“I was talking with Zach [Parise], and we’ve never been through, … we’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t know what the heck is going on, but every day’s a bad day right now.” – Ryan Suter on Jan. 11 after the Wild’s 11th loss in 13 games in Chicago.
How long ago does that quote feel?
The Wild would get trounced the next game in Pittsburgh, have that now infamous 30-minute closed-door meeting, acquired Devan Dubnyk the very next day and poof, magic … 12-2-2 since.
The latest victory came via a 4-0 score at Edmonton.
Thanks to a 10-1-1 run since the All-Star break, the Wild has turned a 14-point deficit to the Winnipeg Jets for the top wildcard spot to three with two games in hand. The Wild also moved to ninth tonight, one point behind San Jose for the second wildcard spot with two games in hand, one point behind Calgary (in that top three in the Pacific) with one game in hand and two behind Vancouver. The Flames and Canucks both lost tonight.
Dubnyk made 15 saves tonight for his fifth shutout in 16 starts, the fastest to that many shutouts with one team in the post-expansion era (1967). He also won his career-high 21st game, 12 of which have come in Minnesota with a 1.61 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. Also, he is 5-0 against his old Oilers this season with a 0.79 goals-against average and .970 save percentage (128 saves on 132 shots).
The Oilers are lucky enough to get him against Tuesday in St. Paul.
I’m doing a Dubnyk profile for Sunday’s paper, by the way.
Justin Fontaine, who grew up in Bonnyville, Alberta (three hours northeast of here), scored two goals on a line with Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund. Jordan Schroeder, who continues to play so well and fill the skates of speedster Jason Zucker, scored another goal and Nino Niederreiter scored his 19th and fifth since the All-Star break.
Mikko Koivu had two assists for his 114th career multi-point game, tying Marian Gaborik’s team record. I wrote a story last weekend on how great Koivu is playing. Parise had two assists as well, one coming off an awesome move behind the net. The Parise-Granlund-Fontaine was the Wild's best line.
As you can read in the gamer, Koivu lauded how well the Wild played from start to finish tonight, as did Dubnyk and coach Mike Yeo.
“We played solid,” Yeo said. “We had four lines, all our D and obviously Devyn was there when we needed him, but it was both ends of the ice for me. It was the way we defended, but also the way we executed. It allowed us to spend a lot of time in the offensive zone.”
The Wild overcame a big scare when Marco Scandella left the game after his third shift. It looked like a knee or something, but it turned out his left ankle was stepped on and he was sliced open. He sprinted out after one stoppage in the second from the Zamboni door (no exit to the locker room from the visitors’ bench).
During the rest of the first, the Wild did a great job stepping up. Ryan Suter played with the other four defensemen at different points, and in fact, Christian Folin, fresh off the farm, assisted on Fontaine’s first goal. It was the 11th time in 12 games the Wild scored first. The Wild has outscored opponents 20-6 in 16 Dubnyk first periods.
On the 2-1 road trip, Koivu said, “You always want to win them all, but I thought we responded well after that Vancouver game. Two huge wins.
“It’s not easy trip to come out with four points. We want all six, but we’re happy with four.”
Little strange the same two refs somehow found the Wild one power play in two games at Calgary and Edmonton. Hard to have the puck all game tonight and not draw a power play.
Yeo broke up his lines this trip to try to spread the wealth. It started in Calgary because he wanted to avoid loading up the top line with Koivu, Parise and Jason Pominville and make it simple for Calgary’s top 2 D, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodin, to check them.
He wanted more balance to the lines and he certainly got it tonight. The Wild is 5-1-1 since the injuries to Zucker and Ryan Carter. Guys like Fontaine, Schroeder and Niederreiter continue to step up and fill the void, Yeo said.
Niederreiter and Fontaine each had three goals on the road trip, Schroeder a goal and two assists.
Funny moments in tonight’s game, but a few weeks ago when in Edmonton, I mentioned how Suter and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were fresh off filming a Visa commercial at the All-Star Game. The commercial is out (can be seen on YouTube) and the Rexall Place game-ops folks played it a few times tonight.
“I skated by Nugent-Hopkins and said, ‘They told me they weren’t going to embarrass me.’”
Suter said he got a lot of cracks from his teammates during the game.
“I was trying to hide it,” Suter said, adding that when they filmed the skills competitions during the shoot, he actually won, but Visa made them redo it because it’s only running in Canada because Visa is the NHL’s partner in Canada and Mastercard in the U.S.
I asked jokingly if he’s happy he overcame the adversity and played another solid game (plus-2, plus-10 in his past 12 games), Suter said, “I was just trying not to be noticed out there. Then they would have really rubbed it in. It was what it was. Bad acting.”
On the game, Suter said he thought it was going to be a long night when Scandella was injured, “but the team played well. It’s easy to play in the offensive zone. Everyone stepped in and is really firing on all horses [with the injuries the Wild has].”
Lastly, all the Wild players after the game were talking about a fight in the stands with two minutes left. Apparently, an Oilers fan threw his jersey on the ice. Ben Scrivens skated over and put it back in the stands. The guy that threw it was celebrating and somebody else threw a beer in his face and all heck broke loose.
That’s it for me. No practice Saturday, meaning no blog barring news. Talk Sunday after the morning skates. I am doing another podcast with Jim Souhan at 4 pm Saturday. You can listen live at 4 p.m. at souhanunfiltered.com