Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Buffalo
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 win over the Buffalo Sabres:
In the business, tonight was what they call a greasy road win.
The Wild held on to beat a desperate Buffalo Sabres team and extend its win streak to three games. For the first time this season, the Wild was outshot, but another strong performance from goaltender Josh Harding allowed the Wild enough of a cushion to leave town with two points. Harding stopped 22 shots and allowed only one goal for the fourth-straight game. Minnesota’s penalty kill also came up big, stopping all four of Buffalo’s power play chances.
The team did the little things like getting the puck out and deep at the blue lines, playing strong appositionally and grinded out a road win. With a one-goal lead in the final frame, the Wild buckled down and played a stingy third period for the victory.
It was an emotional game for Jason Pominville, returning site of the start of his National Hockey League career. In the first minute of the game, it looked like the 30-year-old was going to get on the board. Dany Heatley feathered a pass out front, and Pominville tracked it down, firing a shot low to goaltender Jhonas Enroth’s glove side, but he turned it away. He wouldn’t be turned away in the second period as the Wild was on the PP. Pominville was on the receiving end of a play so pretty, it deserves its own Takeaway, so we’ll get that in a moment.
As the team was getting onto the bus for the arena before morning skate, there were a number of fans getting autographs outside the hotel with Pominville jerseys. At the game there were a ton of No. 29 jerseys in the stands, too.
When Pominville was introduced as a part of the starting lineup, the Sabres’ faithful gave the former captain a warm cheer. Unfortunately, he was still in the locker room with the rest of the team before the game and didn’t get a chance to hear the applause. Hopefully he heard the cheers ring out from the stands as he was named the games No. 1 star with the game-winning goal. It’s always hard when your favorite player gets traded, but Buffalo’s loss is our gain and we’re happy to see him in a Wild sweater.
The Wild’s power play has been deadly early this season and tonight was no different, as Pominville capped one of the slickest passing plays you’ll ever see on the team’s first man advantage of the night.
The team has found success by setting up the offensive zone and passing the puck on the perimeter until it finds a quality shot. However, Pominville’s goal showed how well the top unit can pass on the rush and into the zone. Rushing up the ice, the Wild’s top unit made seven-straight tape-to-tape passes, five of which were from the red line-in and one-touch passes. After Jared Spurgeon and Pominville made a quick give-and-go play to enter the zone, Pominville and Mikko Koivu made their own give-and-go with Pomminville finishing off the play by releasing a quick wrister over Enroth’s shoulder. The Dairy Queen Plays of the Week came out today, and you can bet your mortgage the goal will be amongst the finalists next week.
The Wild’s ‘third line’ continues to put points on the board, as Kyle Brodziak got into the act with his first of the season in the opening period. Jonas Brodin started the play as a one-man breakout. He picked up the puck behind the net, beat an attacking Sabre, rushed up the ice and made a give-and-go play with Brodziak in the D-zone. He then breezed through the neutral zone, crossed the blue line and dished the puck to Matt Cooke, creating space by going to the net. Cooke found a trailing Brodziak, who held off Cody Hodgson and beat Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth through the 5-hole.
The most impressive thing about the Brodziak’s line is that they are constantly matched up with the opponent’s scoring lines. Tonight, they often drew the assignment against Buffalo’s dangerous line made up of Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson and Steve Ott, and kept them in check.
Jared Spurgeon is one of the smartest hockey players in the National Hockey League. To not only play, but also excel at his size, he has to be. Tonight he made a veteran move that I’ve never seen before.
In the third period, Buffalo was breaking out of its zone and Kevin Porter was at the top of the circles and was receiving a pass. The puck was behind the Sabres forward and Spurgeon faked like he was going to pinch and slammed his sick on the ice, making a loud ‘SLAP’ heard way up in the press box. Porter appeared to get cold feet, picked his head up and the puck slid right past his stick, right to the awaiting Spurgeon who kept the puck in the zone. Veteran savvy from a guy who still doesn’t have to shave regularly.