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 3-1 loss against the Nashville Predators:
Sometimes you can play a sound defensive game and one bounce can make all the difference. That was the case tonight, as the Wild allowed one of those bad ‘puck luck’ goals that occasionally happens over the course of an NHL season, even a shortened one.
“We turned it into a 50/50 game, the type of game that allows a bounce,” said Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo after the game.
In the third period, with the score square at one, the Wild and Predators were skating on a four-on-four after offsetting penalties. The Wild had the puck hemmed in the Preds’ end and were buzzing. Zach Parise tried to find a cutting Jared Spurgeon, but the pass was just out of his reach. The puck drifted towards mid ice and the Preds’ Martin Erat had a beat on it. However, Niklas Backstrom made a split decision and came out to play the puck. Backstrom raced out, just shy of the blue line, and made a clearing attempt. But the puck hit Erat in the leg and was caught up in his pants. The Nashville forward controlled the puck, composed himself and slammed it home, just out of the reach of Spurgeon, who was busting back trying to make a play defensively.
Over the course of an NHL season, you see a lot of games that end up with one bounce making the difference. Tonight, that bounce wasn’t in the Wild’s favor.Ryan Suter knew this game was coming. It was the first time he’d face the team that he spent the first seven seasons of his NHL career. But Suter approached it as just another game. Sometimes it’s easy for us (media members and fans) to get caught up in hype and story lines, even when the athletes don’t think twice about the situations we get so worked up over.
“For me it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Suter said after the game. “Obviously the media makes it more than it is. I have friends over there, but I have friends on a lot of teams. You still have to go out and play hard against them.”
Sure, Suter would’ve loved to beat his old mates. But then again, he’d probably love to beat Detroit on Friday, just the same.
It’s easy to see what Suter brings to the table. He is only three games into the season, with a new team, and is still adjusting to a new system.
“Overall you can see what he does defensively and what he does offensively,” Yeo said. “He’s getting there, for sure. It doesn’t take much for guys like him.”
The blue liner is an elite passer from the back end. In the third period, he made 30-foot laser pass, through traffic, to Kyle Brodziak that few in the NHL would’ve even attempted. As Suter becomes more comfortable with his teammates and where they will be on the ice, expect more Wild forwards to be sprung on odd man rushes.
With all the excitement surrounding the return of hockey, and the Wild’s 2-0 start, it’s easy to forget that there was virtually no training camp and we jumped right into the regular season. Sure, it’s exciting to watch the frantic start, but teams are nowhere near mid-season form. It still will take some time before we see the crisp plays that we are accustomed to, typically seen in December. What the Wild, along with every other team around the league, will value are few practices.
“Having a couple days of practice will be good,” Yeo said. “We’ve got a lot of things we’re still trying to do.”
Players are still getting into game shape, adjusting to chemistry and relearning to play consistently. One of the hardest things to get back is timing, especially timing when finishing checks. One guy who seems to have that back is Cal Clutterbuck…
Clutterbuck has been one of the NHL’s most consistent hit men during the past few seasons. During the last two games, it looks like he has his hit timing back. Today, he took out the behemoth, Hal Gill, listed at 6-foot-7 and 243-pounds.
When Clutterbuck is flying around and hammering the opposing team’s defenseman, it creates more space for his linemates. Once he, Bouchard and Brodziak get some chemistry, they will be a pretty difficult third line to handle, and after only three games we’ve begun to see glimpses.
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