Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Winnipeg
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 3-2 shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets:
It doesn’t matter how you start, but how you finish. The Wild didn’t have its best stuff at the beginning of the game, but came on strong scoring twice in the third period to send the game into overtime and eventually winning in a shootout. It was the fifth-straight win where the tying, or winning goal, came in final 10 minutes of regulation.
With Mikael Granlund out of the lineup (we’ll get to that) the Wild was forced to shuffle its lines and dressed seven defensemen. Of course even with seven D-men, Ryan Suter still logged more than 30 minutes. The blueliner made a great play on the team’s game-tying goal, a shorthanded effort by Zach Parise. On a 3-on-2, Suter went hard to the net, opening a lane and Mikko Koivu found Parise for a one-timer.
In the shootout, Koivu scored on his patented backhand shelf. Charlie Coyle scored on a beautiful move, starting on his forehand, moving to his backhand and slamming on the breaks, and slid it into the empty net for the win.
It was one of the wonkiest games of the season, with the a lot of action happening before puck drop…
The Wild struggled in the opening period, but after a strange warmup, things could’ve been a lot worse. First, Mikael Granlund was out tonight with an upper-body injury. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he just wasn't ready and decided to keep him out of the lineup. Yesterday, the center didn’t practice with the team, but with no forwards getting called up from Iowa, it was expected that Granlund would be in the lineup against the Jets. However, he didn’t participate in the team’s warmups and Charlie Coyle moved to center between Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker. Throughout the game, the Wild was forced to juggle lines with only 11 forwards. Eventually, Niederreiter found himself on the wing with Parise and Koivu, and scored the Wild’s first goal.
Granlund missing warmups wasn’t the only bad omen, as Josh Harding went to the bench to get checked out by Wild trainer Donny Fuller before the finish of warmups. After the game Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said he suffered a lower-body injury and he left warmups early and didn’t come out of the locker room to start the game…
Wait a minute, that’s Niklas Backstrom’s music! The netminder jumped into action for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Nov. 13 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It also was only the second time facing shots in 10 days, as the goaltender returned to practice yesterday.
Well, apparently Backstrom, like Allen Iverson, didn’t need the practice because he was sharp from the get go making 13 saves in the opening period. The netminder stood on his head, making 37 saves and stopped three out of Winnipeg’s four shooters in the shootout.
Earlier in the day, when it looked like Harding would get the start, the Wild reassigned goaltender Darcy Kuemper to Iowa, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. So, Kuemper went to the airport thinking he would be in Iowa this afternoon. The netminder checked his bag, went through security and was waiting at the terminal for his plane when he got the call.
The airport attendants pulled his bags off the plane and Kuemper hopped on the team bus back to MTS Centre. He geared up and was ready for the second period in an emergency roll. He had a pretty comfortable seat to watch Backstrom put on a clinic for the rest of the game.
As a writer, I really enjoyed today’s 2 p.m. start time and afternoon hockey. However, as a player, I never did like the early start times. Hockey players are creatures of habit and starting in the afternoon throws off your entire daily routine. You only get in one meal, there is no morning skate and you don’t get your afternoon nap.
The city of Winnipeg loves its Jets, and the matinee start time didn’t keep fans at MTS Centre from rocking the team’s gear. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so many sweaters in an arena. A quick look around the building and at least 75 percent of the fans in the stands were wearing Jets jerseys.