Game 1: Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways at Colorado
Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he looks back at a 5-4 overtime loss in Game 1 of Round 1 against the Colorado Avalanche:
During the regular season, the Minnesota Wild was one of the best third-period comeback teams in the National Hockey League, but so were the Colorado Avalanche.
Tonight, the Avs came back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to send the game into overtime. Colorado forward Paul Stastny scored the game-tying goal with 13.4 seconds remaining in regulation, then the overtime winner 7:27 into the extra session.
The play that saved the game for the Avs was while its net was empty for an extra attacker late in the third. From the Wild’s defensive zone, Erik Haula lofted a high backhander down the length of the ice. The puck was on edge and careening towards the Colorado goal, but defenseman Erik Johnson swept it from the crease moments before it crossed the line. Johnson's momentum carried him into the net, knocking it off its moorings and the play was blown dead. In a bit of confusion, the faceoff came outside of the Avs zone. Conversely, Wild captain Mikko Koivu was handed a two-minute delay of game penalty for knocking the net off earlier in the contest, but Johnson was issued no such penalty.
While it was a disappointing loss for Minnesota, it was only a single game. It is a best of four series and the Wild will have a chance to tie it up on Saturday before heading back to the State of Hockey.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about battling through checks, second effort plays and gritty performances. After dipping a toe in the playoff waters last season, Charlie Coyle knew what to expect coming into tonight’s contest. His first-career playoff goal came directly from extra effort.
The forward was in the corner battling with two Avs players and outmuscled them both. The puck moved to the point, and Coyle busted to the net. Marco Scandella fired from the left side and Zach Parise, who knows a thing or two about extra effort, got his stick on the puck with Jan Hejda draped all over him. The puck went into the slot, where Coyle tracked it down and lifted it over outstretched Avs netminder Semyon Varlamov.
In the second period, Johnson was continually pummeling Parise in the back of the head near the Avs net. Coyle made a B-line to the scrum and pulled Johnson off Parise. Coyle is at his best when he’s physical and engaged, like he was tonight.
While the Wild needs contributions from its top line, anyone can be a playoff hero. Yesterday, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo had a great quote about how in order to make a run teams need players to exceed expectations. Heck, it was so good I used it as my lede in the Lighthouse. He was talking about Minnesota’s depth players needing to step up, and tonight the Wild showed its depth at forward, with both the third and fourth lines scoring.
Fourth line center Erik Haula has something you just can’t teach: speed. And it kills. The rookie has a chance to be an impact player in this series because he is so explosive through the neutral zone. A high-scoring forward at the University of Minnesota, he’s shown the ability to Finnish (pun intended), too. On his goal, Haula took a stretch pass from Jonas Brodin and flew around Avs defenders Brad Malone and Nick Holden like their skates were stuck in mud. He endured two slashes while going backhand 5-hole on Varlamov.
Bryzgalov has become well know for having a quirky attitude. Well, his counterpart and fellow countryman Semyon Varlamov looked like the quirky one today. With the Avs setting up in the defensive zone for a set breakout, Mikko Koivu was on the forecheck and stood in front of the Avs’ goaltender. Koivu was mirroring the Colorado defender, moving to the side of the net the defenseman moved to. Out of nowhere, Varlamov began to wave his catching glove in front of Koivu’s face like he was trying to hail a cab. This great shot captures the moment. Koivu’s face is basically saying, “Are you serious, bro?” It was a reverse Sean Avery moment.
In the overtime, he did it again to Stephane Veilleux, only this time he used his face and chest. Instead of using his arms, he puffed out his chest, upturned his chin and got in Veilleux face like a drunk guy trying to start a bar fight. The episodes were just another chapter in the long book on strange netminder behavior.
I’m a subscriber to the idea that experience matters come playoff time. If you’ve been through the fires of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before, you’re better equipped to handle any situation that may arise. This type of experience applies to a plethora of situations, no matter how large or small, every bit of an edge matters. One of the reasons the Wild acquired Cooke in the offseason was because of his veteran moxie. Cooke’s presence goes from his on ice play to leadership in the locker room. Occasionally, it’s the small things that go unnoticed to the casual observer that make a difference, especially in a seven-game series. One such a play happened towards the end of the first period.
With the third line on the ice for a long shift, a missed stretch pass led to an icing and a faceoff in the Wild defensive zone. The Avalanche sent out the dangerous line of Gabriel Landeskog, Stastny and Jamie McGinn. While the ref raced to set up the faceoff, Cooke meandered down the ice like he was taking a stroll in the park on a summer’s day, buying some extra time. Then, instead of center Kyle Brodziak lining up to take the faceoff, Cooke started in at the dot. He had no intention of taking the faceoff, lining up well outside of his allotted zone. The ref kicked him out of the faceoff circle, but not before getting a few extra breaths for himself and his linemates.