, backhand, forehand, a move that causes lower body injures amongst goalies by the dozen. But the athletic Hiller stuck with the play the entire time, keeping the puck out of the net with his left pad.
Mike Yeo will no doubt want to see how his team responds, especially after outplaying the Ducks in the third. The results this season in the second half of a back-to-back, when losing game one, have been positive. A night after a 6-2 loss in Montreal on Nov. 19, the Wild rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits for a 4-3 win in Ottawa. Then, after a 3-1 home loss to Colorado on the day after Thanksgiving, the Wild flew to Denver, fell behind 2-0 but regrouped to score two big goals late before eventually falling 3-2 in a shootout.
After the morning skate today, Mike Yeo told the media he urged to start the game “on time”, meaning to bring it from the opening whistle. The Wild did that, getting five of the game’s first seven shots, and headed into the locker room scoreless after 20 minutes. But just 2:37 into the second, Alex Grant scored from the right side. According to research on FOX Sports North, 77 percent of teams scoring first this season have won, meaning it’s a tall task for any team — especially on the road against a division-leading team like the Ducks. A two-goal deficit proved too much to overcome.
Unheralded, under-appreciated — a couple words that describe Kyle Brodziak, the Wild center who skated in his 500th NHL game tonight. Brodziak has posted a total of 193 points (83-110=193), the most since becoming an NHL regular in 2007 with Edmonton. He scored a career-high 22 goals in 2011-12, and his plus-three rating this season while playing against the other team’s top players every night is excellent. Brodziak is also one of Yeo’s most trusted face-off men — he took 26 of the team’s 65 draws tonight.
The Wild entered the game ranked eighth in the NHL on the power play at 21.0 percent. The problem is the opportunities have not been plentiful in recent weeks. Minnesota did not receive a power play until early in the third, when it got its only chance of the night. In its last 10 games overall, the Wild has gone on just 21 man advantages. Minnesota has three PPGs in that stretch — two against Chicago Dec. 5, plus tonight’s tally. It’s hard to get into a power play rhythm when you’re not skating 5-on-4 enough.
Typically, the only Wheeling Nailer references in this space come from former Nailer himself Mike Doyle. But, tonight Doyle may have been replaced in Wheeling lore by Alex Grant — the Ducks’ rookie defenseman who scored for the second time in as many NHL games. He’s actually shooting a robust 100 percent through two contests. The Antigonish, Nova Scotia, native was drafted in the fourth round by Pittsburgh in 2007, and eventually traded to Anaheim. He spent parts of two seasons with ECHL Wheeling, splitting time between there and Wilkes-Barre, where he totaled a career-high 37 points in 2011-12.