Did you ever notice the loon in the Minnesota Wild logo? Me neither, but is it a loon at all? It is supposed to be a stream as part of the man bear pig logo to go along with the line of pine trees, moon and north star which is a nod to the previous NHL club that used to call Minnesota home. However, a Twitter follower of mine @Tysands42 tracked down the man who designed the Wild logo and asked him that precise question. I will leave you in suspense as to what his answer was but Minnesota hopes to avoid adding anymore drama by earning a win on the road this evening.
Pittsburgh is also hoping to go into the All Star break with a victory. There is no real mystery surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins’ logo, as the skating penguin doesn’t really possess any subtle symbolism. The defending Stanley Cup champions are tired of waiting in the weeds in the Metropolitan division this season and they’d like nothing more than to have a statement victory over the Wild. Can Minnesota sweep the Penguins this season?
1st Period Thoughts: The opening period was not kind to the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota looked tired and rusty as it couldn’t seem to get a solid handle on the puck in its own zone at all. It looked like the Wild were handling a live hand grenade. The miscues with the puck would prove costly as Matt Dumba and Eric Staal combined to cough up the puck to Sidney Crosby who skated into the high slot before dishing it off to Dominik Simon for a wicked one-timer he blasted by Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk was busy right from the start and he had to make some nice stops with the Penguins swarming in the Minnesota zone throughout most of the 1st 10 minutes of the game. Minnesota just wasn’t moving its feet and the Penguins looked fast even if they weren’t even moving all that quick. The Wild didn’t help themselves with an undisciplined tripping penalty to Jason Zucker that put them a man down. The Penguins top-ranked power play would not waste much time as Evgeni Malkin carried the puck down low and he’d look out to make a pass by he’d bank a pass off the skate of Ryan Suter and then Dubnyk’s skate instead for a goal. 2-0 Penguins. This game seemed to be on the cusp of turning into a full-blown rout, but Minnesota would come back with its 3rd line of Kyle Rau, Charlie Coyle and Joel Eriksson Ek. This was the only Wild line that seemed to have an energy and their hustle would finally draw a penalty. On the man advantage the Wild had their best scoring chances of the period but they couldn’t convert. Jared Spurgeon was set up well for a one-timer that seemed to have Casey DeSmith dead to right, but he’d blast his one-timer wide of the goal and then moments after that DeSmith shut the door on Zach Parise‘s attempt to jam it home from close range. That was really as good as it got for the Wild who continued to struggle to handle the puck in their own zone and they probably were lucky to only be down by two going into the 1st intermission.
2nd Period Thoughts: The game didn’t improve any in the 2nd as Minnesota continued to have issues with turnovers in its own zone. Dumba, who had plenty of time to just skate the puck out of danger instead tried to send a pass off the glass that failed to exit the zone and Minnesota found itself on the receiving end of another Penguins counter attack and it was Malkin setting up Carl Hagelin for an easy tap in goal. 3-0 Wild. The mistake seemed to blow up in dramatic fashion, as a neutral zone turnover turned into a 3-on-2 and the Penguins worked a tic-tac-toe play to set up Brian Dumoulin for an easy tap in goal as Dubnyk contorted himself to try to make a save. 4-0 Penguins. The Wild would swap out Dubnyk for Alex Stalock mostly to save Dubnyk from the onslaught. Stalock was busy right away but the Wild did seem to skate a little harder after this personnel change. Minnesota would get a power play and seemed to cut into Pittsburgh’s lead as Jonas Brodin stepped into a slap shot that beat DeSmith. Pittsburgh would challenge the goal citing goaltender interference and upon review the officials agreed with the Penguins and they kept their 4-goal lead intact. Mikko Koivu, who was credited with bumping into DeSmith was angry as was Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau who tore into the officials. The period would end with Minnesota trailing 4-0 and adding insult to injury, Chicago was leading Detroit 3-0 at this point in their game. When it rains it pours.
3rd Period Thoughts: I think this clip describes my feelings about this period better than I can. The Wild are the cat in this scenario.
Sure, the Wild buried a few goals in the latter half of the period to make the score appear a bit more respectable but it was just window dressing on what was a pretty ugly effort. Defensively the Wild coughed up pucks too many times and give the Penguins credit for executing with ruthless efficiency on those errors. Minnesota has no excuse for coming out so flat after having a few days to rest prior to this game and knowing that they had the All Star Break after this game was behind them.
You can’t blame Dubnyk or Stalock for the outcome of this game; the goals they gave up where when the defense completely disappeared in front of them and left them out to dry. Dumba was particularly guilty of bad puck decisions in his own end this evening and it wasn’t always because of puck pressure by the Penguins. He just decided to take the easy way out and it backfired, big time.
Offensively the Wild would score 3 goals in a 3-minutes span in the 3rd but where was that effort earlier in the game. Minnesota was only able to manage a few token chances in the 1st and 2nd and that is really where the game got out of hand. Tyler Ennis looked lost and Kyle Rau looked a bit overwhelmed. I thought Charlie Coyle actually had one of his better games even though he did not end up on the scoresheet tonight. I felt he hustled well and probably was deserving of a goal this evening.
No doubt this loss will sit and fester in Boudreau’s craw for the duration of the All Star Break. The Wild didn’t seem focused or really ready to play which is ridiculous when you consider how tight things are in the division and the great difficulty of gaining ground on those clubs ahead of us in the standings. Every game is important, no matter whether its the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions or a bottom feeder. This team isn’t good enough to just let opportunities to gain points go to waste. While Staal makes his way to Tampa Bay for the All Star Game I hope the rest of the team does some soul searching after what was another embarrassing road loss.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Tyler Ennis, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Joel Eriksson Ek, Kyle Rau, Marcus Foligno, Matt Cullen, Daniel Winnik, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Gustav Olofsson and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock shared duties between the pipes with Devan Dubnyk. Mike Reilly and Chris Stewart were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Evgeni Malkin, 2nd Star Dominik Simon, 3rd Star Sidney Crosby
~ Attendance was 18,534 at Consol Energy Center.
Minnesota State High School Hockey Rankings:
Let’s Play Hockey released its latest rankings for both Class A and AA Girls and Boys hockey. Here are the Top 10 rankings as of January 23rd, 2018.
#4 Red Wing
#5 St. Paul United
#6 Thief River Falls
#7 South St. Paul
#8 East Grand Forks
#9 Duluth Marshall
#10 Proctor / Hermantown
#5 Maple Grove
#7 Forest Lake
#10 Eden Prairie
#6 St. Cloud Cathedral
#7 East Grand Forks
#8 Sartell-St. Stephen
#2 St. Thomas Academy
#4 Duluth East
#5 Holy Family
#6 Cretin-Derham Hall
#7 White Bear Lake