Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Columbus
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 4-0 road loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets:
The Wild played a strong road period to open tonight’s contest, but it was all Blue Jackets after that. With Minnesota playing the second game on back-to-back nights, Columbus took advantage. The Jackets last played on Tuesday and looked like a rested team as it finished checks all over the ice and ferociously cycled in the Wild’s zone. It was evident that Columbus put a lot of emphasis to tonight’s contest and took advantage of the rest. The Blue Jackets fired 41 shots against, the most Minnesota has allowed on the season.
The Wild definitely had a game plan in the first period, get pucks deep and play mistake free, but the Blue Jackets came out strong in the second and didn’t take its foot off the pedal.
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back is never easy: you never get a great night’s sleep because your adrenaline is pumping late into the night, there typically isn’t a morning skate so your routine is off and it takes a little more to get the legs pumping. Tonight’s contest was especially difficult after last night’s emotional comeback win against Chicago. After topping the Hawks at home, the team had to jump on a plane to Ohio and lost an hour (Columbus is in the Eastern Time Zone) in the process.
Athletes will never admit it, but there is such a thing as a let-down game. While the Wild didn’t overlook Columbus, it played a smart opening period as previously mentioned, but it was going to be hard for the team to match its intensity of yesterday’s game. Minnesota will own up to the loss, but tonight the team just didn’t have the same legs as it did last night. But it wasn’t all about the Wild; give the Blue Jackets credit, the team had a game plan and executed.
When thinking about the super athletic goaltenders around the National Hockey League, Niklas Backstrom’s name might not immediately jump to mind. Obviously Backstrom is an elite athlete, anyone who plays goaltender in the NHL in today’s game has to be, but he plays more of a positional game, relying on playing good angles to take away net rather than making sprawling Dominik-Hasek-like saves. Unfortunately tonight, the Blue Jackets scored on a couple of absolute snipes, a power play scramble and a nice feed during garbage time in the third.
However, in the first period of tonight’s game, Backstrom showed his grace by making a split save that would’ve made Jean Claude Van Damme uncomfortable. After Backtrom kicked out a James Wisniewski point shot, Derek MacKenzie had the entire net to shoot at, but the netminder made a split save going left to right with his pad. Maybe Toyota should drive a couple Tundras down I-94 with Backstrom between them and do this.
NHL referees and linesmen have the most thankless jobs in all of hockey. Their travel schedule is brutal, they’re constantly told about the terrible job they’re doing by both teams, fans boo them mercilessly and they are always in harms way out on the ice.
Tonight, Greg Kimmerly found himself in a bad spot in the corner in the Wild’s defensive zone. Wild defenseman Keith Ballard was tracking Jackets forward Corey Tropp and launched him with a check, right into Kimmerly, who had absolutely no where to go. With Kimmerly on the ice, the puck remained in the area and more players and sticks converged and were swung around the ref’s face.
If you ever get a chance to speak with one away from the rink, do it, because they have amazing stories and are typically pretty genuine guys, but I don’t know how they put themselves through the abuse. The pay must be pretty decent because, honestly, I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would want to be an NHL official…
Speaking of officiating, this space is typically not used to complain about the officials, but there were a couple of questionable calls on the same play in the second period. With the Wild in the defensive zone, Jonas Brodin was skating into the corner to pick up a loose puck when RJ Umberger ran him from behind. The play was especially dangerous because Brodin was a few feet from the wall and toppled head first into the boards. It was the exact type of hit that the NHL is trying to eliminate.
With Brodin on the ice, Ryan Suter grabbed and pinned Umberger and had some words with Columbus forward. For this action, Suter was given a two minute minor for roughing and he was none too happy about the call, and for good reason. The minor offense—that wasn’t anything more than what happens nightly in scrums in front of the net after a whistle—offset the Umberger penalty, which also was called a minor, to even things up. Mammas don’t let your babies grow up to be referees—they get no love.