Much had been made of how tough the Wild's last 15 games were. Of the Wild's last 15 opponents, 14 of them were either current playoff teams or the defending champion LA Kings. The only game pegged as an easy one was this game, vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Thing is, when you're making a playoff push, there aren't many easy games on the schedule. The last time the Wild played against a team as weak as Toronto was at home against Edmonton last month. Easy, right? Except for the part where they ran into a hot goaltender, and Edmonton escaped with a victory. Could the Wild avoid another obvious "Trap Game"?
While there wasn't a lot of play stoppages throughout the first period, there wasn't exactly a lot of action going on. Shots ended up being 11-8 in the first period, but there was nothing that seemed particularly threatening on either side. That is, of course, until Thomas Vanek took a loose puck off the face-off to the net, getting a shot off. The shot bounced off Bernier, but Charlie Coyle was there to clean up the rebound. Ugly goal, but 1-0, Wild.
The second period saw the Wild return to one of their favorite pastimes- dominating on the ice, only to be stymied by a hot goalie. Jonathan Bernier turned it on and stopped all 16 Wild shots, some in pretty spectacular fashion, including a breakaway by Mikko Koivu.
The play in the second was noticeably chippier than the first, with Phil Kessel setting the tone seconds into the period by getting his stick in the visor of Nino Niederreiter, who had been a pest all game. This culminated in some trading penalties throughout the period, as well as a fight initiated by Kyle Brodziak after Dion Phaneuf knocked down Erik Haula.
Devan Dubnyk got his first major test of the game at the end of the second, when a flurry of shots broke out by the Wild's net, but Dubnyk stood tall in midst of the chaos, and the Wild was able to maintain their slim one-goal lead at the end of 40.
The third period brought with it another common Wild trope: backing off the pressure and allowing the opponent to get back into the game. Thankfully the Wild forgot they were playing with a lead about halfway through the third period when (who else?) Justin Fontaine carried in the puck, drop-passed it to Suter, who drop-passed again to a crashing Vanek, who got a shot off that just got through Bernier to make it 2-0.
With a two-goal lead, the Wild were content to ride Dubnyk to the end of the game, and while that worked, it cost Dubnyk his 6th shutout in a Wild uniform this year, as Jake Gardiner got the Leafs on the board. Dubnyk survived the 17-shot onslaught by Toronto in the third period, and the Wild would emerge from Toronto victorious.
1. Thomas Vanek- Vanek has seemed to have found a line to call his own, flanking Fontaine and Coyle. He's added an 8th game to his points streak, and has scored 6 goals and 4 assists in that span to leap-frog Jason Pominville for 2nd on the team in scoring.
2. Charlie Coyle- Coyle's also been hot lately, scoring the first goal of the game. He's had 3 goals and 6 points in his last 5.
3. Devan Dubnyk- The Wild didn't need him much for the first 38 minutes or so, but when they did need him, the man we call "Duuuuuuub" abided. He finished the night with 35 saves.
- The Vanek-Coyle-Fontaine line has been extremely consistent for this last stretch, which is great, because the Granlund line has been dead quiet.
- After leading the team in ice time against St. Louis, Matt Dumba saw his ice time decrease to 14:20, his lowest since Valentine's Day. The Wild were 13-4-0 in the 17 games in between, all of which saw Dumba log 17+ minutes.
- The reason for that was Yeo opted to lean heavily on the Suter-Brodin pairing at the expense of everyone other defenseman. Clayton Stoner isn't always wrong, folks.
- Sean Bergenheim had 5 hits to his name tonight, but the Wild were hoping he'd be able to contribute some offensively, and he just hasn't done that on the fourth line. Only 1 shot in the last 5 games, which won't cut it if he wants to keep his lineup spot.
- Despite continuing to be an offensive catalyst for this team, Fontaine got the 2nd lowest amount of ice time among forwards (Bergenheim had less). If Fontaine leaves the lineup, I'm gonna nuke Yeo Island.
- This is the appropriate response to "Shouldn't the Wild start Kuemper on the second night of a back to back?":
- The Wild upped their playoff chances to 94.6% with this win, according to Sports Club Stats. If the Wild go just 3-6 for the rest of the year, they'd have a 76% shot at making the playoffs. Winning 4 games of their last 9 will make them a virtual postseason lock.