Glen Andresen's Five Takeaways at Los Angeles
Maybe it wasn’t the ‘staches that fueled the Minnesota Wild to a franchise record 11 wins in the month of November. It could be that the Wild is just one helluva team. There’s not much other way to explain a 4-0-0 record in December, a six-game winning streak and a team-record six straight road victories.
Those feats were all accomplished thanks to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night keeping the Wild atop the NHL with the best record at 19-7-3. Considering how close most of the Wild’s victories have been, this one felt like a walk on Laguna Beach.
The Wild didn’t have to play from behind thanks to Mikko Koivu’s goal just 24 seconds after the opening puck drop. They got to play with some comfortable leads, going up by three goals on two occasions after tallies from Darroll Powe, Marco Scandella and Cody Almond.
You might not expect a team coming off five straight wins to start like the good guys did tonight. Rather than feeling good about themselves, they came out and dictated the play early.
“It was nice having a good start,” said Head Coach Mike Yeo. “It’s nice to not have to sit here and talk about another great job of coming from behind. I thought we were sharp right from the get-go.”
It wouldn’t be a Wild win without some adversity. That came with Minnesota up 2-0 five minutes into the second period. Kyle Brodziak chased a puck with Anze Kopitar in the Wild corner. Brodziak delivered a hard check that appeared to be shoulder-to-shoulder. The problem was Kopitar fell awkwardly and crashed hard into the boards where he laid for an extended period of time, seemingly hurt.
Brodziak was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct, which seemed excessive given what replays showed.
Yet, the Wild, which was already without Devin Setoguchi and Cal Clutterbuck, kept churning away. It meant more ice time for other players, who all responded. One of those was Cody Almond, who bagged his first goal of the season, and second NHL goal. The first came in Vancouver at the end of the 2009-2010 season.
I guess what he’s done is still pretty impressive. He stopped 42 of 44 shots and didn’t have a prayer on either goal. He became the only goalie since the NHL-AHL merger to go at least 100 minutes (102 minutes, 36 seconds to be exact) before allowing his first goal according to Elias Sports Bureau. He moved to 2-0-0 in his career with both wins coming on the road against playoff teams from a year ago and Cup contenders this year.
When you consider those accomplishments, I would think we could give him a pass on the two goals allowed tonight. It just better never happen again.
Now the Wild is just having fun with this whole "plug a player in and nothing changes" routine. Tonight’s new guy was a familiar face to Minnesota hockey fans.
Jeff Taffe, the national champion with the Minnesota Gophers, became the 32nd player to wear a Wild uni this year. He became the 11th Minnesotan to skate in a Wild game and the fourth this season. He also did a hell of a job.
Playing on the top line, he notched an assist on Koivu’s goal, which was originally given to former college rival and Wisconsin Badger, Dany Heatley. He was also a +2 with two shots on goal, one of which was a beautiful shot that was snared by Jonathan Quick.
Who’s next? Chad Rau? Kyle Medvec? Erik Westrum? It won’t matter. Guys get plugged in, and the Wild keeps winning.
Brother, I’ve made a lot of errors on Wild.com in my day, but I think the most egregious one was a couple weeks ago when I said Mike Yeo’s approval rating is at about 99.9%. What was I thinking with that lowball? Who would make up the .01 percent? Some guy that Yeo cut off on the freeway while driving to the rink? (Doubtful, because in addition to everything else, Yeo is exceptional behind the wheel).
I’m sure the players have something to do with this success, but this guy is getting to the point where he can do no wrong. There’s a Twitter account with the handle @ChurchofYeo. Someone else suggested his postgame press conference be renamed the postgame sermon. He does the right things behind the bench. And he says the right things behind the microphone.
Tonight, he even alluded to that which we dare not speak this early in the season. But someone asked him about his feelings with the Wild making all kinds of history. His answer was, “I hope you ask me that same question at the end of the season.”
He can say that. He’s Mike Yeo.