This probably confirms my identity as a Generation X’er, but do you remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? These were usually mystery or adventure-themed books where the reader was able to make choices that would effect the outcome of the story or a particular character’s destiny. At times those choices could lead to happy conclusion and others a fateful turn for the worse.
In Thursday’s game against Los Angeles, the Minnesota Wild put themselves on the penalty kill far too often and despite a 3rd period rally came up short in overtime. The Sharks have qualified for the post-season as have the Wild, can Minnesota reach the century mark in points with a win over San Jose to conclude the 2017-18 regular season?
1st Period Thoughts: The opening period had terrific pace as the Wild were really moving well and seemed to have a step or two on the Sharks for just about every loose puck. Minnesota was really focused and determined to attack San Jose on every shift. Eric Staal would carry a puck from beneath the goal line and let go a sharp angle shot that was steered aside by Martin Jones. A few shifts later it was Joel Eriksson Ek finding Marcus Foligno with a nice little pass to free him for a breakaway that Jones stymied. Minnesota continued to buzz; and one line that seemed to have an extra gear or two was the 3rd line of Matt Cullen, Tyler Ennis and Charlie Coyle. Coyle was especially active, using his speed and big frame to protect the puck and setting up teammates for quality opportunities. Minnesota would take a 1-0 lead as Coyle won a battle for the puck and he’d work it out to the point to Jonas Brodin who wound up for a big slap shot that beat Jones. 1-0 Wild. Part of Minnesota’s success was their clean and fairly simple zone exits that allowed them to enter San Jose’s end with speed. Minnesota would add to its lead a few minutes later after an outstanding shift by the 3rd line where Coyle went into beast mode where he made a beautiful move to walk a Sharks’ defender and set up Cullen for a gimme but he rang the shot off the pipe. Yet the line kept its composure and they got the puck back and this time Cullen didn’t miss his opportunity and he’d beat Jones with nice wrist shot. 2-0 Wild. Unfortunately, after this goal the Wild would lose focus a bit and the Sharks were able to get back into the game by working pucks deep and Minnesota’s defense that had been pretty solid to start the game suddenly became shaky with the biscuit. A failed clearing attempt by Ryan Murphy turned into a shot from the point by Brent Burns who fired it by Devan Dubnyk who didn’t seem to be ready to make a save. 2-1 Wild. A few minutes later the Wild defense again had a gaffe as Brodin passed a puck into the skates of Matt Dumba who couldn’t sweep it out of danger and instead it was picked up by Mikkel Boedker who found Joe Pavelski in the high slot and he wired a shot by Dubnyk tying the game at 2-2. It was another soft-ish goal in my opinion as Dubnyk had a pretty clear look of the shot. The period would thankfully end before Minnesota had found itself trailing in this game. I thought Louie Belpedio looked pretty comfortable with the puck and he had a few shots in the period and even registered his first NHL assist; not a bad start for the former Miami Redhawk. Tyler Ennis also had a pretty good period for the Wild.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period started off pretty slow. The Wild seemed to be unable to get enough time and space to send just about any shot on goal. The Sharks weren’t doing much either, as time and space seemed to be in scarce supply. Devan Dubnyk seemed to be struggling to see the puck as Joel Ward rang a shot off the post. Tempers also seemed to be flaring a bit as Jason Zucker nearly got into a fight with Evander Kane who wasn’t happy when he bumped into Jones. Minnesota would stay patient and they’d take back the lead as Mikael Granlund would motor his way into the Sharks’ zone where he let go a wicked wrister that beat Jones top shelf to give the Wild a 3-2 advantage. The Wild would strike again just 28 seconds later as Dumba sent a long pass up to Nino Niederreiter who then found Zucker all alone and he’d beat Jones who just reached at the puck as it blazed by him. 4-2 Wild. With the crowd at SAP Center in shock over the quick strikes by the Wild, Minnesota continued to apply offensive pressure. Jordan Greenway started to use his speed and big body to protect the puck as he sparked a good shift by the Koivu-Granlund group as Koivu worked at puck over to Granlund who lifted a puck just over the crossbar. Minnesota would add another goal late in the period as a turnover in the neutral zone turned into a 2-on-1 for Zucker and Staal and Zucker closed in on the goaltender he clearly wanted to dish it over to Staal but White Bear Lake’s Justin Braun was sitting back to defend the pass so Zucker took the shot and beat Jones himself. 5-2 Wild. Minnesota had to be feeling pretty good about how they kept up the pressure after Granlund got it started with his goal mid-way through the period. Belpedio ended up with another assist and continues to look calm and collected in his first NHL game and Greenway registered his first NHL point on an assist of his own.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Sharks would swap out Jones for Aaron Dell between the pipes. San Jose seemed to be lacking fire to start the 3rd as Minnesota was still outworking the Sharks in the little races for pucks. Minnesota wasn’t just sitting back and playing rope-a-dope as they were still hoping to get Staal a goal so he can at least tie Marian Gaborik‘s single season franchise goal scoring record. Yet the other lines were threatening more than Staal’s line as the 4th line of Joel Eriksson Ek, Daniel Winnik and Marcus Foligno as well as the 3rd line were swarming looking to add to the Wild’s lead. Jason Zucker also flirted with a hat trick if not for a fine save by Dell and then Coyle was robbed on a chance a few feet in front of the crease as the former North Dakota alum dove to make the stop. The Wild seem to be coasting to a 5-2 victory, until they took a penalty which seemed to give the Sharks a little life and a reason to want to fight to the end. The Sharks would try to cut into the lead on the man advantage but Minnesota was getting bodies into shooting lanes and blocking shots and Devan Dubnyk was tracking the puck better and delivering some key saves. San Jose would pull Dell with about 3:30 left in the game and the Sharks really tried to swarm around the Wild crease. Minnesota was doing what they could to help Dubnyk out by trying to cover pucks and the Wild would sweep away pucks. Yet the Sharks persistence finally paid off as Timo Meier tapped home a Dylan DeMelo point shot to cut the Wild lead to two, 5-3. The Sharks kept their net empty hoping to make it a one-goal game but Minnesota would add an exclamation point to the victory as they set up Staal for an empty netter so he could tie the franchise record and they’d roll to a 6-3 win.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Jordan Greenway, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Tyler Ennis, Matt Cullen, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek, Daniel Winnik, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Louie Belpedio, Nick Seeler, Nate Prosser and Ryan Murphy. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Zach Parise and Gustav Olofsson were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Jason Zucker, 2nd Star Tyler Ennis, 3rd Star Nino Niederreiter
~ Attendance was 17,562 at SAP Center.
~ Louie Belpedio wore #47 joining Marc-Andre Bergeron, Christoph Bertschy, Johan Larsson and Chay Genoway in having worn the number for the Wild.
~ Crease and Assist: A legally compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog would like to offer our congratulations to the University of Minnesota-Duluth on winning the 2018 NCAA Men’s Hockey tournament in a 2-1 win over Notre Dame.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (31-26-9-6) 77pts 6th in the AHL Central
18.3% Power Play (13th in the AHL)
82.7% Penalty Kill (18th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 14G 46A = 60pts
2. #7 Sam Anas ~ 25G 34A = 59pts
3. #25 Justin Kloos ~ 19G 28A = 47pts
4. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 20G 24A = 44pts
5. #12 Pat Cannone ~ 16G 21A = 37pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #22 Ryan White ~ 109 PIM’s
2. #2 Alex Grant ~ 79 PIM’s
3. #29 Viktor Loov ~ 65 PIM’s
1. #35 Niklas Svedberg (18-17-6) 2.84GAA .906%SP 2SO
2. #34 Steve Michalek (12-7-6) 3.13GAA .906%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 7, Chicago 3
It is a shame a game like this happened so late as the Iowa Wild vented their anger and frustration on the Chicago Wolves in a 7-3 blowout to snap a 9-game losing streak. Iowa tore into the Wolves early as Zack Mitchell buried his 16th goal of the season off a nice Cal O’Reilly pass to make it 1-0 Wild. The Wolves answered back just a few minutes later as Stefan Matteau lit the lamp behind Steve Michalek tying the game at one. This was as close as it got for Chicago as Iowa struck 4 more times in the 1st with goals from Alex Grant, Sam Anas, newcomer Mark Auk and Gerald Mayhew to carry a 5-1 lead going into the 1st intermission. The Wolves would score just 10 seconds into the 2nd period as Teemu Pulkkinen said ‘hi’ to his former team with his 24th goal of the season cutting Iowa’s lead to three, 5-2. Kyle Rau answered back for Iowa with his 20th goal of the season to put Iowa back up by four. Chicago would strike late in the 2nd as Beau Bennett found the back of the net to make it 6-3 going into the 3rd. Sam Anas would score his 2nd goal of the game, with his team-leading 25th goal in the 3rd to seal a 7-3 victory for Iowa. Michalek had 27 saves in the victory. Rau had a goal and two assists, while O’Reilly had 3 helpers.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Barrie, OHL) ~ the Russian winger is really starting to catch his stride offensively again as he had a goal and an assist in the Colts’ 6-5 overtime win over Kingston to take a 1-0 series lead. The Colts extended their series lead to 2-0 on Friday with a 4-1 win where Sokolov was held scoreless but finished the night a +2. Sokolov has 6 goals, 12 points, and is a +5 in 8 playoff games.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the Wild’s 8th rated prospect according to the Hockey News‘ Future Watch issue had an eventful night on Monday when he racked up 14 PIM’s after earning a game misconduct for a check to the head along with two minor penalties in CSKA Moscow’s 5-2 loss. Svetlakov has a lone assist in 5 playoff games.
G – Dereck Baribeau (Quebec, QMJH) ~ the big goaltender’s season came to a close on Tuesday as the Remparts were defeated 8-3 by Charlottetown eliminating them in 7 games. Baribeau did get some action in the deciding game where he played 10 minutes and surrendered a goal on just 2 shots faced. It was a rough year for the 6’6″ right catching goalie who found himself supplanted by Antoine Samuel about halfway through the season. He finished the 2017-18 regular season with a 22-16 record, a 2.90 goals against average and an .896% save percentage with 4 shutouts.
D – Nick Boka (Michigan, Big 10) ~ the junior defenseman’s season came to an end Thursday night as Michigan fell 4-3 to Notre Dame in the NCAA Frozen Four in St. Paul. Boka finished the season with a goal, 7 points, 56 PIM’s and a +16 in 39 games.
RW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ The Wild’s most talented prospect continues to play big in big games as he has the lone goal in CSKA’s 1-0 win over SKA St. Petersberg last night. Kaprizov has 2 goals, 10 points, and is a +3 in 16 playoff games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ he may not have registered a point in the National Championship game, but he led the Bulldogs with 9 shots on goal in their 2-1 win over Notre Dame. The freshman had 6 goals, 22 points, 6 PIM’s and is a +11 in 35 games this season.
LW – Avery Peterson (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the senior forward’s college career comes to an end as a scratch in the National Championship game. It was a challenging season for the former Mr. Hockey Award winner as he had 6 goals, 11 points, 29 PIM’s and was a +3 in 30 games this season.