Update: Kadri has a noon CT hearing today for steamrolling Niklas Backstrom. This has two games written all over it. The league is not further disciplining him on Granlund hit.
The Wild improved to 5-0-1 in its past six and 8-1-2 in its past 11 by rallying for a 2-1 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.
As always, please read the game story for all the good, but Zach Parise tied the game with 4:17 left before Parise and Jason Pominville scored in the shootout to lift Minnesota to a game it pretty unarguably deserved to win.
Other than its power play continually failing them, the Wild severely outchanced Toronto. Jonathan Bernier was great as usual against the Wild (eight goals allowed in 434 minutes against Minnesota) and the Maple Leafs’ defenders continually got sticks in the Wild’s way to knock chances out of harm’s way.
The big story of the way was menace Nazem Kadri, the 2009 seventh overall pick. He knocked Niklas Backstrom out of the game 10 ½ minutes in by not only barreling him over, but giving him a forearm shiver to the head.
Backstrom sustained an “upper-body” injury, which means he’ll need to see an “upper-body” specialist for an “upper-body” baseline test. Later, Kadri, who was running around all game with no Wild players challenging him (he once hog-tied Nino Niederreiter and sent him to the ice, creamed Mikael Granlund for a match penalty hit to the head.
The one on Backstrom I think will be really scrutinized by the league (as all the Wild players said, it's the type of blow to the head the league wants to rid), especially if the NHL sees the hit on Granlund the way Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle saw it: “It’s beyond me the five-minute major. I just looked at it. He made initial contact with the shoulder and the kid had the head down. (Kadri) didn’t have his arms up and he ran into the player and Granlund snapped his head back. Obviously the referee’s saw it differently and obviously when it’s a five-minute match penalty it’ll be reviewed.”
Kadri wasn’t made available. Josh Harding came in and made 19 saves to improve to 10-2-2.
The big story of the game though was Toronto creating havoc, taking runs at guys (Marco Scandella, Granlund, Jared Spurgeon, Niederreiter obviously Backstrom) and the Wild not doing the same. Now, the Wild could have made Toronto pay if its power play wasn’t, as Yeo admitted, “out of sorts.” Also, because the Wild was trying to rally, Zenon Konopka only played seven shifts. Also, Mike Rupp’s in Iowa on a rehab stint.
But maybe the lack of response did show that the Wild may need to spot Rupp in against some of the more aggressive teams in the NHL. As of now, if the Wild’s healthy up front, it’ll be hard for Rupp to get games. But there may be times where Yeo may need to consider him.
Yeo said, “Do we match up against that team's toughness? No, we don’t. If we want to start trading off, we go after Kadri, next thing you know, what are they going to go after? They’re going to go after our guys too and again we don’t match up in that toughness department against them. Now we do have a team that cares about each other very much, and we stick up for each other, trust me. You saw Brodzy (Kyle Brodziak) getting in there for Nino and you saw guys competing and battling and trying to have that team toughness. Between the whistles and the way we fought through this game and found a way to win, that’s a message too to your teammates.”
The Wild just aren’t built like Toronto, so while there may be times where the Wild may be exposed for what even Yeo admits is a lack of toughness, I’m not overly concerned this is a huge problem yet. Some fans were tweeting me incessantly that the Wild are “soft.” The reality is, this is the first time all season a team came in intent on trying to push the Wild around, and the end result?
The Wild completely outplayed that team and ended up taking two points. At the end of the day, this alleged soft team has gotten points in 10 of the last 11 games and the last six. So this is not as big a deal yet as I think these fans are making it out to be.
The power play was an issue tonight. I’m not a big fan of Jason Pominville in the slot, although on the major, he nearly scored from that area. I just like his booming shot from the point. I think he’s more effective there. I also love the chemistry with Coyle on the top line with Parise and Mikko Koivu, so to me, keep that going and if you want a right-shot on the second unit, toss Justin Fontaine in the middle or use Jared Spurgeon there. I also don’t like the No. 2 unit without Niederreiter. But the past few power plays tonight, Yeo went with a second unit of Granlund, Coyle, Heatley, Brodin and Scandella.
Yeo said the Wild obviously has to look at the power play.
I thought the Wild’s D played real well again tonight. Under the radar has been Spurgeon. He has kind of been overshadowed by Ryan Suter’s 108 minutes the past three games (most ice time in a three-game stretch since ice time started to be tracked in 2000 (according to Elias) and Marco Scandella’s rising game. But Spurgeon’s been good in every zone.
Harding, sick last night, came in cold and again was solid, especially late in overtime. Just a good two points, and the Wild needed a puck off two skates to beat Jonathan Bernier (33 saves).
Yeo gave some good kudos tonight to Brodziak, Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine, who went up a lot against Phil Kessel’s line and also helped create momentum after the failed five-minute major before Parise’s equalizer. Wild could have won in regulation if not for Bernier. After Parise’s goal, it was all Wild.
“Bernier was lights out. It was one of the better goaltending performances I’ve seen this year,” Harding said.
Talk to you Thursday after practice. Check out my Charlie Coyle notebook and my Wild Minute with actor Erik Stolhanske.