“No more country club” was apparently the mantra by the Minnesota Wild as they tried to focus themselves for Friday’s game against Anaheim. The team had one of their better efforts, even if it made for some ugly hockey. The end result is all that matters as the club rallied to earn a 3-2 overtime win over the Ducks and give the team some positive momentum as they hope to finish the California road trip strong with another solid effort against the San Jose Sharks tonight. San Jose is coming off a 5-0 win over Ottawa last night.
Minnesota should be a little better rested and have had the opportunity to observe and learn. It is my experience that good teams take the time to watch video and learn the tendencies of their opponents and can then turn those tendencies against them. The Wild have traditionally struggled in games played in San Jose, but a win could really boost the confidence of the club as they have a busy week ahead of them. Can Minnesota find a way to win in San Jose?
1st Period Thoughts: Well, I’m going to start off with the obvious if you’re watching this game from the comfort of your home. SAP Center, has really, and I mean really, has horrible lighting. Makes you wonder if they’re lighting their arena with 60W incandescent bulbs. Oh, and I see the “let’s continue to kick Wild centers out of the face off” has started early as well. Under two minutes in, and Mikko Koivu is getting tossed from the circle. When you’re getting tossed that early, you have to wonder if we’re going to get another penalty for faceoff infraction. I’m actually pretty curious how many times this season that has been called. The Wild would get the first power play of the game after Matt Cullen’s stick was slashed out of his hands. The Wild’s power play lately has been pretty unimpressive, but then they’ve also had very few chances with the man advantage. While the Wild would maintain the zone, they were being kept to the perimeter. However, they finally found the back of the net with a quick pass to Ryan Murphy who had a wide open net. I’m just glad to see that he was ready and made his shot count. How many times have we seen that same play, but our skater on the opposing goaltender’s stick side not be ready or sends the shot wide? I’ve been pleased with Murphy’s play in the games he’s played. I’m also noticing the Wild skaters are playing a slightly more physical game. They’re not allowing the Sharks to push them around. That’s refreshing, but I don’t know if Minnesota can keep it up for 60 minutes. I also appreciate seeing the Wild get shots on goal or at the very least getting scoring chances, even if the shots end up not going on goal. There seems to almost be a “shoot first” mentality tonight. I’m not seeing the passing for passing’s sake. The passes that are being made are very intentional. Too often in Wild games we see them making random passes or passes to where there is no skater. It’s hard to generate offense when you can’t maintain the zone. The Wild would make the game 2-0 thanks to Ryan Suter’s extreme patience, which took Martin Jones to the ice. Suter would skate (painstakingly slow) back behind Jones’ net. He would then pass the puck to Eric Staal who had an even more wide open net than Murphy did. I have to admit, I laughed on that goal. I rag Suter all the time for his slow skating, but this time it paid off. It froze Jones as well as the rest of the Sharks’ skaters. With just under six minutes remaining in the period, the Wild would head to the penalty box with Mikael Granlund getting called for holding. The Wild would kill the penalty in a combination of Alex Stalock remaining alert, Wild players able to clear the zone or at least break up passes, and keeping players like Brent Burns from just winding up and blasting the puck toward goal. Unfortunately, ever since Staal’s goal, the Wild have failed to get any shots on goal. Then even worse, Murphy would take a penalty for closing his hand on the puck. Again, Minnesota would kill the penalty, and it was a hard-won kill, as the Sharks definitely got much better scoring chance in this power power plan when compared to their first one. The Wild would head to the locker room with the 2-0 lead. It’s hard to say what we’ll get in the dreaded 2nd period. I’m hoping Koivu’s building anger at the linesmen (he’s been booted from the faceoff at least three times) will get this team to dig down deep and keep putting the pressure on San Jose.
2nd Period Thoughts: Well at least we didn’t start the 2nd period with the dubious lighting. It would be nice however if the Wild could tilt the ice in the other direction and get some much needed shots on goal. However when the Wild do get the puck, they end up simply dumping the puck and never get anything done with it. Yes, I realize it’s the period of the long change, but guess what, the Sharks have the long change as well. If they can compensate for the long change, get possession in their offensive zone, and get shots on goal, Minnesota can do so as well. I’m afraid they’re looking only at the score and not the shots on goal. Heck I have to wonder if Bruce Boudreau or any of the other coaches bothered to mention “hey, you got your lost shot on goal at ___, please get some more early in the period.” Yet that hasn’t happened. However, a hobbled guy like Staal (who took a puck off the ankle), he stayed on the ice and fought for possession. That hard work would be initially called as Staal’s second goal of the night. For some reason, Toronto would call in and want to take a second look to make sure it fully crossed the goal line. It would be determined to be a good goal. Then San Jose would challenge the goal for goaltender interference. Yes, Nino Niederreiter was in front of the goal, but there was not enough contact with Jones to constitute interference. San Jose lost their challenge and their time out. Besides going ahead another goal, the one thing Staal’s goal did was wake up the Wild. They were getting a few more shots on goal, and getting in Jones’ face. Just over six minutes in, we saw some great shots by Marcus Foligno and Zack Mitchell. I always love when the third and fourth liners get scoring chances of their own. We do need those players to cash in more often than they do. The Wild would head back to the penalty box, with Gustav Olofsson getting called for tripping. Now I’ve had good things to say about Suter tonight, but I do have issues when you’re a defenseman, the puck lands on your stick, you have plenty of time and space to clear the puck, but you fail. You shoot it right on to the stick of a San Jose defenseman. That makes absolutely no sense at all and is beyond frustrating. The Wild would kill the penalty, mostly due to Stalock being ready for his former teammates. Unfortunately, Stalock is going to get bombarded again because Jason Zucker would get called for high-sticking. We should all thank our lucky stars that it’s only the single minor, as right now the Wild would struggle with a double. When you get so few power plays of your own, you simply cannot afford to take as many penalties as the Wild do. Between the penalties and the centers getting kicked out of the face off, this season is getting old. The Wild would finally get their second power play of the night after Olofsson would get pushed into Stalock by Ryan Carpenter. The problem with this power play when compared to the first one, is that there are continually too many passes. So the only positive part to that Wild power play, is that it ticked two minutes off the clock. However, that is not the point of a power play. And the Wild would get another power play, this time as Murphy took a high stick to the face from Dylan DeMelo. And instead of using the power play, the Wild are going to get called for two penalties. First Murphy for hooking and Staal for holding. The Wild would take some time off of their penalties because Koivu would make a rush on Jones but Burns would take the shot away from his former teammate. The Wild would whittle the penalty time down to six seconds remaining until Burns got the puck behind Stalock. You can’t blame Stalock. When his skaters can’t stay out of the penalty box (especially going down two men), it’s hard to keep the shutout going. Considering the penalties this team insists on taking and the overall poor play in the second period, I guess I have to temper my disappointment with the fact that they’re still ahead 3-1.
3rd Period Thoughts: Staal would essentially open the period with another scoring chance. However just as he was taking his shot on goal, Burns would give him a push in the back, which sent Staal to the ice and pretty much acted as a torpedo into Jones. The Wild would take yet another penalty, Olofsson getting called for tripping yet again. While I’m not content to keep heading to the penalty box, at least having Olofsson in the box, he can’t make more stupid plays. But being down a man, any man, doesn’t help when Burns is on the ice. Burns would get his second of the night, further erasing the Wild’s lead. Again, Minnesota is showing itself to be a team that cannot finish what they start. I’m getting tired of watching this team falling apart. I wish they would figure themselves out, because as a fan we watch the same mistakes over and over again. A few weeks ago, I used the Urban Dictionary definition of insanity (I won’t post it tonight so your work or school internet filter doesn’t block it). While it’s simply a more adult version of the classic definition of insanity, I find those more colorful words express what I’m feeling. They seem unwilling or unable to change how they’re playing. First off, they don’t address why they take so many penalties. That’s the kind of things that individual players can fix by simply taking a look at themselves in the mirror. Are they getting caught being lazy and then take the penalty? For many of them, yes. For our centers, they need to watch every faceoff where they get booted. Are they cheating with their feet and/or stick? If so, then another thing they can work on fixing. But I mean if I have to go through weekly/monthly coaching sessions with my manager to address things I need to improve on, I’m expected to improve on them. I don’t see that same kind of growth and change with Wild players, especially the more veteran they are. You’ll have the occasional flash where you start to think they’ve finally figured things out and they’re breaking their bad habits. This team continues to disappoint me. I feel like we’re having a repeat of the second period. San Jose is simply creating traffic and getting shots on goal. It seems to be getting to Stalock, as he had pounced on the goal, but as he dropped to his knees, the puck came loose, which allowed Tomas Hertl to tie up the game. The sad thing, is the Sharks should be tired, as they played last night. Instead, the Wild are the ones looking like they played last night. It hard to win when you don’t play a full game. This has been an issue for many seasons, and I wish I knew how to change that aspect of the Wild culture. I almost wish we could have a new Expansion Draft, and the Wild get to start over. Of course knowing our luck, Chuck Fletcher would simply decide he’s happy with his team and not blow it up. And on to overtime we go.
Overtime Thoughts: Thankfully, we get Dumba, Jonas Brodin, and Charlie Coyle to start the overtime. I’m so used to this team finding things that work but the coaches and players decide to go back to the ineffective tandem of Suter and Koivu in overtime. What’s frustrating, is we can see that the Wild clearly want to play for the shoot out. Just when I think that’s what their game plan is, it is Nino Niederreiter that finishes this one. Honestly, I don’t want to see Koivu any more in the overtime. When he was out there, he just slowed things down and all he did was skate with the puck, pass it, and then skate again with the puck. We need to have our shoot first players out there, and that is why Niederreiter finished tonight.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, Joel Ericksson Ek, Jason Zucker, Marcus Foligno, Nino Niederreiter, Daniel Winnik, Zack Mitchell, Tyler Ennis, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Suter, Gustav Olofsson, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock would get the start against his former team with Devan Dubnyk serving as backup.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Nino Niederreiter; 2nd Star, Eric Staal; 3rd Star, Brent Burns.
~ Attendance was 17,205 at SAP Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ the big bodied power forward is showing off his skills as a center lately for the Terriers as he had 2 assists on Friday night in a 3-2 loss to in-state rival UMass-Lowell. The New York-native then followed it up with a huge night as he tallied a hat trick and an assist (7 shots on goal) in the Terrier’s 9-3 win over the Riverhawks. Greenway has 7 goals, 17 points, 20 PIM’s and is a +1 in 18 games.
LW – Avery Peterson (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the former Mr. Hockey Award winner did his part as he chipped in a goal and an assist in a wild 7-5 loss to Nebraska-Omaha on Friday night. Peterson has 5 goals, 7 points, 13 PIM’s and is a +3 in 13 games.
RW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the Florida-native got in on the feeding frenzy as he had 2 assists in the Friars’ 8-3 pasting of RIT on Friday. Duhaime has 3 goals, 9 points, 35 PIM’s and is a +4 in 17 games.
D – Braydyn Chizen (Kelowna, WHL) ~ the tall and lanky defeneman is heating up for the Rockets as he lit the lamp (2 shots on goal) and had 4 PIM’s in their 7-5 win over Regina on Friday night. He then followed up with an assist the next night (3 shots on goal) in the Rockets’ 7-4 loss to the Wheat Kings. Chizen has 3 goals, 6 points, 24 PIM’s and is a +1 in 20 games.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman keeps piling up the points as he had a goal and an assist in the Redhawks 4-3 OT loss to Western Michigan on Saturday night. Belpedio has 6 goals, 17 points, PIM’s and is a in games.
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the skilled sniper earned 3rd star honors by scoring twice on 5 shots in the Wolves’ 4-2 loss to Kingston on Saturday. Sokolov has 18 goals, 34 points, 4 PIM’s and is a -6 in 29 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ the skilled winger continues to stay on a little better than a point-per-game pace as he had a goal in the Otters’ 6-2 loss to London on Sunday. Lodnia has 16 goals, 33 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +4 in 31 games.
D – Jacob Golden (London, OHL) ~ the skilled defenseman plays in a limited role with the Knights but he had an assist in London’s 6-2 win over Erie this afternoon. Golden has 3 assists, 0 PIM’s and is a +2 in 25 games.