Glen Andresen's Five Takeaways at Phoenix
The hockey-mad city of Phoenix now knows exactly what all the hullabaloo is about with this Minnesota Wild team. The crowd packed inside Jobing.com Arena got a firsthand look at the NHL’s best team, which dismantled the Phoenix Coyotes on the way to a 4-1 victory and a seventh straight win.
The Wild cashed in on three of four power plays with Kyle Brodziak bagging two of those goals. Dany Heatley notched the other, and Mikko Koivu put in his seventh of the season.
The only suspense by the third period was whether or not Niklas Backstrom would earn a shutout in his first game since returning from a groin injury. That was not to be due to a late Lauri Korpikoski goal, but that was the only blemish in an otherwise stellar night for the Wild goaltender.
“To see this group come in to a game like this and have a start like that...I'm very, very pleased, to use a different word than impressed,” said Head Coach Mike Yeo.
After 30 games, the Wild’s top goal scorer is…none other than Kyle Brodziak. Are 10 goals at this point of the season enough to get him some national recognition? Doubtful, but you get the sense that Brodziak could give a balled up bunch of used hockey tape about that.
He continues to do the dirty work he’s always done, but with numerous injuries to other top forwards, he’s getting the chance to contribute more offensively. As expected, both of his goals tonight came from in tight where he won puck battles and absorbed punishment to get the job done.
Adored by teammates and coaches alike, Brodziak is going to start getting more adoration from fans if this keeps up.
Backstrom had been hampered in the last week by a minor groin injury, but that didn’t affect him in the least tonight. He was as mobile as ever; especially on a sliding pad stop of Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the second period right after the Wild had taken a two-goal lead.
Backstrom finished the night with 35 stops on 36 shots.
We haven’t hit Christmas yet. In fact, we’ve still got 14 shopping days left. And the Wild has already won 20 games. That’s 20 wins in 30 games played. Two-zero.
Last year, the Wild hadn’t won 20 games until January 6 when the team played its 40th game.
So that leads to the taboo subject that we have to start bringing up. When is it acceptable to start thinking playoffs? Do we have to get to 2012? The midway point? The All-Star break? March?
I’m not sure what the protocol is. I just have the feeling that the Wild will make some hay when they get there.
Following the game, Wild media relations guru Aaron Sickman had to make a sprint to the bus to retrieve Jeff Taffe’s luggage. Taffe was reassigned to the Houston Aeros after the game due to Cal Clutterbuck’s expected return on Tuesday in Winnipeg.
Unfortunately, Sickman had to make a second sprint to the bus because he grabbed the wrong bag the first time. Fortunately, unlike Sickman, Taffe brought his “A” game once again, and leaves the Wild with a nice little two-game point streak. He made a pretty set up of Koivu’s second period tally while fitting right in on that top line.
Let’s hope the Wild gets healthy and stays that way, but when injuries inevitably occur, we know of yet another Aero who can come up and perform admirably.