A strange thing that you learn in teaching and perhaps in life in general is sometimes the worst thing you can do is give someone a compliment. Now, before anyone runs off and says that I’m encouraging people to be cold and prickly to one another there is life experience attached to this. I have learned that with some students; especially those who may be a bit on the edge of passing or failing classes if you give them praise they sometimes take it as though they don’t have to do anything more. So even though they were getting assignments done on time and with good quality, as soon as I acknowledge it they stop thinking they have nothing more to do. Mission accomplished, but the problem is the class isn’t over yet and there are a few weeks left. So the grade quickly begins to tumble and the student has to scramble just to scrape out a passing grade. That certainly isn’t the story with all kids, but for some of them they rest on their laurels a little too much. That’s kind of how I saw Thursday night’s Wild game.
The Wild were playing well, winning all the small races to loose pucks and generally outworking the Montreal Canadiens in just about every way. I am sure sitting with a comfortable 4-1 lead, the vibe in the locker room was pretty positive and then after scoring early in the 3rd they stopped working and the Canadiens almost were able to rally back. So a 60-minute effort still eludes the Wild, can they make that happen against Chicago?
1st Period Thoughts: The 1st period had a ton of energy as Chicago was looking to blitz the Wild right from the drop of the puck. Chicago was moving well with speed and Minnesota was scrambling about its own zone as the shots were coming fast and furious at Devan Dubnyk. The Wild just seemed to be a step behind Chicago in nearly every little race to the puck and even though they tried to take the body to slow the Blackhawks down, they were usually able to just skate away before the impact. After a while the Wild were able to start to counter attack and they had a few opportunities there way as Joel Eriksson Ek had a little room and he stepped into a slapper that was held onto by Corey Crawford. Unlike the defensive chess matches of the last few games, the neutral zone was like a highway with teams picking up speed and flying into the offensive zone. Jonas Brodin seemed to get the job of shadowing Patrick Kane and he did a pretty good job of denying time and space but he had good support too as Ryan Suter got his stick on a Kane shot that seemed to have Dubnyk in a vulnerable position. Chicago was pulling the trigger with great frequency as Ryan Hartman had a few good looks but Dubnyk was solid and did a decent job of absorbing pucks and not giving up rebounds. As the period went on the Wild started to find its legs and they began to swarm in the Chicago zone. It started with a good shift for the Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Luke Kunin line and this would eventually lead to a hooking call on Nick Schmaltz. On the man advantage the Wild moved the puck very well and had a number of high quality chances. Niederreiter had a close in chance that seemed to be destined to go in if it hadn’t been for the sweeping of Crawford’s leg that kept it from sliding over the goal line. Minnesota kept swarming and they’d set up Niederreiter for a blast that he hammered wide and then moments after that Mikael Granlund set up Jared Spurgeon in high slot for a slap shot that Crawford steered wide. The first would end with both clubs knotted at zero and with Chicago leading in shots 16 to 9. Minnesota had a good 2nd half of the period, and that’s what they need to replicate the rest of the game.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period was more of a chess match than the 1st period. Chicago again had the lion’s share of the scoring opportunities. Initially the Wild had some good jump and even some nice potential scoring chances but errant passes and overplaying of the puck meant Minnesota failed to even register a shot on some of these promising opportunities. Marcus Foligno had a few nice shifts on the forecheck, forcing a turnover and then gathering up the loose puck but instead of taking a shot he tried no-look behind the back pass to no one. The Blackhawks would start to tilt the play into the Wild zone but to Minnesota’s credit they were challenging Chicago’s puck carriers well and not giving them much time and space to work with. The Blackhawks were using shots from the point and hoping to get lucky with a rebound and they were making it through traffic and on goal. The Wild would give Chicago its first power play as Koivu got tangled up with Crawford earning him a 2-minute sit for goaltender interference. On the man advantage the Wild did a great job of applying pressure to the puck carrier and Minnesota was able to prevent Chicago from developing any real threatening opportunities beyond a shot from Patrick Kane that missed wide of the mark from just inside the circles. The Wild were unable to generate much of an attack at all even though it had some great individual efforts on the forecheck. Shots were 9 to 8 in favor of Chicago but it seemed a lot more one sided than that. I thought Luke Kunin had another solid period, who is proving he’s responsible defensively as well as possessing some offensive ability. Although I’d like to know how Cody Franson can be allowed to take a two-handed chop to Kunin’s back right in front of the official to no call. I thought Foligno had a decent period and he had Minnesota’s best scoring chance in the 2nd on a shot where he tried to beat Crawford 5-hole.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild had better energy to start the 3rd period, and while its tough to fault the raw effort was there they’d ultimately come up short. Minnesota was winning a lot of the small races for the puck and they started to work pucks into the Chicago zone but most of sojourns kind of went like this. The Wild cycle the puck around the perimeter and either they failed to get a shot on goal or they would send a shot wide of the net. Even as Minnesota began to ramp up the pressure; especially the top line of Koivu, Granlund and Jason Zucker. Koivu had a bunch of high quality opportunities that Crawford aggressively moved out of his crease to challenge, but unfortunately the Wild didn’t get either Zucker or Granlund in close to help cash in on some of the shots that skittered through crease. Chicago was patient and they’d get their golden chance on a 4-minute double minor for high sticking by Luke Kunin who caused Cody Franson to bleed. Chicago was patient on the man advantage, moving the puck around the perimeter with Minnesota doing a fairly good job of depriving them from the middle of the ice. The Wild did a decent job of getting sticks into passing lanes through the first power play, but early into the 2nd minor they’d get the Wild to chase a bit and that gave Duncan Keith a lane to shoot with and he’d let go a wrist shot that was redirected by Artem Anisimov and by Dubnyk. 1-0 Chicago. The Wild would then try to catch the Blackhawks pinching with long passes, but they weren’t connecting and just giving the puck away needlessly. It wasn’t until the last 3-4 minutes of the game that the Wild started to commit themselves to get more players in around the crease and shoot shots with the benefit of a screens in front of Crawford. The Wild would pull Dubnyk for an extra attacker and the Wild again worked the puck around the perimeter but were sending very few pucks in on goal and Chicago waited patiently to poke the puck out the zone and Jonathan Toews would wait for a trailing Alex DeBrincat for an empty net goal. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was incensed as he felt Chris Stewart got tripped on the play that Chicago worked the puck out of its own zone. I would agree he was tripped but they weren’t going to make that call and it was 2-0 Blackhawks. Minnesota spend the last minute trying to fend off a few more Chicago attempts to tally a 2nd empty net goal and they’d fall 2-0.
Devan Dubnyk had a good night, stopping 33 shots in the loss. He didn’t give up the soft goal that has plagued him throughout most of the season. Defensively I thought Minnesota did a pretty good job at keeping Chicago in check, and a lot of that credit goes to the Wild’s blueline. So stick tap to Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Mike Reilly and Kyle Quincey. The Wild penalty kill did give up the game winner tonight, but it wasn’t poor play as it came on the latter half of a double-minor.
Offensively the Wild had some good individual efforts from Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter but Minnesota didn’t get enough other players in around the crease to deprive Crawford from seeing the puck or being in position to pounce on potential rebounds. Crawford is playing too well to be scored on by a shot he has a clear view of. Minnesota waited too long to start generating traffic up front.
This was a missed opportunity. Give Chicago credit for being patient and taking advantage of the opportunities the Wild gave them. Minnesota went 3-3 on its 6-game homestand which really isn’t good enough when you consider they were in a hole to begin with. The Wild now will go on a road trip out to the Eastern Conference with 4 games in 6 nights. Minnesota cannot afford to lose anymore ground, so they’ll have to be better.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Luke Kunin, Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek, Chris Stewart, Daniel Winnik, Matt Cullen, Tyler Ennis, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Mathew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Mike Reilly and Kyle Quincey. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Gustav Olofsson was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Corey Crawford, 3rd Star Artem Anisimov
~ Attendance was 19,218 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ the former Lakeville North star got his first point of the season on an assist on the Gophers’ 1st goal in their 3-1 win over Michigan State.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman has started to heat up offensively as he had a goal on 4 shots on goal and finished the night a +2 in the Redhawks’ 3-2 win over Colorado College. The Skokie, Illinois-native has 4 goals, points, PIM’s and is a in games.
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the winger earned 1st star honors with a 2 goals and 1 assist effort on 6 shots on goal in the Wolves’ 6-5 OT win over Mississauga on Friday. Sokolov had 11 goals, 23 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +4 in 17 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ the versatile forward had another strong evening with a goal and an assist on 5 shots and finished the night with a +2 rating in the Otters’ 8-0 trouncing of Oshawa. On Saturday he earned the 3rd star in a 4-3 loss to Windsor with a goal and an assist. Lodnia has 11 goals, 19 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +6 in 18 games.
G – Dereck Barribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ the 6’6″ goaltender had 23 saves in the Remparts’ 5-3 win over Moncton last evening. Barribeau has a 10-3 record, 2.73 goals against average and a .899%SP with 1 shutout this season.
C/W – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ the power forward had the Terriers lone goal, on the power play and 4 shots on goal in their 4-1 loss to Northeastern on Saturday. Greenway has 2 goals, 7 points, 10 PIM’s and is a -1 in 10 games.