Of all players on the Wild, one was particularly picked on during last night's game. It wasn't Nate Prosser, him of the "often derided for being on the glass" persuasion. It wasn't Jason Pominville, of the "whiffs more often than a cook testing his curry." It was "could have been Giroux but is maybe a 2nd-liner" Mikael Granlund.
To say the Hockey Wilderness community was rough on Granlund in the comments last night would have been putting it lighter than a mosquito that's breathed nothing but helium; pretty light. However, Granlund heard us, and set out to prove us wrong.
As the end of the first period ended, Granlund gained possession of the puck and did this:
As Granlund streaks through the neutral zone, many players (and fans) would look for him to pass to get into the offensive area. He doesn't, though, he continues carrying the puck with speed. Seeing this, his wingers slow down and stall on the blue line. As Mikael enters the zone, they trail in behind him, prepared to set up a high zone cycle in what is a textbook example of the Wild's system.
As Granlund drives deep he starts taking defenders with him; even without an elite shot, it's foolhardy to let a forward in alone on goal. Unfortunately for Columbus, as Parise's marker turns to pressure Granlund, the Finn dishes the puck to a breaking Zach Parise. Parise waits a beat for the defenders to clear his shooting lane and fires a wrister past Anton Forsberg.
It was a great shot, there's no doubt, but the zone entry was absolutely ideal; if Parise hadn't had a shooting lane, the Wild were set up to start cycling the puck at speed and create a chance for themselves. We were robbed of the chance to see some great passing (sarcasm intended) by Granlund's pass and Parise's goal.
There are many types of "pretty" goals in the NHL, and this is a very pretty goal. It featured no tics, tacs, or toes, and there was no dangling or fancy stick work, but when a system comes together and is executed perfectly (if for a short time), players can create their own kind of poetry.