Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Anaheim
Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-1 road loss against the Anaheim Ducks:
It was strange coming to the rink today in Anaheim, with streets lined with palm trees and the sun shining through the window of the team bus. Since Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings two decades ago, hockey in the Sun Belt has exploded, leading to the NHL’s expansion and locations like Anaheim as viable ‘non-traditional’ hockey markets. With the NHL setting its roots in warmer weather states, the game has trickled down to the youth level. As recent as the 1990s it would’ve been laughable to think anyone from California might make an NHL roster. However, with hockey rinks in warm-weather states popping up like fast-food franchises, we’ve seen an influx of warm-blooded players in the NHL and college game.
During the intermission, the Ducks held a youth shootout contest between two forwards and two goaltenders, just like the contests held for young skaters at Xcel Energy Center. Back in the day, you might not have expected much from these California kids. Yet, the forwards showed skill and goaltenders were sprawling out to make saves like you’d expect to see from youngsters in the State of Hockey. Hockey in the Sun Belt will never have the tradition of the game in Minnesota or Canada, but the influx of the game in southern states has been good for the game, as more kids in these areas are getting into the game at a young age—and that’s a good thing.
Tonight was just one of those nights for the Wild where they just couldn’t seem to get things jumpstarted. Sport is a weird thing sometimes and for one reason or another, a team will come out flat.
You never quite know when it is going to happen, but it does. You don’t have the “jump” or “legs” whatever you want to call “it”; your stick feels like it has lead weights in the shaft; the puck feels like it’s made out of vulcanized flubber; the ice feels more like you’re skating on wet concrete. It is the worst feeling an athlete can have. You work your entire week for this game, and when the puck drops, there is nothing you can do. You feel like Sisyphus, only you realize that you’re not going to be able to roll the boulder to the mountaintop.
The Wild continued to get offensive contributions from its blue line as Marco Scandella scored his first of the year. At only 22 years of age, Scandella’s ceiling as an NHL defenseman might be as high as any of the Wild’s young blueliners.
After a strong start with the Houston Aeros, Minnesota’s American Hockey League affiliate, he suffered a groin injury that kept him sidelined for a few weeks. Skating in his fourth game with the Wild this season, the team needs him to continue to grow as a player. Tonight, he took a positive step, playing more than 17 minutes, a plus-1 rating and registering two shots on goal.
A guy at the other end of the hockey spectrum, age-wise, is Teemu Selanne. The 42-year-old defies Father Time and continues to produce for the Ducks, playing at a high level. The Finnish Flash might not have the blinding speed that he once possessed, but what he lacks in explosiveness he more than makes up for in veteran savvy.
Selanne assisted on all three of Anaheim’s goals, two of them on straight-up, ridiculous feeds. On the Ducks’ eventual game winner, the veteran skated behind the net and whipped a bullet centering pass onto the tape of Kyle Palmieri, giving Backstrom no chance at making a save. On the final goal of the game, with the Ducks on the power play, Selanne accepted a pass near the bottom of the right circle. He feathered a, what can only be described as nasty, backhand saucer pass to Bobby Ryan on the backdoor. It might’ve been a 10 foot pass that was, at it’s peak, three feet off the ice. Amazing.
The third period brought a very scary play for Wild, the type of sequence no one likes to see. Matt Cullen was checked a few feet away from the boards by Anaheim’s Kyle Palmieri, and went into the wall headfirst. Cullen was able to skate off the ice under his own power, but was clearly shaken up on the play. He didn’t finish the game and no updates were available after the contest.
We’ll have an update on Cullen as soon as it’s available and we can only hope for the best for the Wild veteran.