Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Nashville
Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 12:19 AM / Minnesota Wild | Features
By Mike Doyle - Managing Editor
I like shootouts, but they sometimes lead to a false sense of accomplishment in victory and unnecessary anguish in defeat. Shootouts are exciting and are a fan friendly way to decide games, I get that. However, it stinks to lose and shootout losses can feel a lot worse than they should. The Wild played well enough to win tonight and battled its way to a point.
“You play a great game but leave with an empty feeling,” said Head Coach Mike Yeo about the shootout loss. Sure, this game will go down as a loss in most fans’ eyes, and will extend Minnesota’s losing streak to eight games. Realistically, the way that shootouts count in the standings, we should consider the Wild’s current slide as a winless streak, not a losing streak. The game easily could have gone to the Wild in both regulation and overtime…
The reason the Wild didn’t pull out a victory tonight was the play of Nashville’s goaltender Pekka Rinne, who made 36 saves. His best came in overtime against Marek Zidlicky. Dany Heatley weaved into the offensive zone on a three-on-two. He found a little space between defenders and threaded the needle right onto the stick of Zidlicky, who fired a strong side one-timer on Rinne. The Preds goaltender slid across the crease and stoned the shot.
Equally up to the task was Josh Harding, who made 24 saves of his own. However, the story of the night was Rinne. The Wild did end Rinne’s 159:56 home scoreless streak against the team…
The reason the Wild traded for Heatley was to add some much needed offensive punch, and the two time 50-goal scorer just seems to score big goals for Minnesota. With the Wild trailing in the third period, the team started to apply the pressure. Nate Prosser snuck in from the point and had a point blank shot on Rinne, who made a sprawling save. Heatley thought Prosser scored and nearly committed the sin of celebrating too early as he started to raise his hands on the play. However, when he realized the puck didn’t go in, Heatley went to the side of the net, picked up the loose puck on the right side of the cage and wrapped it around on the left side, out of Rinne’s reach. That was cause for a real celebration and tied the game, 1-1.
The goal was his 11th on the year and also tied him with Kyle Brodziak for the team lead…
For a guy tied with the team lead in goals, Brodziak easily could have a few more. According to Mike Greenlay, the Wild’s color-commentator, Brodziak hit the post for the 13th time this season. In the second period, he picked off a pass at Nashville’s blue line and raced in all alone on Rinne. Brodziak fired an off-wing bullet, a la Mark Messier, with high leg kick and all. The puck hit the post and let out a shrill cry: the sound of relief for goaltenders and the sound of angst for scorers.
Finally, Mikko Koivu extended his point streak to eight games with an assist on Heatley’s game-tying goal. While that is quite an accomplishment, I’m even more impressed with Koivu’s ability to one-time a puck from his strong side wing.
Midway through the second period, with the Wild on the power play, Koivu and Heatley played catch on the right side of the ice. Heatley made a pass to Koivu, who was standing at the top of the circle. Instead of catching the pass and repositioning his body - which would have taken at much longer - Koivu cradled the puck and whipped it to the net all in one fluid motion. Brodziak was screening Rinne in front of the net and deflected the attempt. The puck was shot with enough force to be redirected over the net.
What Koivu pulled off is hard, and to get any pace on the shot is nearly impossible. It takes a ton of core strength, soft hands and great timing. There are only a few players in the NHL who can score with that type of shot, from that distance, and Koivu is one of them.