The Wild have to be back on track after beating the Pacific Division leading Vegas Golden Knights right? Not so fast said some Wild media members say; most notably KFAN‘s Pat Micheletti who chimed in on the post-game show that he felt the Minnesota Wild lucked out quite a bit during their 4-2 victory. Micheletti, the former Golden Gophers’ scoring machine said the team got lucky that Vegas fanned on a few shots and their goaltender bailed them out with some tremendous stops along the stretch. Yet, isn’t that supposed to happen in a way? Aren’t goalies supposed to steal games once in a while?
I am sure Micheletti would concede this point, but I think its fair of him to say the Wild may have been more lucky than good against the Golden Knights. No doubt we’ll need to be both lucky and good if we want to beat the 2nd best team in the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues come to town with the confidence of having pasted the Wild 6-3 a week ago in St. Louis. Can the Wild follow up a ‘lucky’ game with a good one tonight?
1st Period Thoughts: The opening three minutes pretty much equated to both teams feeling each other out. Then Devan Dubnyk appeared to get bored with that, and when he gets bored, he leaves his net at the worst possible times. Dubnyk and his skaters should be very fortunate that the Blues were unable to do anything with Dubnyk’s attention issues. We would also witness one of the few times in history that Jason Zucker gets beat on the puck, however, it probably caused a convenient diversion. While everyone is focusing on Zucker and his feet and scoring ability, a very unlikely Ryan Suter was able to take the puck behind Jake Allen’s net and fire a quick wrap around shot and get the first goal of the night. They’re going to need more goals from all types of Wild players, especially if one particular trend continues to happen. I have been noticing a bad trend all season, and we’ve already seen it here tonight several times. This season, the Minnesota Wild have had a difficult time clearing the zone. There are times, where they desperately need to clear but can’t because there’s too much along their blueline to get the puck out. And there are other times where they have the time to clear the zone but for whatever reason fail to do so. Seriously, it’s a basic hockey skill. When you struggle with the basics, you shouldn’t wonder why the Wild are sitting where they currently are. The Wild would get the first power play of the night after Brayden Schenn was called for high sticking. Schenn was fortunate that it was only a single minor, as his stick got stuck in Marcus Foligno’s visor. Minnesota was able to put some decent pressure on the Blues during the man advantage, yet came up short. As the period enters its last few minutes, I have to say this is honestly one of the Wild’s better periods this season. With the exception of Dubnyk’s wandering concentration early in the game, everyone seems to be where they need to be. No one is trying to be too fancy, and all are sticking to fundamentals. The Wild would be short a man late in the period after Charlie Coyle got in a tussle with Vladimir Sobotka after the Blues winger extended the knee. The officials let Coyle and Sobotka go at it. Because of that, Chris Stewart felt a need to step in. It would be Stewart alone heading to the penalty box. Minnesota would successfully kill the penalty and would almost get to the end of the period. With just 10 seconds remaining, Minnesota would go back to the power play with Scottie Upshall called for slashing. Upshall was beyond ticked off. He chirped all the way to the box, continued to yell during the 10 seconds in the box, and then after the buzzer, went and got back into the ear of the officials. I won’t complain with starting the 2nd period with 110 seconds of power play time and a 1-goal lead.
2nd Period Thoughts: Well let’s just say I wasn’t particularly pleased with the start of the period or the remainder of the power play. Minnesota seemed to spend more time chasing the puck and just when you thought they might get a scoring chance, the puck would roll off someone’s stick. And of course it doesn’t help my peace of mind that this is the 2nd period, probably the worst period of hockey for the Wild. I feel like if Minnesota doesn’t create some offense of their own soon, they’re really just operating on borrowed time. And that comes more into focus when Daniel Winnik was called for holding the stick in the offensive zone. We’ve become so accustomed to Wild players marching to the penalty box. At least Mikael Granlund tried to lessen the sting of the penalty by getting a decent short handed scoring chance. What I don’t like, is the fact that Minnesota almost ended up being two men down, again because Mikko Koivu decided to stay on the ice when Coyle was almost on the ice. I’m getting a little tired of Koivu determining when he’s on and off the ice. The Wild would thankfully kill the penalty, however they would have difficulty clearing the zone and changing their skaters. I’m going to say it now, but having Nate Prosser back in the lineup is very nice. It’s nice having a player who will play whatever defensemen role Bruce Boudreau asks him to play. He knows his role and plays it to the best of his ability. Kyle Quincey was becoming more and more of a liability, and when your team is floundering, you need to eliminate as many liabilities as you possibly can. I know he was ragged quite a bit by other other blogs, but I would rather have the slow and steady defenseman than the one who refuses to do his job. He’s not flashy, and he’s not going to score a lot of points, but he always shows up to practice and games and is ready to go. The midpoint of the period almost has me rethinking Minnesota 2nd periods. They were certainly getting pressure on Allen, but like one of my fellow Wild fans said, they need to find another gear. Right now, Minnesota is just hanging with Saint Louis. If the Blues find that extra gear soon, it’s going to be lights out for the Wild. Foligno found perhaps a half gear with a beautiful shot that clanked big time off the pipe. He had Allen beat, but just needed an extra half inch or so. After that scoring chance, the Wild would get themselves again pinned into their own zone and on top of that take a penalty with Matt Dumba called for hooking. The scary part is that Saint Louis is starting to find that extra gear. Again, Granlund used some of his defensive skills to steal the puck and get another shorthanded scoring chance. And just when you think Minnesota will kill this penalty, especially with how Dubnyk was continually stopping the pucks, Patrik Berglund would get his second goal of the season. Now that the Blues have broken the seal, I worry about what is yet to come. I guess considering the pressure the Blues were able to put on the Wild, I’m just going to be glad that we have a tied game at the end of 40 minutes.
3rd Period Thoughts: In the early minutes of the final period, I’m not sure which Wild team is showing up. They don’t seem quite as alert and focused, but then they have moments where it’s like you wish you could clone them and keep it going for the rest of the night. The only saving grace is that Saint Louis isn’t pushing like they could. They are getting more possession time than I’m comfortable with, but that’s often a frequent occurrence for Minnesota so we’re used to it. However while we’re used to it doesn’t mean we have to like it. One thing that I’m definitely not liking right now is the differential when it comes to shots on goal, the Blues almost have 2 shots for the Wild’s one. That’s another stat that Wild fans have learned to deal with. We’re not happy with it, but we’re pretty much forced to accept it because no one really seems intent on changing that fact. It doesn’t help matters when the officials call the Wild for faceoff violation after the linesman flinched on the puck drop so both skaters flinched. First Saint Louis got booted from the faceoff, then Eric Staal, and then Foligno. If ever there was an inconvenient penalty kill, this would be it. I’m getting really tired of how the linesmen drop the puck in games. It’s almost as if they want to see if they can get the skaters to take their bait. Boudreau would continue to give the officials a major piece of his mind during the stoppages of play. While I like to see a coach stick up for his team when they deserve it, these seem to be the kind of officials who would call a bench minor on the coach for abuse of officials. In these final six minutes of regulation, the Wild need to stay out of the box, however that would not be the case as Koivu would head to the box for slashing. Koivu has a habit of reaching with his stick instead moving his feet. This slashing penalty is an example of that. If he had used his feet instead of his stick we might not be in this position. Minnesota would kill yet another penalty. And they would then finally get another chance of their own on the power play after Robert Bortuzzo would get called for high sticking on Zucker. However they would waste much of their power play time by not being able to maintain the offensive zone. And of course it doesn’t help that a lazy Koivu keeps himself out there. While I’m not a big fan of Suter, he at least is skating very well tonight. And of course his laziness will make its appearance again in the overtime session. Lucky us.
Overtime Thoughts: Holy balls, Koivu wasn’t on the ice to start overtime. Color me surprised. Instead, we get Charlie Coyle, Matt Dumba, and Jonas Brodin. Dumba would take the puck on goal, pass to Coyle, would push it back across the crease at the last minute for a crashing Dumba to get the game winner. This is exactly why you don’t put Suter and Koivu on the ice during the overtime unless you’re absolutely desperate. Keep the guys with the faster legs and faster hands, and you stand a much better chance of winning. Hopefully Boudreau remembers this and uses it in the future.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Chris Stewart, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Marcus Foligno, Nino Niederreiter, Daniel Winnik, Zack Mitchell, Tyler Ennis, Mikael Granlund, Mike Reilly, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, and Nate Prosser. Devan Dubnyk got the start and Alex Stalock served as backup.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Devan Dubnyk; 2nd Star, Matt Dumba; 3rd Star, Jake Allen.
~ Attendance was 19,107 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (11-8-2-0) 3rd in the AHL Central Division
17.9% Power Play (15th in the AHL)
89.8% Penalty Kill (2nd in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Pat Cannone ~ 5G 11A = 16pts
2. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 8G 7A = 15pts
3. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 6G 6A = 12pts
4. #25 Justin Kloos ~ 4G 8A = 12pts
5. #36 Colton Beck ~ 6G 5A = 11pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #3 Nick Seeler ~ 33 PIM’s
2. #28 Carson Soucy ~ 27 PIM’s
3. #44 Christoph Bertschy~ 20 PIM’s
1. #35 Niklas Svedberg (6-7-1) 2.73GAA .908%SP 1SO
2. #34 Steve Michalek (5-1-0) 2.16GAA .935%SP
Recent Game: Iowa 5, San Antonio 3
After a hard fought loss on Tuesday, the Wild traveled down to Texas to take on the San Antonio Rampage. The Rampage would light the lamp first as former Wild prospect camp tryout Alex Belzile found the twine behind Steve Michalek making it 1-0 at the end of the 1st. The Rampage added another goal early in the 2nd period as Andrei Mironov scored his first of the season but the Wild would regroup and rally to tie the game on goals four minutes apart. First it was Christoph Bertschy on the power play after a nice pass from Justin Kloos and then a few minutes later it was Alex Grant blistering a shot from the point that beat Spencer Martin tying it up at 2-2 going into the 3rd. In the 3rd period the Wild would strike just 25 seconds in as Joel Eriksson Ek continues to pile up points to make it 3-2 Iowa. About 10 minutes later Iowa would give themselves a two-goal cushion as Mario Lucia fed a perfect pass to Gerald Mayhew who ripped a shot by Martin to make it 4-2 Wild. The Rampage would answer back just about 20 seconds later as Julien Nantel beat Michalek to make it 4-3. Iowa would seal the game with an Bertschy empty netter. Michalek had a nice bounce back game after a rough start on Tuesday, making 44 saves in the victory. Luke Kunin had an assist and 3 shots on goal.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ the skilled winger earned 3rd star honors on Friday by chipping in a goal (2 shots on goal) in Erie’s 5-4 overtime loss to Guelph. Lodnia has 15 goals, 30 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +7 in 27 games.
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the dangerous sniper earned 3rd star honors for the Wolves as he pumped home 2 goals (5 shots on goal) and chipped in a helper in the Wolves 6-3 win over Mississauga. Sokolov has 15 goals, 31 points, 4 PIM’s and is a -5 in 27 games.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman continues to be the workhorse for the Redhawks as he had an assist and 3 shots on goal in Miami’s 2-1 win over Cornell on Friday. Belpedio has 5 goals, 15 points, 24 PIM’s and is a +3 in 15 games.
C – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ the big power forward is having a trying junior season so far as he hopes to make an impression to be able to represent Team USA at this year’s Olympics, but so far things have been going pretty slow. On Friday, Greenway playing as the Terriers top line center had an assist and 3 shots on goal in their 7-4 win over arch-rival Boston College. Greenway has 4 goals, 11 points, 18 PIM’s and is a +3 in 16 games.