If you’ve played on a sports team and have endured a blowout loss like the Minnesota Wild did on Monday in a 7-2 debacle against the Winnipeg Jets, to use Head Coach Bruce Boudreau‘s words “you do some soul searching.” It prompts a person to reflect on their game and ask themselves, what am I doing wrong and what can I do to fix this. Or at least that is what a fan would hope to see from the players on the team they devote themselves to. You would expect them to take ownership of their poor play and take steps to do all they can to fix it. What if you get apathy instead?
That is sort of what it sounded like after the Wild’s loss when alternate captain Ryan Suter matter-of-factly told reporters that about half of the team isn’t really trying right now. That didn’t sit too well with Wild fans and media which pointed out how that is such a disturbing revelation at this point in the season. Maybe its true and the team is simply too comfortable. Will the Wild continue their free fall with a loss to the Pacific Division leading Golden Knights?
1st Period Thoughts: The game had chess match like feel as both clubs were wary of making major mistakes that would lead to a prime scoring chance. The Wild seemed to be a bit anxious and were eager to get back defensively if they felt a turnover was likely. Brendan Leipsic fired a shot off the post as Devan Dubnyk lucked out as he was screened inadvertently by Mike Reilly. Some errant passes and mishandles of the puck gave Las Vegas a few opportunities at the start but luckily for the Wild the Golden Knights weren’t able to capitalize on those opportunities. The Wild were sometimes guilty of overhandling the puck or overthinking the play. The Golden Knights would get the first power play as Gustav Olofsson was tagged with a tripping call. The Wild penalty kill appeared to have returned to form as they challenged the Golden Knights’ zone entries and were able to clear the zone without too much difficulty. Minnesota would get a power play of its own, as James Neal slashed Olofsson in the Wild’s end. On the power play the Wild moved the puck around the perimeter where they tried to set up Mike Reilly for a blast and his shot struck Malcolm Subban in the mask that stunned him a bit but he’d stay in the game. Mathew Dumba also had a few chances to shoot from the point but they were unable to get their shots through to really test Subban. The power play seemed to spark the Wild a bit and they started to cycle the puck in Vegas’ end, but it wasn’t leading to many shots on goal. The Golden Knights would get a power play late in the period as Charlie Coyle ran into Cody Eakin who acted as though he had been shot as he flailed and threw his hockey stick and gloves and then writhed in pain on the ice long enough to draw the call. As soon as the penalty had been called, Eakin picked himself up and skated to the bench little worse for the wear that had the Wild bench calling for embellishment while Vegas’ coach was asking for a 5-minute major. The hit certainly caught Eakin unaware Coyle was there, but his reaction to the hit was cartoonish and probably worthy of a diving call. Again Minnesota’s penalty kill was solid, and Dubnyk didn’t have too much work as the Wild continued to disrupt the Golden Knights’ zone entries causing turnovers and were able to clear the zone without much trouble. Not a bad period, but the Wild need to send more shots on goal and test Subban more frequently.
2nd Period Thoughts: The chess match-like play continued; especially in the neutral zone as both teams were hoping to transition off a turnover. The goal post did its part to keep the Wild in the game as the Golden Knights struck the iron two more times in the period bringing their in-game total to 3. Minnesota also was fortunate Dubnyk was staying alert as he denied Leipsic on a 2-on-1 after a nice pass by William Karlsson. Dubnyk got a little help as Leipsic’s shot went right into the Wild crest, but it was a fine save nonetheless. Penalties again threatened to give Las Vegas the lead as Tyler Ennis was a little careless with his stick as it rode up and hit Nate Schmidt in the face. On the penalty kill the Wild did a fine job of keeping the Golden Knights to the perimeter and getting bodies and sticks into shooting lanes. Minnesota would start to activate its defense more frequently in the offensive zone and Ryan Murphy, Mike Reilly and Mathew Dumba started to take their chances to step up into the play and this seemed to cause the Golden Knights some trouble. Late in the period the Wild would break the stalemate as Reilly would feint at taking a shot and he’d send a perfect cross-ice pass to a wide open Mikael Granlund who one-timed a shot by Subban. 1-0 Wild. I also like how the Wild were keeping it simple to work their way into the offensive zone and pinning Vegas deep in its own end on the forecheck. Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker all looked pretty good and I think it could lead to some scoring chances in the 3rd.
3rd Period Thoughts: The 3rd period would see a lot more activity. The Wild would nearly cash in as Nino Niederreiter was stopped on a close range chance by Subban who seemed to appear out of nowhere to make the save. The Wild would get a little too cute with the puck and they started to pass on shots as they tried to set up Jason Zucker and other teammates for prime scoring chances. The plays mostly resulted in turnovers and the Vegas Golden Knights would take advantage as they counter attacked into the Minnesota end and it was Brayden McNabb stepping into a slap shot after a Stephane Matteau pass that blew by an unscreened Dubnyk. 1-1 game. Just a few minutes later another turnover was transitioned again into the Wild zone and Jonathan Marchessault rifled a shot that beat Dubnyk. 2-1 Vegas and you could sense the anxiety in the sellout crowd. Luckily for the home crowd the Wild would answer back just 48 seconds later as Jonas Brodin stepped into a low lying slap shot that lifted off the stick of McNabb and by Subban. 2-2 game. The goal gave the Wild some momentum and they would get the go ahead goal a few minutes later as Dumba made a nice move around a Vegas defender to fire a puck towards the goal that hit the hand of Deryk Engelland and right to Staal who then swung a shot around Subban. 3-2 Wild. The last few minutes the Wild did a superb job of shutting down the Vegas offense; giving them a few quality looks in the closing minutes. Dubnyk would make a few fantastic sprawling saves to preserve the lead and Staal would seal the game with an empty netter, 4-2 Wild.
Devan Dubnyk was pretty good, stopping 29 shots in the victory. With the Golden Knights crashing the net so consistently he had to stay on top of his game and limit his rebounds and Dubnyk did a terrific job in that regard. Defensively the Wild made a concerted effort to try to tie up Golden Knights’ skaters near the Minnesota crease to give their goaltender time to freeze the puck. I thought Dumba and Brodin were terrific defensively. Ryan Murphy looked pretty comfortable back there and I like how he was activating offensively. The posts were also kind to the Wild tonight, making 3 big saves.
Offensively the Wild got enough to earn a victory this evening. The Wild used their defense more and that played a bit factor in 3 of the team’s 4 goals this evening. Murphy especially looked good jumping up into the offensive zone and I like how he handled the puck and made things happen when he was out there. I hope he gets some opportunities on the man advantage. Brodin, Dumba also helped get things going and Reilly’s terrific pass for Granlund’s one-timer really sparked the Wild’s offense this evening. Hopefully we see more of that against St. Louis.
This was a big win for a team that was reeling a bit with the roster moves, Jared Spurgeon’s injury and its recent loss to the Jets. The Golden Knights are a hard working club and Minnesota couldn’t afford to let up even a little bit because they saw how fast this team could make you pay when you did. Gallant has the Golden Knights playing a team-oriented game and you have to play smart and patient if you’re going to beat them. The Wild now have to regroup for an early evening game against the Blues on Saturday.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Daniel Winnik, Eric Staal, Tyler Ennis, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Zack Mitchell, Matt Cullen, Marcus Foligno, Chris Stewart, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Ryan Murphy, Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Zach Parise was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Eric Staal, 3rd Star Mathew Dumba
~ Attendance was 19,084 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 2, Milwaukee 4
Iowa was really carrying the action to start the game; outworking the Admirals in just about every facet of the game. The Wild were peppering Anders Lindback with shots but couldn’t get anything past them. Being outshot by Iowa 10-0, the Admirals would cash in on their first shot on goal after a terrible misplay of the puck by Steve Michalek made for an easy turnover to Mark Zengerle who passed it over to Trevor Mingoia for an easy finish. 1-0 Milwaukee. The Wild were feeling a little frustrated and that started to boil over into penalties. Early in the 2nd period Zengerle would beat Michalek on the power play to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead. Iowa would finally cut into the Admirals’ lead on a power play of their own as Cal O’Reilly made a pretty move around a defender and then beat Lindback with a wicked wrist shot. 2-1 Admirals. Unfortunately, Iowa would give up a goal just 28 seconds after O’Reilly’s tally as Alexandre Carrier beat Michalek on a long range shot that the Harvard grad couldn’t seem to handle. 3-1 Admirals going into the 3rd. Iowa would cut the Admirals’ lead back to one as Sam Anas fed a puck to Kyle Rau who lit the lamp to make it 3-2. Unfortunately the Wild couldn’t get over the hump and Bobby Butler would score an empty netter to seal a 4-2 Admirals victory. Michalek did not have a good game (18 saves in the loss); and he probably would’ve been pulled if Niklas Svedberg wasn’t out of the lineup with an illness.
Wild Prospect Report:
W – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ On Sunday, Kaprizov had an assist as he helped Moscow to a 3-1 win over Admiral Vladivostok. The prospect raised some hackles across the Wild Twittersphere as he sort of slammed the team over what he perceived to be a lack of interest from Minnesota’s brass. The talented winger leads the team with 13 goals, 30 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +13 in 28 games.
G – Kaapo Kahkonen (Luuko Rauma, Sm-Liiga) ~ The 21-year old goaltender continues to have a strong season for Luuko Rauma where his numbers are standing up to the best goaltenders in the Sm-Liiga. The 6’2″, 227lbs goaltender has an 11-8 record, a 1.77 goals against average, .933% save percentage with 2 shutouts.
C – Andre Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the pesky forward is the 10th leading scorer on CSKA playing mostly on the 4th line. The 21-year old Svetlakov has 4 goals, 14 points, 32 PIM’s and is a +16 in 21 games.
D – Braydyn Chizen (Kelowna, WHL) ~ while Chizen’s height certainly got him noticed, his scoring certainly did not as he recorded a rare assist on Wednesday as Kelowna prevailed 5-2 over Prince George. Chizen has 1 goal, 3 points, 16 PIM’s and is a -1 in 16 games.
G – Dereck Baribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ the its not always about how many saves you make as long as you make them at the right time that matters as Baribeau stopped 25 shots in play and then 2 out of 3 in the shootout to give the Remparts a 3-2 shootout victory over Gatineau. He earned 1st star honors for his effort. Baribeau has a 15-7 record, a 2.81 goals against average and an .896% save percentage with 2 shutouts.