Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways vs. Phoenix
Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 10:36 PM / Features
By Mike Doyle - Managing Editor
It was a tough season for the Wild as the team had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The lows were caused by injuries with Minnesota running through an NHL leading 47 players on the year. The highs came from the team’s early season success and late season play. One thing we can probably all agree on, if the Wild was healthy, even for three-quarters of the season, Minnesota is a playoff team.
Unfortunately, the Wild lost three top-six forwards for a good portion of the season. Mikko Koivu’s return at the end of the year jumpstarted a struggling Wild team, and we can only imagine what a healthy Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse could’ve added to the lineup. If you think about it, the Wild lost out on, at least, 40 goals between the three. That’s a lot of bread.
One player who played in all 82 games this season was Dany Heatley. In his first season in Minnesota, Heatley led the team in goals (24) and points (53). He has a nose for the net and is a natural goal scorer, plain and simple.
Tonight, Heatley scored on a play that some might call a ‘pure luck’ goal. When you’re always around the net, you’re going to score some lucky goals. However, tonight’s goal was far from pure luck. Heatley found a Mikko Koivu rebound through traffic. Goaltender Mike Smith made the save on Koivu’s shot and Heatley went behind the net for the rebound. With Smith sprawled across the ice and out of position, Heatley banked it in off the back of his leg and into the net. If you asked him, he’d probably say it was lucky, but you could see that he did exactly what he was tying to do. And that’s not lucky in my book.
Although the Wild didn’t make the playoffs this season, there is still a reason to be excited if you’re a Wild fan. The future is looking up and two of the Wild’s prospects were in the lineup tonight.
Chay Genoway made his NHL debut and welcomed himself to the league with an assist on Heatley’s goal. Genoway is a puck moving defenseman and a good one at that. He’s only 5-foot-9, but is smart enough to make an impact at both ends of the ice. Keep an on him Wild fans.
This was the second time Kris Fredheim was recalled to the Wild. He is a big defender and if he continues to improve his footwork and defensive zone positioning, you could see more of Fredheim in the future.
Tonight marked the third game of the Wild’s 2012 Fan Celebration. There were 18,864 strong in attendance and probably about 100,000 more online following Wild.com’s In-Game Commentary presented by Sun Country Airlines. Minnesota is the State of Hockey and the Wild has some of the best fans in the NHL. The Wild had its ups and downs on the ice, but the fan’s support was always strong.
One of the coolest events of the final game is the “Jerseys Off Our Backs” ceremony. Wild fans were able to bid on three jerseys online: Matt Cullen’s number 7, Nate Prosser’s number 39 and Jared Spurgeon’s number 46. The rest of the Wild sweater’s were given away in a random drawing. Players literally took the jerseys off their backs, signed them and gave them to the fans. Very cool, but a little sweaty, too.
Tonight, the winner of the Shawn’s Hockey Mom, Cindy Callahan, gave the "Let’s Play Hockey" announcement before the game. Hockey moms are the backbone of nearly every good hockey player. The countless hours spent in cold rinks and driving a carload of stinky gear to practice is enough to want to pull a kid from the sport. But moms tough it out and Minnesota has some of the best. Thank you to all the hockey moms out there for all that you mean to the greatest sport on earth.