Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Edmonton
Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he'll look back at a 5-3 win over the Oilers in Edmonton:
In the second game of back-to-back nights, the Wild took care of business on the road against another Northwest Division foe. Minnesota’s offense was rolling again tonight, outshooting the Oilers, 30-19.
For the second-straight contest, it was a good-looking effort from everyone in the Wild lineup. The club had contributions from all four lines, all six defensemen and its goaltender. I could easily write a takeaway for each guy, but we’ll keep it to five tonight.
The 5-3 score really wasn’t representative of the game. Many of the Oilers chances came after the Wild built a 5-1 lead. With the game out of reach, Edmonton threw the kitchen sink at the Wild offensively and made it closer on the scoreboard than the game actually was. Edmonton’s final two goals came in ‘garbage time’ as there really wasn’t a threat for a comeback.
I’m sure the Wild will talk about closing games out, as yesterday the Flames made a late push, too. However, neither of those pushes seemed threatening, at least from my vantage point.
We saw something fairly rare in hockey in the first period, not once but twice. Both of the goals in the opening frame went unassisted. The Oilers evened the score with an unassisted goal on a wonky bounce. Taylor Hall stopped at the right hash mark and fired a shot towards the net. The puck was deflected into Brett Clark’s sweater and looked like it was lost for a few moments. Then the puck found its way out of the mesh and bounced right onto the tape of Nail Yakupov, who pounded it into the back of the net.
The Wild’s first goal was a little more controversial as to whether or not an assist should’ve been credited. Pierre-Marc Bouchard took the puck at the blue line and slid into the zone. He took an off-speed slap shot into the pads of Oiler’s netminder Devan Dubnyk (if you didn’t already know, I love POP). The rebound was juicier than a medium-rare New York Strip, and Jordan Eberle batted at the puck, but fanned and it went right onto Kyle Brodziak’s stick. The center buried his seventh goal of the season. The official ruling was the Eberle made a “hockey play” on the puck, albeit not a very good one, so Bouchard was robbed of an apple. In 99 cases out of 100 Bouchard would’ve been credited with an assist. Just to add to the fun, the Wild’s second goal was marked as an unassisted goal…
Clayton Stoner kept an Oilers’ clearing attempt in the offensive zone, wound and fired a one-time slapper at the net. Charlie Coyle used his big body to post-up at the side of the cage and redirected the puck past Dubnyk. At first, Stoner was credited with an unassisted goal. From our vantage in the press box it looked like a pretty clear tip and Coyle was finally given credit during the second intermission.
The usually defensive minded Stoner was in on the offense tonight, adding an assist on the Wild’s second goal, too. I’d have to ask him to confirm, but it look like he intentionally fired the puck wide on his second assist, which rebounded to the front of the net. Either way, he had his head up the whole way and was conscious not to get his shot blocked, which created the goal.
Stoner also played well in his own end. In the second period, he defused a one-on-one opportunity from the dangerous Nail Yakupov, who had a head full of steam. In the third, he made consecutive defensive stops on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, no slouches offensively, and broke the puck out after both plays. For his effort, he was named the game’s third star.
On paper, it might seem like a little bit of a strange mix, but the game isn’t played in a library. Actually, the trio is a great combo.
The line has more skill and speed than most teams can roll out on a third unit. Brodziak can anchor things physically and in the defensive end, which allows Pominville and Bouchard to think offensively. Of course, Brodziak is no slouch and took advantage of his chances with a two-goal night. A great example of how the three worked together tonight was on his breakaway goal. Bouchard was in the defensive zone and went cross-ice to Pominville in front of the Wild bench. Brodziak broke and Pominville went back across the ice and hit him in stride for a breakaway.
Mikael Granlund was recalled on an emergency basis before tonight’s game and replaced Mike Rupp, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Coming into the season, the rookie had the weight of the world (or at least Finland) on his shoulders, and at times had trouble adjusting to NHL speed. After being reassigned to Houston for a few weeks, Granlund has played well since being recalled.
Even before he scored his second goal of the season, the rookie was showing confidence with the puck—something that separates him from a lot of 21-year-olds. In the first period, he skated into the offensive zone as his linemates went for a change. He was on a one-on-two and made a slick move, passing the puck to himself under the defender’s stick, and skated with the puck behind the net. He then held off a checker while reinforcements came onto the ice. Tonight, he was battling along the walls and holding his own in the corners. As he adds experience and strength, he’s going to continue to gain confidence and make more plays like that at the highest level.