Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways vs. Ottawa
Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-0 loss against the Ottawa Senators:
Coming into tonight’s contest, the Wild and Senators were two of the hotter teams in the National Hockey League. Well, something had to give and the Wild was shutout for the first time at Xcel Energy Center since April 11, 2013. Darcy Kuemper made his second-career start at home and kept the team in the game in the first period. Ottawa came out firing, rifling 15 shots in the opening frame. On the night, the netminder made 29 saves and played well again.
It was just a wonky game tonight. The Wild had trouble connecting on passes and its timing seemed off, but still never was completely out of the contest. Every time the club would get an opportunity on a rush or in the neutral zone, it just missed connecting. Players were clipped in the face with sticks and errant pucks, weird bounces nearly scored on a couple of occasions and Minnesota never seemed to get much flow.
“Not a pretty game,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said after the game.
After Ottawa’s first goal, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo was visibly upset and he might’ve had good reason to be. The Senators were on the power play and on the rush. Erik Karlsson skated up the middle of the ice and chipped a pass to Kyle Turris on the wing just outside of the blue line. Meanwhile, Clarke MacArthur rushed in on the opposite side of the ice. MacArthur was ahead of the puck, but dragged his foot at the last moment as Turris carried the puck over the blue. Unfortunately, the best replay was inconclusive because the puck was along the boards and you couldn’t see the exact moment Turris carries it over the line. It was an awfully close bang-bang play.
Typically, with close calls like this one, the ref will give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking players—like in baseball the tie goes to the runner. Unfortunately, the call went against the Wild. There were a few close calls, none seeming to go Minnesota’s ways. Sometimes, those are the breaks.
Along with Ottawa’s first goal, its second was just as suspect and flat-out bad luck for the Wild. With the team pressing on the forecheck in the third period, Mikael Granlund slid the puck out to Marco Scandella at the point. The blueliner wound up for a big one-timer, with forwards crashing the net, but his stick shattered like a block of ice at the hands of the Karate Kid. Erik Condra picked up the puck and raced towards the cage. Without a stick, Scandella was unable to poke the puck off the forward’s blade and he slid the puck past Darcy Kuemper. It was a fluke play that accentuated the Wild’s night.
There is no worse feeling than breaking your stick on a shot and then having to race back the other way without one. It’s a helpless feeling, like a trying to fight with your hands tied. If you do make it back in time, you’re scrambling around the zone with no stick and players will try to take advantage and dangle around you. If the puck does come to your way, you have two choices: Try to kick it with your skate blade or slide on your belly and glove it. Either way you look pretty dopey.
In the lineup for the Senators tonight was former Wild forward Matt Kassian. The forward was drafted by Minnesota and skated with the club for parts of two seasons from 2010-12. Kassian is a tough guy on the ice, but was always friendly and always a good quote while he was in the State of Hockey. He was even a special Wild.com blogger on the Wild’s summer Road Tour. It’s always nice to see a good guy catch on and get some playing time after being traded away.
Kassian might be liked by former teammates, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a target of the physical play on the ice. In the second period, Nate Prosser was pinching in from the point. Kassian and Prosser raced for a loose puck in the corner and the blueliner steamrolled the larger forward. After a quick whistle, it appeared that Prosser flashed a wry smile at his former teammate like he was saying, “I got you bud.”
Tonight, the “Let’s Play Hockey!” announcement was made by a couple of stalwarts from the Red Bull Crashed Ice event, Cameron Naasz and Danny Bergson. Then, during the second intermission, the arena crew set up a makeshift obstacle course and the two raced. While it wasn’t the intense action that is Red Bull Crashed Ice, it was a good reminder that the event will be back in Saint Paul from Feb. 20 – 22.
If you didn’t check out the event last time, it is well worth the free admission. The course starts at the Cathedral of Saint Paul and twists and turns down the hill. It is an adrenaline junkies’ dream, with speed, spills and heart-pounding action. The participants have to be a little out there because I’d never dream of going down that death course.