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Wild grounds Lightning 5-4 in OT: 3 Things We Learned

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll tell you what, I did not see this sweep of a back-to-back coming. The Wild never play well in Dallas, and the Lightning are a favorite to come out of the East. Alas, the Wild surprised the heck out of me, and their fans by doing just that. I missed the 3 things from the game against the Stars, so I’ll give you a bonus ‘Thing’ in today’s “3 Things We Learned.”

Minnesota is a third period team

Be it scoring effects, old legs finally getting warmed up, or trying to rope-a-dope their opponents, the Wild have been waiting to put meaningful pressure on the opposing goalies until the third period. Somehow, and it hasn’t been pretty, they’ve found ways to win. Looking at the stats, through the first two periods in every game this season, the Wild have put up roughly 18 shots per game, for a 27 per 60 minute pace. In only the third periods this season, the Wild average 12.25 shots per game, or an astounding 36.75 shots per 60 minutes. So, whether it be score effects, giving a damn, or just some weird fluke, this Wild team has found another gear in the third period and it has allowed them to come from behind late, force OT in some occasions, or find a way to victory.

“It’s fun to get behind,” Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said sarcastically in his post game press conference. It’s probably killing him that no matter how much his players talk about getting off to a better start and improving their performances in the 1st periods, that’s all it’s been - talk. Devan Dubnyk has saved this team’s bacon on multiple occasions until his team decided to report to the ice. But, and here’s something important that Boudreau added, “It’s also a really good thing when a team starts to believe that they can come back.” So while the front-end of games is mostly garbage, the Wild eking out wins by finishing strong isn’t a bad thing. Fix the front end, keep the finish, and the Wild should win more than they lose.

Getting depth scoring is paramount

“It was really nice to see a goal come from the other lines. That’s paramount in my book because if you don’t have four lines that are participating in the scoring over the course of the year, then it is really difficult to succeed,” Boudreau commented about getting a goal from the fourth line in Saturday’s game.

I have personally had it with Marcus Foligno and his awful puck skills. That said, he can surprise me from time to time. The goal he scored in the second period was a gigantic goal for the Wild. It cut the Lightning lead to one, and was scored early in the second period. Minnesota didn’t have to wait until the third period to fully engage themselves into the game. And even more impressive, the goal was nice play in general by the line. J.T. Brown and Eric Fehr got the assists on the play. When the Wild were successful a couple seasons ago it was because they had such great top-to-bottom scoring depth. It’s early, but if the 3rd and 4th lines can pitch in, the better for the Wild in the long run.

Devan Dubnyk did things to the puck that would be felonious in 12 states

Friday’s game against the Stars could have, and should have been much, much different. Dubnyk not just kept the game in control, but the saves he made, sometimes in quick succession were amazing. Dubnyk has been a solid positional goalie during his time with the Wild, but if you were to ask most people, they’d say that Stalock was perhaps the better athlete between the two. However, Dubnyk showed great lateral movement, and even scrambled well to keep the Stars to just a single goal.

The one goal was scored on a great deflection from 5 feet out by Jason Spezza. Hardly a goal you can place the blame on the Wild tendy. He’s tracking the puck well, and showing some fantastic athleticism to make the saves.

We should all marvel at what Dubnyk is doing right now. He’s currently 4th in the league with a .944 save percentage.

Goalie assists are fun

I know in European hockey teams like to utilize the goalie and will actually pass the puck to them. In the NHL, there’s only a few goalies with which you’d actually want to pull it off. However, Alex Stalock made not one, but two, Hail Mary passes from the top of his goal crease to get chances on goal. The first one got Mikael Granlund in alone, but the puck just wouldn’t settle down for a good shot. The next time Stalock got the puck, he banked it off the glass to Charlie Coyle in the neutral zone. Coyle dropped it to Granlund just inside the Wild line and Granlund got the game winner.

Stalock’s assist is not just fun in that it’s a fun, cheeky thing when the goalie factors into the offense, but I could see it transforming the 3v3 overtime. Not every goalie is capable of handling the puck like Stalock, or even like a Martin Brodeur. That said, if there are goalies that can handle the puck, or young goalies looking to develop that as part of their game, it can help turn the tide in the 3-v3 overtime by essentially making it like there is a another defenseman on the ice. With puck possession and speed the name of the game in OT, giving the goalie the puck to help facilitate a line change, and assist in the breakout, could, like in this case, be the difference between that valuable 2nd point in the standings, or leaving disappointed.