Ryan Stanzel's Five Takeaways at Washington
Following Wild games, occasionally Manager of Digital Media Ryan Stanzel will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 shootout loss against the Washington Capitals:
We’ve run out of superlatives for a couple guys - including Ryan Suter. Wild D-man Clayton Stoner went down with an injury three shifts into the game, meaning more minutes for the entire defensive corps. Suter skated 36:51 - the most TOI for an NHL player since Tampa Bay’s Dan Boyle skated 37:07 Feb. 23, 2008, against Boston. Suter’s mate Jonas Brodin skated 29:16 - the second-highest total of his career. Another possible injury to look for is Zach Parise - Charlie Coyle was the team’s third shooter in the shootout, and the session went without a Parise attempt. Wild.com will be with the team in Carolina for practice tomorrow to get an update.
We teased tonight’s game as the battle of special teams, and it was, especially in the first period. The Caps, ranked first in the NHL on both the PP and the PK, got an early power play goal from Alexander Ovechkin (his fourth goal in his last four games versus the Wild). While Charlie Coyle’s PPG late in the first got the game tied, the more important special teams battle may have been the Wild’s PK less than two minutes after Ovechkin’s goal. After Justin Fontaine was called for tripping in the offensive zone, the Wild’s PK and Harding refused to go down 2-0. Just how big was that Coyle goal? Capitals opponents had scored on just one of 40 power play chances over the last 10 games, entering tonight. Generally teams want to WIN the special teams battle, but I guarantee you Mike Yeo was okay going even tonight as it was a big reason his team got a point.
On most nights, our first take may have been Josh Harding’s performance, in the second period. But you know what? It was just another night for Harding (25 saves), the way he’s been playing. He stopped nine shots in the first period after five saves in the first. Washington had a couple partial breakaways - he stoned Tom Wilson with four minutes left, a couple minutes after a loose puck caromed to a wide-open Nicklas Backstrom. Harding stood his ground on that one. The Wild was outshooting the Caps 18-6 at one point, but Washington had eight of the period’s last 10 shots, and Harding was stellar. Harding kept the Wild win intact with six minutes left in the third and Washington on a power play, outright robbing Troy Brouwer from point-blank range. The Caps eventually got even late in regulation, but Harding was outstanding tonight. Even early in the game, Harding was on his toes. The Wild outshot the Capitals 12-5 in the first, but Washington actually got off more shot attempts (17-15). Especially with Ovechkin, the Caps are always in shooting range. Not everything’s on net, but there are chances a plenty.
Both teams make their livings in the second period. Entering the game, no NHL team scored more second-period goals (26) than the Caps, while none allowed fewer (eight) than the Wild. Minnesota won the second period 1-0.
For as much talk as we’ve given realignment - maybe we’ve focused too much on new divisions and not talked enough about another important facet - every team playing in every city every season. It’s great for the fans and the players, too. This Wild team was confident coming into the game tonight, but the Caps do everything imaginable to make it tough on you. They really do “Unleash the Fury” in DC, the fans are great, music is LOUD (a little bass anyone?). A great atmosphere, and it says something about this Wild team that it was able to come right back after the early 1-0 deficit, because things could have come unraveled in a hurry.