In the early-going of the season, the Minnesota Wild’s win total has left more to be desired. After five games, the Wild find themselves with six total points which puts the club in fourth place in the Central Division. Despite a bit of a slow start where they lost a close game in overtime and another in the shootout the Wild seem to be turning a corner. The club has two wins in its last two contests.
There are several positives to Minnesota’s game so far in this young season. The Wild seem to have found their stride on the power play in the early stages. Entering tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota boasts the fifth-best power play squad in the league at 30.4% efficiency. They have netted seven power play goals in twenty-three power play opportunities.
The Wild have also only allowed eleven goals thus far. This low total speaks to the good work that Minnesota has done so far on defense. The Wild have allowed just 2.20 goals per game which is the sixth lowest amount in the league.
Time will tell if the Wild can continue their current winning streak and put together more consistent efforts this season. In the meantime, here is a look at the top five goals scored by the Wild so far in the early stages this season. Minnesota has lit the lamp fourteen times so far keeping Wild fans on the edge of their seats.
5. Jason Pominville Scores on the Power Play Against Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks
This goal is a simple play but it represents a key element for a successful power play. After the initial draw to start the power play opportunity the puck moves right to Jason Pominville. Without hesitation, Pominville fires a slap shot directly on net. The puck ricochets off an Anaheim defenseman and winds up in the back of the net.
The key element on the power play here is that the Wild got a puck to the net. If the Wild can continue to take shots and get traffic in front of the opposing goaltender, the power play will continue to be successful as it has been in the first five games. Unfortunately for the Wild in this battle, Ducks’ forward Mathieu Perreault beat Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom in overtime to solidify the win for Anaheim.
4. Justin Fontaine Nets His First Career NHL Goal Against Dan Ellis of the Dallas Stars
Few events in a game can energize the home crowd and teammates during the regular season quite like a player’s first career NHL goal. Wild forward Justin Fontaine brought this energy to Saint Paul against the Dallas Stars. Just twelve seconds into the opening period, the Wild’s aggressive play in the Dallas zone began paying dividends.
Matt Cooke makes a great play feeding the puck to Fontaine between the circles. While tied up by a player on the Stars, Fontaine throws a back-handed shot at goaltender Dan Ellis. The shot beats the Star’s goaltender giving the Wild an early 1-0 lead.
3. Mathew Dumba Scores His First Career NHL Goal Against Dan Ellis of the Dallas Stars
Wild fans that were in attendance on October 12th’s game not only saw forward Justin Fontaine notch his first career goal but they also witnessed Mathew Dumba’s first NHL goal. After some great puck movement by the Wild on the power play, defensemen Jonas Brodin fed the puck to forward Dany Heatley from the blue line. In doing so, Brodin drew a Dallas penalty-killer to him leaving defenseman Mathew Dumba wide open.
Dany Heatley spots Dumba in the circle and completes a cross-ice pass. Dumba then fires a perfectly-placed wrist shot into the top corner of the net. This put the Wild up 3-0 in what would end in a 5-1 victory over the Dallas Stars.
2. Zach Parise Nets a Power Play Goal on Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators
Amidst the boos from Predators’ fans for Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, forward Zach Parise caps some excellent puck movement with a goal. Suter held the puck allowing forward Zach Parise to park himself in the front of the net. In a split second, Suter fed the puck across the ice to captain Mikko Koivu. Instead of blasting the puck at the net, Koivu gingerly passes the puck to Parise who redirects it past goaltender Pekka Rinne.
The fans in Nashville are undoubtedly upset with Suter after he left for Minnesota through unrestricted free agency. The departure of Suter from the Predators dramatically altered the club and its future leading to the recent selection of defenseman Seth Jones. The pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter was perhaps the league’s most powerful defensive pairing but this went to the wayside with Suter’s departure.
When Suter left, the Predators defense took a big hit that will not be soon-forgotten by Nashville’s fans. Suter’s role in this goal scored by forward Zach Parise added fuel to the fire. However, the Predators would have the last laugh this time as they defeated the Wild by a score of 3-2.
1. Matt Cooke Scores the Game-Winning Goal Against Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets
In what turned out to be the game-winning goal, Wild forward Matt Cooke gets rewarded for going to the net. After a face-off win by Kyle Brodziak, Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner feeds the puck behind the net to forward Torrey Mitchell. Mitchell moves out from behind the net and takes a shot against Jets’ goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec makes the initial save but the puck remains loose in the crease. Matt Cooke was well-positioned near the front of the net and is able to tap the loose puck past the Jets net-minder for the goal.
[See Also: Dear Minnesota, Please Give Matt Cooke a Chance]
While there were many skeptics, forward Matt Cooke has played very solid hockey for the Wild in this young season. Since joining Minnesota, Cooke has scored three goals and two assists. Cooke also netted the game-winning goal against the Dallas Stars so he has been a valuable addition to the Wild in the early phases of this season.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW