I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday weekend. For myself, the 4-hour, 200+ mile drive back to South Central Wisconsin where I live is something I’ve grown accustomed to, but it makes one feel it could use another day or two to rest up afterwards. No doubt the Wild’s holiday blitz has made them feel a little exhausted but they will have to wait until after tonight’s game before it gets a multi-day respite. In fact, the Wild cannot expect to coast to earn two points on the road in another intense road game against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets are playing some of their best hockey right now. Minnesota’s offense has been fairly consistent (knock on wood) but the overall effort has been a bit more hit or miss. After a tough loss to St. Louis on Saturday night, can the Wild rally for an inspiring road win against the Jets?
1st Period Thoughts: The period started with the Wild skating well enough, but the passing was problematic to say the least. Whether it was off target intentionally or attempts at area passes they weren’t connecting with Wild skaters all that often and that meant the team was wasting lots of possessions. The errant passes eventually began to result in some scoring chances for the Winnipeg Jets but Alex Stalock was sharp and Minnesota was able to keep them at bey. The Wild wound break the stalemate a few minutes in as Charlie Coyle made a perfect diagonal feed to a crashing Jason Zucker who wasted little time before beating Connor Hellebuyck. 1-0 Wild. A few minutes later the Wild would appear to add to their lead as Coyle managed to receive a puck near the Jets’ blueline and then he’d skate in on Hellebuyck and fire a shot that the former UMass-Lowell star stopped but he couldn’t deny Zack Mitchell‘s rebound bid and it was 2-0. Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice would challenge the play saying that Coyle was offsides and upon review it confirmed that Coyle did not drag his toe as he entered the zone and thus was offsides which negated Mitchell’s goal, still 1-0 Wild. Minnesota would not sit back and feel sorry for itself an they went back on the attack and they’d extend their lead as Matt Cullen had a pretty pass to Chris Stewart who fired it by Hellebuyck. 2-0 Wild. Unfortunately this is where the game began to fall apart. The Jets would start to raise their physical play and the Wild started to get bounced around by the bigger, more physically rugged Winnipeg squad. Mikael Granlund would get thrown like a child’s toy by Dustin Byfuglien and a shift or two later Granlund would get lit up by an aggressive hit by Jacob Trouba. The Jets’ aggressiveness would be rewarded as Matt Hendricks set up Joel Armia from a goal from near the Wild crease. 2-1 Wild. Kyle Quincey who struggles playing defense like I’d struggle with trigonometry would take a costly penalty late in the period. On the man advantage the Jets would cash in as Blake Wheeler fed a perfect cross-ice pass to Mark Schiefele for a one-timer that he blasted by Stalock. To add insult to injury, Mathew Dumba would take an immature, foolish penalty at the close of the period as he sprayed Schiefele with a water bottle earning an unsporstmanlike penalty. The Jets will start the 2nd on the power play.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild would start the period on the penalty kill and with good aggressive pressure on the puck carrier they were able to escape without damage. Minnesota spent most of the 2nd period trying to play responsible defense than looking for the go-ahead goal. Even when the Wild try to go on the attack, errant passes continued to squander potential scoring chances before they even had a chance to develop. The Wild’s conservative approach would result in some half-hearted play and Matt Cullen tried to dish a drop pass to Marcus Foligno near the Jets blueline and the power forward stayed stationary as he was stripped of the puck and Jets went on an odd-man rush. Kyle Quincey tried to pinch way too late to support the play and suddenly Winnipeg had 2-on-1 and it was Schiefele feeding Trouba for an easy goal that Stalock had no chance on, 3-2 Jets. The pain wouldn’t end there as the Jets would add to their lead a few minutes later. Quincey would lose his stick and this sort of messed up the defensive coverage a bit and Joel Armia would draw the Wild’s attention near the boards and then he’d find Mathieu Perrault all alone on the back side with a great cross-ice pass and Perrault one-timed it by Stalock. 4-2 Jets. Perrault should’ve been Matt Cullen’s man, but he was too busy watching Armia to notice him settling down on the backside of the ice. The Wild tried to counter and when they finally had a 3-on-2, Zucker would attempt to pass instead of taking the open shot when it was available. The frustration finally boiled over into a fight as Daniel Winnik dropped the gloves with Matt Hendricks. After a few jabs and an initial shove by Winnik, the ‘fight’ resembled a sad waltz by the two pugilists as they held hands. Eventually Hendricks would free his hand and throw a few punches and the officials stepped in before either player could embarrass themselves any more than they already had. Stalock couldn’t be blamed for either goals, and the Wild should count themselves lucky if he didn’t sue for a lack of support. A brutal period, but a two goal lead isn’t completely insurmountable yet the Wild have a steep hill to climb.
3rd Period Thoughts: If the 2nd period was ugly, the 3rd was Chernobyl plus 3-Mile Island in the meltdown that took place on the ice. Daniel Winnik would high stick Adam Lowry in the face as he deflected a Trouba point shot by Stalock for a goal that was immediately waived off. Strangely enough they said Winnik’s high stick prompted the whistle which happened before the goal went in giving Minnesota a small break. Winnik would still go to the box for the high stick and the Jets would cash in moments into the power play as Wheeler turned on the afterburners to fly by Brodin for a shot that Stalock stopped but Kyle Connor would pounce on the rebound to make it 5-2 Winnipeg. A minute after that the Jets would add another as Bryan Little redirected a point shot by Ben Chiarot. 6-2 Jets. Shortly after the goal, Nikolaj Ehlers would be jumped by Kyle Quincey and every player on the ice would grab a dance partner and mostly just hug. Quincey would get a double-minor for roughing as well as a 10-minute game misconduct ending his evening (thankfully) while Byfuglien and Ehlers went for a roughing minor each. Minnesota would finally earn a power play as Armia was called for interference. On the power play the Wild passed the puck around the perimeter and the Jets were content to let them stay there and it wasn’t until the closing seconds that Granlund finally sent a shot on goal that was stopped by Hellebuyck. A few minutes later Granlund found a little space behind the Jets’ defense and he’d skate in and fire a shot that Hellebuyck stonewalled and the Jets would counter attack and Blake Wheeler would send a cross-ice pass over towards a crashing Schiefele but the puck would carom off the skate of Brodin and in. 7-2 Jets.
Stalock shouldn’t be blamed one bit for the outcome of this game despite giving up 7 goals on 28 shots. Stalock was left out to dry repeatedly by the Wild’s defense who seemed to do about all they could to give the Jets 2-on-1’s or leaving Winnipeg forwards all alone within 15-20 feet from the crease. Brodin, Suter looked lethargic while Kyle Quincey was a skating punchline if you were following Twitter at all throughout the game. Quincey’s lack of quickness and poor decision-making turned into goals and he finished the game a -3, as did his defensive partner Mathew Dumba who wasn’t much better. The penalty kill again got gashed twice this evening and poor defense has been the main culprit.
Offensively the Wild seemed to stop completely after it scored twice in the 1st period. The Wild only had a few token chances afterwards and it was a reflection of their inability to move the puck out of their zone with a good tape-to-tape pass. Far too often it was area passes that just kept being intercepted, putting Minnesota back on its heels. Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter were mostly missing in action the whole game. Coyle had another good effort in the 1st, but after that he disappeared with the rest of the team’s attack.
I don’t envy Bruce Boudreau at all after a garbage effort like this. Quincey shouldn’t just be scratched, he probably should be waived. The team certainly missed having Jared Spurgeon but there were lots of small mistakes that turned into larger ones. Lazy backchecking, little effort to enter the offensive zone with speed, it was awful. The only good thing is the Wild now have a few days to practice and work on their mistakes before they play the Golden Knights on Thursday. The Jets are a decent team, but so are the Golden Knights who make up for a lack of superstars with a blue collar work ethic. The Wild better be ready to play or they could be blitzed again like they were this evening.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Daniel Winnik, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Zack Mitchell, Nino Niederreiter, Tyler Ennis, Matt Cullen, Marcus Foligno, Chris Stewart, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Ryan Murphy, Kyle Quincey and Gustav Olofsson. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Mike Reilly and Jared Spurgeon were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mark Schiefele, 2nd Star Blake Wheeler, 3rd Star Jacob Trouba
~ Attendance was 15,321 at MTS Centre.
~ Ryan Murphy wore #6 in his Wild debut joining Lubomir Sekeras, Travis Roche, Mike Matteucci, Jean-Guy Trudel, Zbynek Michalek, Erik Reitz, Sean Hill, Tomas Mozjis, Greg Zanon and Marco Scandella having worn the number.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 6, Chicago 4
(knock on wood) There are signs the AHL playoff drought may be over. Divisional games have normally been a steep challenge for the Iowa Wild the last few years but the team seems to be turning the corner. On Sunday, Iowa would take the early lead as Carson Soucy put a shot on goal that Michael Leighton stopped, but Sam Anas would bury the rebound, 1-0 Wild. In the 2nd period, the Wolves would tie the game as Wade Megan lit the lamp behind Niklas Svedberg. Chicago would take the lead a few minutes later after a misplay of the puck by Svedberg was picked up by T.J. Tynan and the former Notre Dame star ripped a shot by the Wild goalie. 2-1 Wolves. Iowa would then respond with two goals, 30 seconds apart as Pat Cannone shoveled home a rebound and Kyle Rau went top cheese to make it 3-2 Wild. Chicago thought it tied the game late in the period as Paul Thompson appeared to score but the net was knocked off its moorings just before it went in and it was waived off, but the Wolves would be given a 2-minute 5-on-3 power play. Iowa’s penalty kill was rock solid and they’d escape with no damage from the Wolves’ power play. Unfortunately the Wild kept finding ways to go to the penalty box and it was just a matter of time before Chicago capitalized as it was Megan burying his 2nd goal of the game to tie it up at 3-3 early in the 3rd. Iowa would then take the lead back as Anas scored his 2nd goal of the game as he lifted a backhander over Leighton’s shoulder. The Wild would then add some cushion to its lead as Alex Grant unleashed a wrist shot on the power play that found the twine behind Leighton. 5-3 Wild. Chicago would pull Leighton with about 2 minutes left and they’d put a little scare into Iowa as Teemu Pulkkinen rifled a shot by Svedberg cutting the Wild’s lead to one. Iowa would salt it away with Cal O’Reilly‘s empty net goal giving them a 6-4 victory. Svedberg had 24 saves in the win. O’Reilly and Rau each had a goal and two helpers, while Joel Eriksson Ek had another helper. Luke Kunin didn’t have any points but he did have 3 shots; the first he’s registered since he was sent down last week.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman is starting to heat up offensively as he had a goal and an assist along with 4 shots on goal in Miami’s 2-2 tie against in-state rival Bowling Green on Saturday night. Belpedio has 5 goals, 14 points, 22 PIM’s and is a +3 in 14 games.
LW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the Florida-native hopefully is on the verge of going on a bit of a scoring binge as his Friars lost a hard fought game to Clarkson 4-2 with Duhaime lighting the lamp on one of two Providence’s goals. Duhaime has 3 goals, 7 points, 31 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating in 14 games.
LW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the former Lakeville South star returned to the Bulldogs lineup and picked up where he left off with a goal in Minnesota-Duluth’s 3-1 win over in-state rival Minnesota State. Swaney has 3 goals, 8 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +3 in 9 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ the Wild’s top pick from the 2017 NHL Entry draft continues to find his way onto the scoresheet as he had two helpers (4 shots on goal) in Erie’s 4-3 loss to Sarnia on Saturday. Lodnia has 14 goals, 28 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +11 in 25 games.
G – Dereck Baribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ the big goaltender had 29 saves in the Remparts’ 5-2 win over Victoriaville on Saturday. Baribeau’s record is 14-6, with a 2.81 goals against average and an .895% save percentage with 2 shutouts on the season.