The Wild got back into the “win’ column by beating the truly snake-bitten (maybe a rattlesnake?) Arizona Coyotes by a score of 2-1. Minnesota got the win, but you can’t call the game pretty. Minnesota coming off a game the night before, Mikko Koivu a late scratch to be with his wife for the birth of their child, and Matt Hendricks getting injured late in the first period was a tall task. Luckily they got to play a team that has yet to score at even strength, and only has four goals total.
Minnesota now moves to 2-2-2. Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund were the goal scorers, Winning is fun. Here are three big things we learned after the Wild beat the Coyotes.
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap
Brendan Perlini’s goal in the first period on the power play got the Coyotes going in the right direction. It’s not that the Wild were dominating play in the first period, but a missed chance at an open net by Jason Zucker, and some timely big stops by former Wild netminder Darcy Kuemper kept the Wild at bay.
Minnesota’s Greg Pateryn was called for hooking and gave Arizona a chance with the man-advantage. The Wild’s PK has been mostly solid this year as has been Devan Dubnyk. Though, when Perlini found just the tightest of spaces above Dubnyk’s shoulder and below the crossbar, it changed the complexion of the game.
Dubnyk has been really good this year. In fact, he’s got a .940 save percentage so far. Dubnyk is big, Dubnyk is on his game. And sometimes guys just make a really great shot.
Honestly, In Dubnyk’s attempt to cover the lower part of the net as well as doing his best to stay tall, there’s always going to some space open at the top of the net. It requires perfect placement to thread the needle, and that’s really all goaltenders do. They take away enough of the net by playing angles that puts the odd into their favor, then rely on sheer athletic ability to make up for the rest.
Looking the play over, as Dubnyk goes into a VH stance, his left shoulder hunches forward from the left post. And that’s by design so that he keeps a soft posture. He wants to deaden the puck and allow his body absorb the shot so it’s easier to control. It’s tough to find what more he could do in that situation without knowing exactly Perlini was going with the puck with some serious psychic intuition.
But in this case, you just have to tip your cap for a really well-placed shot.
Sometimes you just need a gift
Minnesota was on the brink of losing control of that game in the second period. The Coyotes kept reloading in the neutral zone after the Wild continually shipped pucks out rather than skated them out. Dubnyk had to stand tough in the blue paint. The Wild were back to the same garbage habits they had since game one of the season. They allowed the speed of Arizona dictate the pace.
Then Darcy Kuemper felt like giving a gift to his former team. Mikael Granlund ripped a shot from the top of the circles that knuckled and eluded Kuemper as it found its way undereath the crossbar. For all the missed chances to beat Kuemper, that shot - that low-danger shot - was the one the found the back of the net.
You have to feel bad for Kuemper. You do. Take that goal away and Kuemper really played a magnificent game with some amazing saves on the likes of Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, and Jason Zucker all from point-blank range. And Minnesota was clearly dealing with heavy legs being on the second of a back-to-back and the weird line-up that featured 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. That eventually became 10 forwards and 7 defensemen with the injury to Hendricks.
Call it a gift, but sometimes you need those.
Sometimes you leave chances on the table
With the score tied in the third period, one specific out of a myriad of plays really stuck out to me. It’s awfully telling about Charlie Coyle. With 16:33 remaining in the period, a shot that went high and wide over Dubnyk gets pitched out to Coyle inside the defensive zone. He immediately makes a bank pass off the near boards for Zucker to skate into, and hopefully catch the defenseman flat-footed.
Zucker can’t get around his man and sees Coyle following up the play and makes a drop-pass just inside the blue line. Now, Zucker’s speed has forced both defensemen back deep into their own zone, and even though the defenseman peeled off Zucker to guard Coyle, he was nearly stationary. There was a lane down the slot that opened up for Coyle to take, and since he is a right-handed shot, he had the best shooting angle with the puck toward the middle, rather than on the flank.
Instead, Coyle decided to swim the Red Sea that Moses parted. He made a move to get around the defense by going around the left side near the boards and eventually behind the net. His centering pass was in futile and the offensive chance was dead.
Coyle refused to take the ice that had been given him, and he chose to stay away from the scoring area of the ice. Everyone is hoping for Coyle to develop into a stud, and by avoiding the tough areas of the ice, he’s become more of a dud. This team can’t afford to leave scoring chances on the table. Coyle surely can’t afford to leave those chances on the table either. Though this play will likely get forgotten in the win for Minnesota because Staal played the hero a few minutes later, I think a play like that is very telling.
The Wild didn’t play a great game. They played a good game, and sometimes that can be enough to win especially if the other team is snake-bitten like crazy and the goalie is susceptible to questionable goals.