Oh, the genius of Mike Yeo.
With the Wild coach getting slaughtered on Twitter and on the blogs and I’m sure the message boards for doing the unthinkable, scratching former Gopher Erik Haula, Yeo’s shuffling of the second, third and fourth lines helped trigger the team tying a franchise record for margin of victory with tonight’s 6-0 beatdown of my childhood team, the New York Islanders.
Haula’s scratch surprised many of us. Heck, I came to the rink this morning thinking he’d be promoted to the third line. But Haula sat, and Yeo explains his reasoning below.
But like Yeo scripted it, the first, second and third lines scored with Matt Moulson leading the charge with the winning goal, another goal and three points in his return to Long Island. The former Isle scored 118 goals in orange and blue.
Fans treated him unbelievably, cheering him during a video tribute, after each of his goals and as his name was announced as the game’s first star. They also chanted, “WE WANT MOULSON!!!” the last five minutes and “SNOW MUST GO!!!” That’s a message to GM Garth Snow, who traded Moulson, who wanted to re-sign with the Islanders, for Thomas Vanek, who didn’t want to re-sign with the Islanders and eventually had to be dealt to Montreal the same day Moulson was dealt to Minnesota.
Read the gamer for all the details and quotes, especially on Moulson. I'll be on KFAN at 9 a.m., by the way.
Mikko Koivu became the Wild’s all-time leading scorer tonight by assisting on three goals to pass Marian Gaborik with 438 points. He had two assists in seven games since ankle surgery before tonight and was outstanding. He was plus-3.
Justin Fontaine, recently scratched for five straight, scored a goal and assist. Mikael Granlund scored a goal on assists by Jason Pominville (six-game point streak) and Zach Parise. Clayton Stoner scored an awesome breakaway goal coming out of the penalty box. When he entered the room after his postgame interview with Fox Sports North’s Kevin Gorg, the room went nuts.
“Anytime a guy like me or a guy that doesn’t score a lot of goals – like [Nate] Pross[er] game-winners -- cool feeling. It’s cool when guys get excited for you because maybe you don’t get the glory as much. It’s cool to get that for a change.”
On the goal, Stoner said, “It happens really fast. I was trying to get my feet going right away so that guy didn’t catch me. I’m not the fastest guy on the team.”
Jared Spurgeon scored a goal and was plus-4. Ryan Suter got to play only 23:15, a season-low, and was plus-4.
On a late power play, Yeo didn’t want to run up the score, so he put three non power-play guys out with Matt Moulson and Jonas Brodin – Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Marco Scandella. Cooke and Brodziak assisted on Moulson’s second goal, and the sixth of the game.
It was the sixth six-goal victory in Wild history and fifth 6-0 win in Wild history (third on the road).
Ilya Bryzgalov was outstanding, especially early when the Wild kind of dipped its toe in the game. Yeo felt the Wild was tight early, either from playing in Boston the night before or from the nerves of the recent slide.
But Bryzgalov made 16 of his 36 saves in the first period and recorded his first win and shutout with the Wild.
Yeo didn’t commit to Bryzgalov starting Thursday at New Jersey. I jokingly said, “But that’s your rule (to start the same goalie after a shutout).” He said back, “Not rule. Guideline.”
So we’ll see if he comes back with Darcy Kuemper or Bryzgalov Thursday. The Wild has Wednesday off, so we won’t know until Thursday morning.
Some Yeo quotes:
On Fontaine: “He showed a lot. We’ll have to make sure he stays on it. He’s got quick feet but he makes quick decisions. To play with guys like that (Moulson and Koivu), you need skill but you have to think the game at a high level. He showed he’s capable of that tonight.”
On Moulson: “This is a guy that’s obviously very, very well respected. You see what the crowd’s doing in a game like that. I thought that was very classy of their crowd and reflects what kind of person this is, what he’s meant to this organization.”
On Stoner’s breakaway goal and the late power-play goal with Brodziak and Cooke out there, Yeo joked, “We might have been making some wrong reads on who should be going in the shootout and who should be playing on the power play.”
Yeo said the Wild had real good focus, played for each other and did the right things and trusted the result would come if they did those right things. He said that could have been tough because the team played a good game in Boston but lost 4-1. He said it was impressive how the team bounced back.
On sitting Erik Haula: “That was a very difficult choice. We’re real happy with Haulsy right now. Let’s be honest though, there’s a difference when you’re playing on the third line compared to when you’re playing on the fourth line. You’re playing against top players (in other words, Yeo is trying to ease Haula into this season and he doesn’t feel he’s ready yet for that type of responsibility). A lot of people are saying take Brodzy out, but Brodzy, like we wouldn’t be where we’re at right now without him, too. So, get [Brodziak] into a spot where he could be successful. I think that was important. And, we’ll call upon Haulsy. We’ve got a bunch of guys here and everybody’s going to have to be important. We’ll call on him again and make sure he’s ready. But it’s about trying to get guys into certain spots so they can be successful.”
Yeo said he didn’t like the bottom three lines recently because they had no identity. These lines tonight, he felt there was better balance.
Koivu on breaking Gaborik’s record: “It means a lot. Being able to be in one organization for a lot of years, I played with a lot of great players. I think more than anything you look back, there’s been ups and downs, like in sports there always is. It’s a great feeling. I’m passing Gabby. He’s a pretty good scorer, so I did something right.”
In injury news, not good news on Jason Zucker. GM Chuck Fletcher said he will likely need additional knee surgery and be out for the season. He reaggravated his knee training, Fletcher said. Fletcher said it was supposed to be a minor injury when he underwent surgery in February. Now it's not.
If it's related, Zucker's tweet tonight makes it sound more serious than Fletcher's letting on.
I have no idea how to handle this... #rattled— Jason Zucker (@Jason_Zucker16) March 18, 2014
Lastly, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported that the Wild is among many NHL teams pursuing St. Lawrence University undrafted brothers Greg and Matt Carey.
Greg Carey, a senior, is the second-leading Division I scorer in the country with 57 points (18 goals). He’s considered an average skater but pure sniper. Matt Carey, a freshman, is said to play more of a pro style but is raw. He’s tied for 38th in the country with 37 points (18 goals).
Also, according to sources, the Wild and Boston Bruins are also among many teams after Swedish defenseman Christian Folin, who plays at Massachusetts-Lowell. Many scouts say Folin has the ability to step right into an NHL lineup.
The Wild had two former undrafted college free agents in its lineup tonight -- Fontaine and Prosser.
Like I said, no practice Wednesday. If the Wild signs any of these guys, I'll toss up a blog. Otherwise, talk Thursday. Zach Parise Night Thursday in Newark!