Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Vancouver
Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 road loss against the Vancouver Canucks:
In a game like tonight’s it would’ve been easy for members of the Wild to become frustrated and lose their composure out on the ice. On the road against a divisional opponent, the Wild was in a tight game, pressing to come from behind. When one part of your game is not coming through—especially offensively—it is easy to take short cuts, copout defensively and try to cheat for scoring chances. The Wild didn’t do that tonight and hasn’t done that, even with its early offensive struggles.
The other way frustration leads to the determent of the team game plan is when players taking selfish, angry penalties. The Wild didn’t do that tonight either. Instead, the team grinded out scoring attempts in the third, generating 10 shots and a few close calls.
The closest call was in the third period after a strong forecheck created an opportunity in the slot for Ryan Suter. Dany Heatley won a battle along the sideboards and found Zach Parise out front, who fired a shot on Roberto Luongo. The rebound kicked out to Ryan Suter, who beat Luongo high to the glove, but the puck sailed off the crossbar. Three-quarters of an inch lower and that’s a goal. Of course, three-quarters of an inch higher and he misses the net completely. That seems to be the way it’s gone for the Wild early in the season: just a little off. However, if the team keeps cool heads and continues to generate opportunities goals will come.
Darcy Kuemper made his NHL debut tonight for the Wild and brought his A-game with him to Vancouver. In front of a rowdy home crowd, he looked poised in net, not getting rattled after a Kevin Bieksa scored in the opening period on a power play. Kuemper didn’t really have much of a chance on the play, nor did he have much of a chance on Vancouver’s second goal, off the stick of Jannik Hansen.
At 6-foot-5, Kuemper takes up a lot of the net, but the goaltender is also quick laterally. In the second period, he went post-to-post denying a quick wraparound chance from Alexandre Burrows. Making 28 saves he was named the game’s third star. At only 22 years old, we’ve not heard the last of Darcy Kuemper.
With Kuemper in net, it was impossible not to think about Josh Harding and his battle with multiple sclerosis. Before the game, we learned that Harding has been feeling off after taking new medication for his MS treatment. This is uncharted territory in the NHL—in professional sports for that matter. The Wild and Harding are working together to try and overcome the disease.
In his last outing, Harding came in for relief of Niklas Backstrom in the third period Thursday against Vancouver and saved all six shots he faced. He has been practicing with the team and participated at the morning skate, which lead one to believe the signs are positive that this is only a slight setback and Harding will be able to overcome his current state and have a productive career in the NHL.
The Wild welcomed defenseman Jared Spurgeon back to the lineup tonight. The blueliner missed nine games with a lower body injury after blocking a shot against Nashville on Jan. 22. Spurgeon had little to no practice time during the last week, (well, actually no one in the league has had much practice time in the last week) before coming back tonight. The blueliner didn’t miss a beat, logging just over 20 minutes of ice time and registering three shots on goal.
With Spurgeon back in the lineup, the Wild has another right-handed shooter on a left-handed heavy blue line, giving the team another one-timer option from the power play point. The option was used tonight, as Spurgeon logged 6 minutes of power play time.
Who knew Canadians were so heavily influenced by football? No. Not American football. The European variety. Well, at least, what could be considered a vocal minority at tonight’s match. A section of boisterous Canucks supporters in the upper bowl of the Wild’s attacking end for two periods (not really sure which direction geographically they were as my internal compass was thrown off after crossing the border) were chanting throughout the game, in what could only be classified as, European soccer-like.
Soccer highlights also dominate Canadian sports television like the National Football League takes over ESPN. Okay, so Canada is not that enamored with soccer, and hockey will always be the top sport of the Great White North, but during this four-day roadie, soccer seemed like a close second.