A Win at Home
In their third game of the preseason and first game at the Xcel Energy Center, the Minnesota Wild topped the Winnipeg Jets 4-3. Although Minnesota fans were excited to see their boys play at home, it seemed most of the hype before the game was centered on the X’s new scoreboard.
Wild officials “pretty sure” new scoreboard represents “acceptable” level of radiation exposure to fans.
— Russo’s Filter (@russosfilter) September 27, 2014
The Xcel Energy Center, which was just ranked the number one arena in the NHL for fan experience by ESPN, just got a little (the scoreboard is actually huge) bit better. The board features two main displays which measure approximately 19 feet by 37.5 feet, as well as a ribbon screen on the top and bottom and 10 LED video displays.
But enough about the scoreboard. The third time was clearly a charm for the Minnesota Wild, as they got their first win last night. I know it’s only the preseason, but it’s still nice to see your team win a couple of games, even if they don’t count for anything. Plus it’s always good to have a little bit of confidence going into the regular season.
The Wild played most of their regular guys against the Jets, minus Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker. Goals were scored by Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter and Jared Spurgeon. Niklas Backstrom stayed in the net for the entire sixty minutes, stopping 14 of 17 shots.
Niederreiter looked exceptionally impressive, showing that he’s worth the $8-million deal he was just signed to. The Switzerland native had a goal, an assist and a couple big defensive plays. In between periods, Jamie McClellan and Mark Roe of NHL Tonight raved about Niederrieter, saying he looks like he’s matured quite a bit and is capable of becoming a 20-30 goal-scorer for the Wild this season. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Granlund also looked good, scoring a goal and recording two shots. Granlund, like Neiderrieter, has had some time to mature and could easily become one of the top scorers for the Wild this year, especially if he continues to have chemistry with his line-mates, Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise.
Another Finn, Erik Haula, scored tonight on a penalty shot fourteen minutes into the first period. Haula looked fast and focused throughout the rest of the game and I would be quite surprised if he doesn’t earn a spot on the Opening Night roster. The 23-year-old spent most of the season with the Wild last year and he seems more than ready to play an entire season at the NHL level.
In other notes, Matt Dumba played a strong game tonight and is definitely getting himself noticed. Dumba is battling along with Gustav Olfosson and Christian Folin for the final defensive spot on the team and he made a solid case for himself. Michael Keranen also got himself noticed last night, winning every face-off and tallying two assists and three hits. After the game, Mike Yeo mentioned that Keranen “showed him a different level” in the third period and if he can play consistently, he could find a spot on the team.
The Power Play
The big story of the night, though, was Minnesota’s power play. The Wild scored three of their four goals on the power play and looked exceptionally comfortable taking shots when they were up a man. This seems to be quite a change from the team’s usual power play, which tends to involve a lot of passing, but not much shooting or scoring.
If the Wild can continue to take advantage of power plays like they did against the Jets, a lot more goals are going to be scored this year than last. I know, I really shouldn’t get ahead of myself and this is still just the third preseason game, but the team looks good so far and that’s something to get excited about.
The Minnesota Wild have three more preseason games, the next on Monday night at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.