Duty, honor, country. No, I’m not talking about the Olympics or commenting on the NHL’s participation or the lack thereof (for the record I’m pretty neutral on that subject as I see the pro’s and con’s of both sides of the issue) I’m talking about military service. While I never have served, like many I’ve known many who have and know many who are currently serving. It is Veteran’s Day, formerly known as Armistice Day which was commemorated to recognize the signing of the armistice to stop World War One. Over time, we’ve expanded this to encompass all who have served and who are currently serving. To recognize their contributions and recognize their actions and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Hockey or any sport seems pretty trivial compared to that. Both of my grandfather’s served in World War Two in the Pacific Theater in the Army and Navy respectively. So instead of a set up about the Wild’s game against Philadelphia I’d like to offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to all the brave men and women who have served, both past and present.
1st Period Thoughts: The period went by pretty fast due to the fact there were very few stoppages and or penalties. Minnesota looked a bit sluggish, skating-wise as you could see the fatigue of being at the end of their 4-game road trip. The lack of jump meant the Wild just couldn’t seem to fully take advantage of long passes that would’ve caused an odd-man scoring chance. Mikko Koivu would steal puck in the offensive zone and he’d skate in on Brian Elliott who skated out to challenge and he’d try to out wait the former Blues puckstopper but he was able to deny Koivu’s bid with a paddle save. However it wasn’t all bad as the Wild were still playing pretty sound team defense and the Flyers were getting frustrated at how well the Wild were getting sticks into passing and shooting lanes. Devan Dubnyk was looking sharp; tracking pucks well and doing a nice job of absorbing shots and not giving much in the way of rebounds. The Wild had little cohesion offensively as the Flyers were disrupting the Wild’s attempts to dump and chase by being physical with Minnesota near its own blueline. The only penalty was a boarding penalty on Chris Stewart who crushed Radko Gudas with a check along the dasher in the Flyers’ end. On the power play the Wild didn’t always completely deny the shooting lanes but the Flyers were off target and Minnesota would never really be threatened too much. The Wild’s best chance late in the period when Jonas Brodin stepped into a slap shot that was stopped by Elliott who gave up a rebound but unfortunately no one could gather it up for another shot. The Wild were outshot 12 to 5, but not a bad opening period for Minnesota. Gustav Olofsson had a brutal turnover in the Wild zone that resulted in a prime scoring chance for Jordan Weal and was only bailed out by a nice save by Dubnyk. He has to be better unless he wants to spend a few games up in the press box.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild had some better scoring chances but they also gave up a lot more scoring chances of their own. Dubnyk was again the story of the period making a number of high quality stops including a point-blank range chance by Sean Couturier mid way through the 2nd. Minnesota was struggling to connect on its passes as tired legs just meant the area passes were leading to easy turnovers and lots of wasted time chasing around the puck. A few Flyers power plays yielded some decent chances by the Wild but give Elliott some credit for some quality saves of his own, including denying Granlund on a one-timer after a nice pass by Koivu. Minnesota would even try to attack off the rush on the man advantage and Marcus Foligno‘s wrap around bid was denied by the outstretched leg pad of Elliott. I am not sure if there is bad ice at Wells Fargo Arena, but the puck didn’t seem to be sliding too well and this didn’t help the Wild’s cause. Minnesota’s most energetic player was Koivu who seemed to be one of the few players who could dangle a bit and create some time and space for himself. Joel Eriksson Ek would knock down Valterri Filppula with a check late in the period, giving the Flyers a power play to start the 3rd period. Minnesota still has a great opportunity and one goal will probably be the difference in this one (knock on wood). The Wild were out shot 9 to 11.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would break the stalemate just a little past a minute in the 3rd as Mathew Dumba hammered a slap shot that reached Elliott who made the stop but couldn’t control the rebound and Jason Zucker pounced for his 6th goal in 3 games to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. The apathetic home crowd boo’d half-heartedly at Zucker. The goal seemed to re-energize the Wild a bit and they did a great job of digging deep to win races to loose pucks and force the Flyers to waste valuable time defending their own end of the ice. Minnesota was also blocking shots and getting bodies into shooting lanes. I thought Joel Eriksson Ek kind of stepped up a bit and was doing some good things on the forecheck as was Chris Stewart and Marcus Foligno who were throwing the body around as much as they could. In the closing minutes, the Wild would get a key power play as Jakub Voracek held up a Minnesota forward. On the power play the Wild didn’t just kill time, they looked for an insurance tally as Zucker was set up for one-timer he blasted just wide of the mark. The Flyers would pull Elliott for an extra attacker, where they tried to crash the net but Dubnyk was again rock solid seeing the puck among the bodies and forcing the whistle. A little bit later, as the puck made its way out towards Shane Gostisbehere it was blocked by a brave effort by Koivu and the Wild would prevail 1-0.
Devan Dubnyk was again perfect, stopping all 32 shots he faced. In fact, this shutout was perhaps even more impressive than what he had in Montreal as he had to see pucks through traffic more often than not. He also did a fine job of absorbing pucks and not giving up rebounds. Defensively the Wild at times were guilty of overusing the area pass but they did a decent job at keeping the Flyers to the perimeter most of the night. The penalty kill was terrific.
Offensively the Wild didn’t have a lot of quality chances, but I liked how they simplified their approach late in the game which is why they were rewarded with Zucker’s game winner. Zucker said he didn’t know how it went in, but it comes from doing the right things and playing smart. The power play didn’t find the back of the net, but it at least resulted in some positive pressure instead of being a practice in futility.
The win makes the 4-game road trip an even 2-2 split. Yet if it rekindled Dubnyk’s game, that might be the turning point the team has been searching in order to crawl out of the Central Division basement. I am sure the flight home will feel a little better. The team sees the Flyers again on Tuesday so you can bet Philadelphia will be a little fired up. Hopefully they can watch some film, learn from their mistakes and have some more energy because they’ll probably need it if they want to sweep the season series. No matter what, it was another nice road victory!
~ The Wild roster tonight 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, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Kyle Quincey was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Jason Zucker, 3rd Star Brian Elliott
~ Attendance was 19,309 at Wells Fargo Arena.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ the skilled winger did his part by chipping in two assists in Erie’s 4-7 loss to Hamilton. Lodnia has 11 goals, 21 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +8 in 19 games.
D – Jacob Golden (London, OHL) ~ the smooth skating defenseman had an assist in the Knights’ 9-0 win over Flint. In limited action, Golden has 2 assists, and is a +3 in 13 games this season.
G – Dereck Barribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ The big goaltender didn’t have much work to do on Friday as he made 14 saves in a 3-0 shutout of Val ‘d Or. Barribeau has a 12-3 record, 2.57 goals against average and a .904% save percentage with 2 shutouts.
LW – Avery Peterson (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the former Mr. Hockey had a big night for the Bulldogs as he scored twice in their 3-0 win over Western Michigan. Peterson has 4 goals, 5 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +4 in 6 games.