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In front of a crowd of 19,040 (biggest opening night crowd ever) the Minnesota Wild treated the fans to goals from both of their big off-season acquisitions as Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi dominated any and all Blue Jackets they faced amassing 4 points and possessing the puck all night long. Just a fantastic game by these three. But it all started with Matt Cullen taking a 2-on-1 cross-ice feed from Pierre-Marc Bouchard who received a great head-man pass from Guillaume Latendresse and rifling it past Steve Mason just 1:10 into the game. Then at the 16:20 mark Marco Scandella took a nifty feed from his partner Jared Spurgeon, slipped past the defense, drove to the net and buried it behind Mason for his first career NHL goal. A great night for Scandella.
The second period was all about the top line. Dany Heatley took a pass from Bouchard on the power play and snapped it over Mason putting the Wild up 3-0 and it was essentially over. Sure, Derek Dorsett scored a garbage goal crashing into Backstrom and shoving the puck over, but it didn't matter as Heatley and Setoguchi connected with Gooch (still working on the nickname here) who fired a laser past Mason to finish the scoring for Minnesota.
Columbus youngster Maksim Mayorov got the Blue Jackets within two in the third period on an effort goal picking up the rebound from Grant Clitsome's shot. But that would be as close as it got.
The Wild special teams were fantastic tonight. The power play was firing on all cylinders and the penalty kill owned all night. Even Heatley was great on the kill. Good thing too, since we lost such a defensive specialist in Martin Havlat.
Rick Nash was a non-entity. He was pushed around, separated from the puck and simply couldn't get into the game. Jeff Carter got a gift assist, otherwise he was a non-factor. Frankly, Columbus was a disappointment tonight.
The big point of contention tonight was around the 4:00 double minor Pierre-Marc Bouchard received for a high-stick on Matt Calvert. Yes, Bouchard drew blood. Yes, she was slashing at Calvert, but replays show that Calvert deflected the stick into his own face. Bouchard wasn't targeting Calvert's teeth, so to all Blue Jackets calling for Bouchard to get the Shanaban, it just won't happen. Tough break, accidental, not intent to injure. Relax.
Let's address the concerns:
This team needs secondary scoring. Sure, the top line was as good as advertised. Aside from one shift where they couldn't get out of the zone they dominated all night. Four points from the top line. However, they weren't alone. Four points from the second line including two assists from Pierre-Marc Bouchard and the opening goal from Matt Cullen (who was all over the place tonight, making positive things happen).
This team needs someone to step up in the back. Marco Scandella played huge minutes and, potted his first NHL goal on a great power play drive to the net, he was able to dominate defensively and push around the likes of Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. Impressive night sir.
This team needs Backstrom to step up and find his game, win some games on his own. Well, 29 saves including three or four he had absolutely no right to make. Backs was in top-form tonight. Looked great.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse Stars of the Game:
- Dany Heatley (1 G, 1 A)
- Pierre-Marc Bouchard (2 A)
- Marco Scandella (1 G, 21:58 TOI)
Remember, when you begin and end your night at Bennett's, you're the star! Easy parking, drink and food specials and a free shuttle to and from the Xcel Energy Center. Check them out at http://bennettschopandrailhouse.com/.
As a reminder, the next game is Monday at 11:00 CDT. Yes, 11:00 AM. Apparently Columbus Day on Long Island means day hockey. I don't get it either.
Good night and we'll see you tomorrow!
- Game one, how do they look? Controlled play all night. First line dominated. Second line dominated. Third line was iffy. Fourth line had great pressure. Defense was decent overall. Good special teams. Great goaltending. Nice opening win.
- Is Brett Bulmer the real deal? Slow first period only 2:42 TOI and missed a few shift. Second period really picked it up. Carried the play, forced turnovers, looked to hold his own during his 4:58 TOI. Third period bounced between the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines. Had a great scoring chance, looked to get into the game, but sometimes floated a bit in his own zone, uncertain of his role almost. Ended up with 11:06 TOI. Not a bad outing for the kid. He won't go down yet.
- How does the defense look? Scandella looked great. Spurgeon was good. Zanon and Schultz weren't noticed, so that's good. Stoner made one horrible turnover, but otherwise was fine. Zidlicky needs to step up, quickly.
- Out shooting or out shot? Somehow they pulled defeat from the jaws of victory and ended up being outshot 31-26. 1-0 this season when outshot.
- What will the fans' reaction to Todd Richards be? Ambivalence.