Postgame: Zucker gives Wild a jolt of energy
- Blog Post by: Kent Youngblood
- March 31, 2012 - 11:44 PM
After the game was over, just about everybody was ready to praise the play of Jason Zucker. But, just as quickly, they wanted to make sure that nobody was putting too much pressure on the guy.
Here's an opinion: I don't think they have to worry about that.
Before Zucker took his game to another level Saturday, Wild coach Mike Yeo was talking about Zucker's confidence, how he wasn't going to be awed by the leap from college hockey to the NHL.
Guess he was right. In the Wild's 4-3 shootout victory over L.A. Saturday, the line of center Erik Christensen, Zucker and Nick Johnson was the team's power source all night long.
Zucker just had a jump all night. At times he looked like the fastest player on the ice. "You could just see his first couple steps," Christensen said. "He's pretty quick."
That line was good from start to finish. In the first period Zucker's burst got him past Kings defenseman Matt Greene to the outside. The rebound of Zucker's shot went to Johnson, who scored.
In the third period, Christen's drop pass set up Zucker for a shot from the slot that went off Christensen's skate and into the goal, tying the game 3-3.
Zucker could have had a third assist, too. His looping backhand pass set up Devin Setoguchi for a breakaway during the overtime. Seto was dragged down by Alec Martinez and awarded a penalty shot, but didn't convert.
:"His game went to another level today," Yeo said. "We expected that. The last game was his first professional hockey game. And he had a chance to do it in the best league in the world. It was big for him to get a game under his belt. But, again, it's important that we keep things in perspective with him. He did a great job tonight, for sure."
It appears Christensen and Zucker already have a bit of chemistry going. Christensen loved how Zucker ran that chance with him in the third period. The two criss-crossed, with Christensen dropping him the puck. "That's exactly what I want a guy playing with me to do," Christensen said. "To come in from behind me, criss-cross. It's hard for (the other team) to defend. Once I drop the puck to him, he has a lot of time to make a play and get the puck on net. I like that. We were reading off each other tonight. it was fun."
But then, the disclaimer: "I wouldn't get too ahead of ourselves," Christensen added. "It's not like we're some dynamic duo already. He's a young guy with a lot of enthusiasm and we're going to try to keep it simple."
Here's what Zucker had to say about his game: "I got the jitters out the last game," he said. "I was able to come in tonight and play more my game."
By the way. I asked Zucker if he was going to keep the score sheet from tonight's game as a memento. "I'm sure my parents will,'' he said.
Here are some other notes from tonight's game
--Tom Gilbert played 31:43, his second-highest total of his career, thanks to Steven Kampfer's injury. He also took a nasty high stick in the fact from Dwight King.
--Niklas Backstrom continues to improve on shootouts.
--Mikko Koivu's shootout winner was a classic Koivu move, to the backhand. I'm thinking that's what Jose Theodore thought he was going to do on that semi-breakaway the other night.
--But Koivu, Setoguchi and Heatley have to do more as a line. The three combined for four shots Saturday.
That's about it for now. Russo will pick up the team tomorrow in Chicago.
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