Kelly Erickson's Five Takeaways at Colorado
Following Wild games, Digital Media Coordinator Kelly Erickson will occasionally give Five Takeaways that she'll remember from the contest. Tonight, she looks back at a 3-2 shootout loss against the Colorado Avalanche:
The first 56-and-a-half minutes of tonight’s matchup in Colorado didn’t exactly go the Wild’s way. After suffering a loss at home Friday night, the Wild faced a 2-0 deficit with mere minutes left to play. Well, it was plenty of time for the Wild to force OT as Matt Cooke got the Wild on the board and Mikko Koivu netted the game-tying goal with 5.7 seconds to go. It was a dramatic finish, but Minnesota couldn’t quite write the storybook ending, earning just a point on the night with a 3-2 shootout loss.
Speaking of Koivu, if you are a believer in the use of the term ‘clutch’ look no further than the captain. Through the month of November, Koivu has netted two late game-winners and had a helper in Zach Parise’s game-tying goal in Winnipeg Nov. 23. Tonight, with less than ten seconds to go, Koivu picked up a loose puck in the slot as Jason Pominville centered a pass to Parise in front of the net. The captain fired a wrist shot top shelf to beat Avs goaltender Seymon Varmalov with 5.7 seconds left on the clock (seriously, the time of the goal is listed as 19:54, not the 19:56 it would need to be if there was 4.3 seconds left).
With the lineup in flux once against tonight as centerman Zenon Konopka was sidelined after taking a high stick to the face last night, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo switched up the lines, moving Charlie Coyle to center and Kyle Brodziak to the fourth line, centering Cooke and Torrey Mitchell.
While the Wild were pressuring all game, outshooting the Avalanche 37-25, it was that fourth line that really grinded and made things happen. Throughout the first two periods the line saw several golden scoring opportunities, but simply couldn’t finish. Finally the trio broke through in the third. Cooke took a close pass from Mitchell in the slot and beat Varlamov’s blocker to put Minnesota on the board with 3:27 to go in the third. Brodziak also picked up an assist on the paly. Yeo said the line kept pressuring consistently all night and had a feeling the line was going to put one in net.
All the line shuffling prior to puck drop chemistry was an initial concern for some. Brodziak, Cooke and Mitchell worked together — and well, I might add — throughout camp and their established chemistry was evident. Cooke led the Wild with five shots on the night and the line combined for 10 through the contest.
Friday night the Avalanche and Wild combined for 25 penalty minutes in Saint Paul. Saturday night in Denver? Zero. For the first time in Wild history there were no penalties called against either team. Yeo said he was a little surprised but seemed to brush it off, saying “what can you do?”
It was definitely a little odd to see absolutely no calls throughout the game. In fact, I believe it’s the first game I’ve ever witnessed where there wasn’t a least one penalty of some kind. While the man-advantage or a big penalty kill can swing momentum, I’ve heard from plenty of players in my time covering hockey who prefer when the refs put the whistles away and just let them play. Obviously that seemed to be the case tonight.
The forward lines weren’t the only changes Yeo made to the lineup tonight as the defense also got a slight shakeup. The famous Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin duo was split up as Yeo paired Jared Spurgeon with Suter and Brodin with Marco Scandella. Whether it was a return to the pairing or making up for a less-than-stellar start to the night, Spurgeon finished with a strong, standout effort.
He wasn’t afraid to jump up in the play and get things going for the Wild. The 24-year-old (who celebrated his birthday yesterday) skated for 29:25, a mark eclipsed solely by Suter’s 32:04 TOI (unsurprisingly) and had four shots on net, second to Cooke’s five. Spurgeon also accounted for four hits and four blocked shots throughout the contest.
With shiny, new divisions this year there were plenty of guesses as to who would emerge as the Wild’s biggest rival. There are certainly a bunch of arguments for several teams, but coming into the season, the Avalanche weren’t expected to be in the running, well, for much of anything.
Colorado has been one of the biggest surprises of the year and after the last two days there’s certainly a strong argument for a budding rivalry between the pair of teams. First off, the Avalanche is the only team that moved from the old Northwest Division with the Wild to the Central, so there’s a stronger, more recent history there than with most other division foes. Secondly, the two faced off on back-to-back nights leaving wounds fresh and the memories compact.
Now I’m not saying the Avalanche will become the Wild’s biggest rival, but there’s a stronger argument there now than anyone probably anticipated at the beginning of the season. At the very least, expect more action-packed home-and-home series’ in the coming future.