Last night was our annual football banquet. The post-season celebration and pot luck dinner where players, coaches and parents get together to remember the season where you hand out awards and honors. You cap it off with the highlight film, and in watching that film you often wonder how you ever lost any games. The film isn’t seen; and seen mainly by the players and coaches are the plays where the execution or effort were lacking. As the coach who analyzes film; its an important learning tool and opportunity to demonstrate what went wrong and how it needs to be fixed. Without going back and pouring over the Wild’s last two games; I can bet that the team has made a lot of improvements the last week since it lost against Boston.
No doubt some moments will be better than others and in any game tape you will see moments where your team could not have handled a situation better or worse. It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch on Saturday against the Flyers, but Minnesota managed to earn a much-needed victory. Now both clubs have had a few days off and plenty of time to watch and learn from film from the game. Home at home series are rare in the NHL, which club’s adjustments will bring about success tonight?
1st Period Thoughts: Gee, you sit down to get ready to start writing for the night, and you’ve barely settled into your favorite game-watching chair, and Nino Niederreiter finds the back of the net. Heck, in the first 12 seconds of the game, you’re hardly ready to go. This goal now stands as the fastest Wild goal at Xcel Energy Centerl. So hopefully this is a sign that the Wild are finally showing up to play. Of course it could just be Brian Elliott being Brian Elliott. Of course the Wild decided to again tempt fate by taking a penalty, the first one by Mike Reilly for hooking Wayne Simmonds. I know for many Wild fans, we’re not comfortable with the number of penalties they’re taking. I know they’re probably hoping that the officiating crackdown is just a current trend and the whistles will eventually go back into the pockets, but seriously let’s not keep tempting fate. I know they’ve done well on the penalty kill lately, but when it seems like the only Wild player who can score a goal is Jason Zucker, you really don’t want to give the opposition any easier chances at a goal. Especially when just over halfway through the period, Minnesota only has three shots on goal. With the exception of a great shift by Mikko Koivu’s line near the midway point, the Wild haven’t been able to generate much when it comes to scoring chances. And of course, we’re still seeing more scoring chances by the line of Zucker, Niederreiter, and Eric Staal. If there’s a player on this team who is feeling a bit invisible lately, it would be Mikkael Granlund. He needs to step up soon, because we could use more goals. Again, it begs the question what if Granlund had been treated more like Zucker and former center Erik Haula? Yes, I realize Granlund was a first-round pick, but I’m sorry, being a first-round pick shouldn’t make you exempt from criticism and having to earn your spot in the lineup. A little time in the press-box might do him wonders. I feel like Joel Eriksson-Ek is being handled better. He’s getting NHL time due to Wild injuries, but he’s had to earn the call ups from Iowa. Sure, he’s the first one to get called when people get injured, but I think he probably knows that once Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle are back, he’s back on the bus to Des Moines. The Wild would get their first power play of the night late in period thanks to a holding call on Simmonds in the Flyers’ offensive zone. The Wild’s power play is making things way too easy on the Flyers. Minnesota choosing not to use their faster skaters on the power play and instead go with slow and steady. Well slow and steady isn’t winning the power play race. Time to shake things up again. Yes, Minnesota is heading to the locker room with a 1-0 lead, but without Nino’s early goal, this would be a 0-0 snooze-fest.
2nd Period Thoughts: Well you shouldn’t be surprised that Niederreiter and Zucker got some scoring chances in the first minute of the period. We should be counting our lucky stars that at least those two want to play hockey, because very few of the others are looking to really play. Dubnyk has hopefully (fingers crossed) gotten his head back in the game. So far tonight, he seems like he’s able to see through the skaters and track the puck. That was something that was missing at the beginning of the season. One player you’re never going to see on a highlight reel, but consistently does his job is Daniel Winnik. He plays his role well, and after a Flyers player broke his stick in the Wild’s offensive zone, Winnik and his linemates generated an extended offensive zone presence. Not only was it extended zone time, but they were also able to cycle out their skaters, while Philadelphia was essentially a man down because of that broken stick. It’s a shame that Minnesota was unable to score on those shifts, but it was a beautiful thing to watch. However, the Wild would find themselves as the trapped team in their own zone at the midway point. Unlike the Flyers getting trapped because of a broken stick, the Wild got penned in their own zone of their own making due to two consecutive icing calls. It looks like we may be returning to the Wild of the suspect second periods. Not only did they get themselves trapped, but they’re struggling with the puck battles. Then if that’s not bad enough, they then take an avoidable penalty, the too many men call. The timing is bad too, because all the jump in this game belongs to the Flyers. Minnesota would thankfully kill the penalty, but then would again get called for icing. Tonight’s game feels like a game of the old Wild. Where you hope just to get the one goal and then wear out the opponent. It’s not a comfortable game plan, and it makes for a very boring game. As the Wild return to the locker room maintaining the 1-0 lead, I just want to go to bed.
3rd Period Thoughts: I’m still feeling a great sense of lethargy. Now for me to be feeling that way is one thing. Seeing it from the Wild is very concerning. Within the first 5 minutes of the period, they allowed a break away by Dale Wiese. Now if we had the Dubnyk of the beginning of the season, it would have been a goal. But now that we’re seeing the Dubnyk we need to see, Wiese was shut down. Another player that needs to show up in the games is Matt Cullen. For a guy who was praising his gluten- and dairy-free lifestyle, it doesn’t seem to be making a difference. Perhaps you had the success you did in Pittsburgh because of your teammates and not your diet. Seriously, I think he could use a few carbs for some energy. I often wonder about people who eliminate certain foods or ingredients from their diets when they’re not sensitive to them. Really, the only people who should eliminate gluten are those with an intolerance, same goes for dairy. I say this as a lactose-intolerant person. I envy those of you who can eat dairy products to your heart’s content. Cullen probably spends more time and energy reading food labels than actually enjoying his food. Have some toast with butter on it and start playing some hockey. Another problem (and this is a long time one) is either making the extra pass or the bad pass. Zucker had a great chance at a shot but instead he makes a pass. You almost have wonder if his recent scoring success has some vets (cough, Koivu, cough) upset and they want him to pass more than taking the shot. If you have the shot, take the shot. Heck even if it’s a suspect shot, you might have a teammate who can grab the rebound. But this passing for the sake of passing is beyond old. The Flyers would pull Elliott for the extra attacker. However, with the puck deep in Minnesota’s zone, with the Flyers extra attacker, Dubnyk decided twice to go behind the net when there were Minnesota skaters there to grab the puck. That’s Dubnyk’s weakness, boredom. At least it didn’t work against them. The Wild had drawn a penalty, but Philadelphia had yet to touch the puck. That allowed Staal to get the puck into the Flyers’ zone and tally the empty net goal. The Flyers would put Elliott back in for the puck drop, but would pull him as quickly as they could. With Elliott on the bench, Dubnyk would feed the puck to a skating Zucker who tallied another empty net goal. With another shut out, this makes it 195 minutes and 5 seconds since Dubnyk last allowed a goal.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Chris Stewart, Eric Staal, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jason Zucker, Marcus Foligno, Luke Kunin, Nino Niederreiter, Daniel Winnik, Tyler Ennis, Mikkael Granlund, Mike Reilly, Ryan Suter, Gustaf Olofsson, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, and Jared Spurgeon. Devan Dubnyk got the start with Alex Stalock serving as back up.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Devan Dubnyk; 2nd Star, Nino Niederreiter; 3rd Star, Tyler Ennis.
~ Attendance was 18,768 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 3, Cleveland 2 SO
On Saturday, the Iowa Wild crushed Cleveland 6-1 so with a back-to-back against the same squad could they do so again? It started out pretty slow as the Monsters got the early lead on a deflection by Sam Vigneault of a point shot by Dean Kukan that found the twine behind Niklas Svedberg. Iowa wasn’t able to get almost anything going offensively with just 3 shots on goal. Iowa was better in the 2nd, working more shots on goal to test Brad Thiessen a bit. Cleveland would add to its lead in the latter half of the period as Jordan Schroeder worked his way into the slot and sniped a shot by Svedberg. 2-0 Monsters. In the last two minutes of the period, Landon Ferraro would take advantage of Thiessen turnover and he’d score his first goal as a member of the Iowa Wild. Just 67 seconds later Iowa would tie the game as Chase Lang dropped a pass back to Zach Palmquist who fired a laser by Thiessen. Svedberg and Thiessen were strong in the 3rd and overtime sending the game to a shootout. Sam Anas would light the lamp in the shootout on a pretty little deke to start Iowa off right. Svedberg was terrific, stopping all 3 Monsters’ shooters and they’d prevail 3-2. He had 24 saves in the victory.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ playing on the Gophers’ top defensive pairing, he managed to contribute an assist in Minnesota’s crazy 7-6 shootout win over Michigan on Saturday. Sadek has 3 assists, 20 PIM’s and is a +2 in 12 games.
RW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the skilled winger had an assist and 2 shots on goal playing on the Friars’ 2nd line as they blitzed UMass 7-2 on Saturday. Duhaime has 2 goals, 5 points, 23 PIM’s and is a +1 in 10 games.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman is a leader on and off the ice for the Redhawks. He tallied an assist on the game-tying goal sending the game to an eventual shootout, but also was Miami’s first shooter (he was stopped). The Skokie, Illinois-native has 4 goals, 8 points, 18 PIM’s and is a +1 in 10 games.
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ The dangerous goal scoring winger seems to be showcasing more of a playmaking touch to his game this season as he had a helper (and 5 shots on goal) in the Wolves’ 5-1 loss to Guelph on Sunday. Sokolov has 11 goals, 24 points, 4 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating in 20 games.