Your Minnesota Wild opened the first night of back-to-back games with a nice come from behind 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Like many games this season, the Wild came out not being able to match their opponents pace early on and ultimately relinquished the first goal of the game. Also like many games this season, the Wild were able to claw their way back into this game and come away with a big road win.
While it may be getting a little old for the fans to see this team constantly falling behind early in games, it doesn’t seem to bother the team at all. It’s also a pretty good sign when you have a squad that is showing they are able to battle back in games and that they are never really out of it.
While the Wild went down early they then locked in defensively, holding the Kings to 14 shots in the final 2 periods. The Wild's forecheck was on point and played a vital role in last night's action. And Dubnyk bounced back after a rough outing in San Jose Tuesday night.
Ek on the Forecheck
It was impossible to miss last night. Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek was a machine on the forecheck. And while he was held off the score sheet his contributions were pivotal to shaping the game, especially late when the Wild were still clinging to a one-goal lead. On several occasions Ek was right in the Kings back pocket, bottling things up against the boards, killing time, and allowing for a second forechecker to get in and establish himself in the breakout lanes or assist along the wall in a scrum.
And it wasn’t so much that the coaching staff challenged just JEE, but the team as a whole. Recognizing that the Kings weren’t handling the Wild’s up-front pressure well, the team together really started to clamp down on the Kings attempts to break out of their own defensive zone. Ek stood out to me the most, but he wasn’t alone on an island by any means. The forecheck from the 3rd and 4th line worked really well last night, and that lead to offensive chances and really slowed the attack for the Kings who managed only 6 shots on goal in the 3rd period.
Good bounce-back game from Dubnyk
After really struggling with seeing the puck through traffic in front of the net Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, it was nice to see Devan Dubnyk bounce back against the Kings. Against the Sharks, Dubs stopped 18 of 22 shots he faced in the 4-3 loss. That's a .818 Sv% which ain't a pretty number to see if you're a netminder. By contrast, Dubs blocked 27 of 28 shots he faced against the Kings, posting a .964 Sv% in Thursday night's 3-1 victory.
The Kings are a fast puck-moving team but Dubnyk was tracking the puck pretty well all night and his defense was able to keep the traffic down to a minimum in front of the cage. Dubnyk has never been one to let a bad game get him down. And it's because of that this team is able to go out there night after night with confidence in the guy between the pipes.
Bob Naegele Jr
It was a somber day yesterday as the State of Hockey learned of the passing of Bob Naegele Jr. Naegele was the majority owner for the Wild from day 1, until he sold his stake in the franchise to current owner Craig Leipold in 2008. Naegele played a vital role in correcting a very bad decision by the NHL in moving the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas as he along with a partnership of Minnesota business leaders and politicians, secured a new NHL franchise for State of Hockey, your Minnesota Wild.
I don't have any personal anecdotes about the guy. I never met him, but I can't tell how much he means to 12 year old me who watched with a broken heart as the North Stars were ripped away from us. Naegele and company resurrected professional hockey from ashes in Minnesota. They retooled the old St. Paul Civic Center into one of the best hockey arenas around and set the groundwork for the franchise you see today.
Would professional hockey have returned to Minnesota without the efforts of Bob Naegele? Probably at some point. Efforts to secure a new franchise were already underway when he got involved. It would be one crazy mixed up world though where Las Vegas would have a professional hockey team, and Minnesota would not, right? All the same, Naegele helped craft the vision (and provide the funding) to bring professional hockey back to Minnesota, and for that, little 12 year old me will be eternally grateful. Thank you Bob Naegele. You will be missed.