Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Florida
Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 11:43 PM / Features
By Mike Doyle - Managing Editor
The Wild made a conceded effort to get to the crease today and it paid off. I’m not sure if that was the scouting report against their former teammate, Jose Theodore, but getting to the blue paint is a good strategy against any goalie.
Cal Clutterbuck pasted Theodore into the net twice while trying to jam the puck home while taking the biscuit hard to the net. Although Devin Setoguchi took a goaltender interference penalty as he ran into Theodore, he was crashing the crease on a Dany Heatley shot. By no means am I condoning running goaltenders, but if you are constantly in their face and buzzing the tower like Maverick, it is a fact, they tend get jumpy. Goalies like keeping pucks out of the net, not worrying about flying bodies crashing into them. It paid off…
The longer the season goes; the more teams rely on ugly, greasy or garbage goals. Realistically, these are all derogatory terms because, in the end, they don’t count how nicely the puck was placed into the net, just how many times it crosses the goal line. Both of the Wild’s goals were of the greasy variety.
At the end of the second period, Kyle Brodziak wins a faceoff in the offensive zone and goes to the net. Marek Zidlicky breaks his stick on the ensuing point shot, but gets enough on the puck and Dany Heatley, also going to the net, tips the shot on Theodore. The rebound pops out and Brodziak fights off a check to put it home. Nice way for Brodziak to celebrate his recent contract extension. He is the type of player that doesn't mind getting into the tough areas to score and it will be nice to have him in the State of Hockey for a few more years.
The Wild’s second goal came on the power play, something that the Wild has greatly improved of late and, again, it was a greasy goal. Scoring on the power play for the second-straight game, Matt Cullen banged home a Heatley one-timer. Cullen was firmly planted in the crease as the puck moved around the perimeter. Sure, the rebound went right to his stick, but you have to put yourself into those scoring situations. Cullen was in the right place at the right time and capitalized on his opportunity.
The Wild’s power play unit was something the team desperately needed to improve, and over the last five games, Minnesota has scored on 4-of-13 opportunities for a tidy 30 percent. With goals at a premium coming down the stretch, it will be of the utmost importance for the Wild to capitalize on the man advantage, get into bloody nose alley and score greasy goals.
It would be a travesty not to mention the run that Niklas Backstrom is on right now. Tonight, he made 41 saves on 43 shots. That makes for a mind-boggling 89 saves in the past two games. Staggering.
During the last two contests, Backstrom has been seeing the puck extremely well, which means the Wild blueliners are doing a good job of clearing shooting lanes and allowing the goaltender a clean view of the incoming shots. But you have to credit Backstrom for not allowing many second chance opportunities. He has been controlling his rebounds and swallowing up pucks like a sinkhole.
Not only was he lights out in regulation and overtime, Backstrom didn’t give the Panthers a sniff in the shootout. Sure, his shootout exploits have been well documented, but during the last two games the puck has looked like beach ball and it carried into the shootout. First, he forced Kris Versteeg to make the first move and forced the Panther’s leading goal scorer to run out of room. The second shooter, Sean Bergenheim, made a move that got Backstrom leaning, but netminder stayed cool and used the poke check to turn out the lights on Florida.
The Wild hasn’t been good on the first night of back-to-back games, but that all changed tonight as Minnesota played a complete game to earn a victory. As a matter of fact, Minnesota was 0-7-0 in the first game of back-to-backs coming into tonight. For some reason, the Wild seemed to overlook the first game and pick it up in the second, but that wasn't the case tonight.
In case you were wondering, the Wild has a 4-1-2 record in the second game of back-to-backs, and face the Dallas Stars tomorrow night. Minnesota hasn’t won in Dallas since a 3-2 overtime win on March 21, 2003, a span of 15 games (0-10-5). Since Minnesota broke one streak tonight, I think the Wild might as well snap that streak, too.