Trash talk, bulletin board material whatever you want to call it, most teams want to avoid motivating their opponent but the same cannot be said of the Colorado Avalanche. Over the years the Avalanche have made it known that they don’t like the Wild too much in comments made to the media and for whatever reason (maybe the two playoff series defeats) have fixated on Minnesota as their current nemesis. The Wild have avoided providing much in the way of trash talk through the media, but the State of Hockey fan base has enjoyed teasing Colorado the last few years for their profound futility.
With the Avalanche captain promising his team will “take care of business” tonight against Minnesota. Is that just confidence or psychological warfare from Colorado. A lot was made during the World Junior Championships about Team Switzerland’s coach basically saying his team had no chance against Team Canada this year; and whether it was just brutal honesty or trying to lull Canada into being overconfident. Ultimately it didn’t matter as Canada steamrolled Switzerland on its way to World Juniors gold. It will be up to the Minnesota Wild to prove that Colorado’s bold “take care of business” statement to be untrue. Can Minnesota continue their winning ways at Pepsi Center?
1st Period Thoughts: It was evident early in the period the Wild were not ready mentally or physically to compete tonight. Minnesota was sluggish and reacting to the play instead of anticipating. The Wild were a step or two too slow and the Avalanche were trying to play at a high tempo and on more than one occasion they got Minnesota scrambling in its own end. Even a gift of a power play failed to wake up the Wild who moved the puck around, but didn’t seem ready to pull the trigger quickly to take advantage of a clear lane to get shots through to Jonathan Bernier. The failed power play opportunity would quickly boomerang against the Wild as they appeared to fall asleep in their own end defensively and it was Colin Wilson finding former Predators’ teammate Gabriel Bourque all alone in the slot who then had time to settle the puck, square up to the goal and pick a corner to beat Devan Dubnyk. Minnesota’s defense was no where to be seen other than watching the play like a crowd shot of people sitting mid-court at a tennis match. It was pathetic. Minnesota still seemed mostly a bit sleepy throughout most of the 1st period until the 4th line nearly provided a spark as Daniel Winnik was denied on a wrap around bid. The Avalanche would counter attack and Nathan MacKinnon turned on the jets to back off the Wild’s defense and he dish a pass back to Patrik Nemeth who also had time and space to step into a big shot that rang off the post and in. 2-1 Avalanche as Dubnyk seemed furious as he smashed his stick against the goal post over the poor defensive coverage in front of him. In the last minute of play the Wild would cut the Colorado lead in half as Tyler Ennis worked a puck into the Avalanche zone with speed, dishing it off to Jason Zucker helped drive back the Avalanche defense before feeding a pass back to a trailing Jonas Brodin. Brodin would step into a slap shot that drew a rebound from Bernier and an alert Eric Staal would pounce on the loose puck and bury it. 2-1 Avalanche. Two players looked especially slow and lethargic; captain Mikko Koivu and alternate captain Ryan Suter. Neither player seemed to have much energy or jump in their skates. The Wild better wake up or this one is going to get ugly fast if they have another start to a period like they did in the 1st of this one.
2nd Period Thoughts: Near the end of the period, while the Avs would ice the puck and give the Wild draws in front of Bernier, it would come to nothing. Minnesota would struggle to create zone time with serious pressure on Colorado. You almost get the feeling that Colorado could ice the puck the rest of the night and it wouldn’t come back to haunt them. Dubnyk would come up big on a MacKinnon shot, but he would fail to secure the puck. That would end up costing the Wild, as Mikko Rantanen would find the puck and get it past Dubnyk. Bruce Boudreau would challenge the goal, however it would stand. I don’t know why we keep challenging goals, especially the ones that in one replay you can tell isn’t a case of goaltender interference. I have to wonder what Minnesota’s video coaches are doing and what they’re watching. If they were worth their salt, they would radio the bench and say it’s not worth it. With just over two minutes remaining in the period, the Wild would get a power play opportunity with Anton Lindholm getting called for interference. You have to hope that Slowpoke Rodriguez, aka Mikko Koivu doesn’t ruin the opportunity with a lazy stick infraction. This was definitely a better power play from the first puck drop. The Wild would maintain zone presence and get several shots off. There were several times though that I thought they would lose possession of the puck, but instead Staal would get his second goal of the night. It’s definitely the kind of reaction we need to see from this team, however you have to worry if it’s a case of too little, too late. Besides, it’s hard to watch games where just one player is scoring goals. Sure, it’s fun to see multi-goal games for a player, but you need multiple players to have multi-goal nights. And of course after the buzzer sounded ending the period, Gabriel Landeskog was up to more of his ridiculous antics, this time trying to goad Matt Dumba into a penalty. I don’t often wish injury on a player, but Landeskog is one of those players who seriously needs a taste of his own medicine.
3rd Period Thoughts: Pour lighter fluid, gasoline into your nearest metal garbage dumpster and set ablaze. That more or less described the way the Wild played in the 3rd period. The Wild stopped skating and started to get carry away with more of the away from the play shenanigans and the game devolved into a morass of bad plays, most of which in the defensive zone. The poor coverage in the defensive zone where the Wild continued to let Avalanche players go ended up resulting in a series of goals against. Twice on the man advantage as Carl Soderberg shoveled home a rebound inside the left post and then a bit later as MacKinnon was left in the high slot and he ripped a shot against the grain that fooled Dubnyk to make it 6-2 Colorado. At that point Boudreau had seen enough and swapped out Dubnyk for Alex Stalock. It didn’t make much of a difference as the Wild’s rancid defensive zone coverage continued to yield prime scoring opportunities for Colorado. The game continued to get chippy as there began to be more little scrums and shoves and wrestling matches behind the play. Nikita Zadorov who had been taking runs at Wild skill players all night with zero response from our tougher players finally got into it with Eric Staal and tackled the Minnesota’s leading scorer. Staal ended up receiving a double-minor for roughing for basically giving Zadorov (who also got a roughing double-minor) one shove before being wrestled to the ice. Tyson Jost would score in the last few minutes to seal an embarrassing 7-2 rout of the Wild tonight.
Devan Dubnyk wasn’t that great and after being left out to dry it was clear he was frustrated. At one point he went after Alex Kerfoot for a pretty minor collision. Shortly after the scrum that caused he gave up another goal and that’s when Boudreau pulled him. Alex Stalock didn’t seem too focused either as he more or less gift wrapped Jost’s tally to end the game. Defensively the Wild were pretty much god awful beyond Nate Prosser. I know people may disagree, but Prosser was Minnesota’s only defenseman that I felt consistently took the body. The rest seemed to just turn and reach and that wasn’t nearly good enough. The team gave up 3 power play goals. Minnesota also didn’t get almost any help from their forwards defensively and that also factored into a few of the goals given up this evening.
Offensively the team was too cute with the puck and were thwarting their own chances by overhandling it. Staal lit the lamp twice, but no one else seemed really willing to pay the price or want the puck on their stick. Almost everyone else was looking to make one more little pass instead of just taking what Colorado was giving them.
Bruce Boudreau said it best in his post-game presser, “I am perplexed by just about everything right now, especially in a game that was this big.” He’s 100% correct, this team didn’t come ready to play in critically important game. There is absolutely no excuse for such a poor, uninspired effort. The veterans beyond Staal seemed to want to coast and just go through the motions thinking it would be good enough. Defensively the Wild were an absolute mess and most of that poor play was from their top players, not their role players. Boudreau angrily stated that if the team wasn’t required to have a day off tomorrow, they’d be practicing. You could tell he wanted to unload more, but he smartly bit his tongue and cut the presser short instead.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Joel Eriksson Ek, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Tyler Ennis, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, Matt Cullen, Daniel Winnik, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Nate Prosser and Gustav Olofsson. Alex Stalock shared duties between the pipes with Devan Dubnyk. Chris Stewart was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Carl Soderberg, 2nd Star Mikko Rantanen, 3rd Star Nathan MacKinnon
~ Attendance was 18,046 at Pepsi Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 3, Milwaukee 4 SO
Iowa traveled to Milwaukee for another spirited divisional game. The Admirals peppered Steve Michalek with shots, but he was steady and the Wild would strike first. Pat Cannone made a nice pass from beneath the goal line to Christoph Bertschy who ripped a shot by Anders Lindback. The Admirals would tie the game a few minutes later as Anthony Richard redirected a point shot by Joonas Lyytinen. Iowa would re-take the lead early in the 2nd period as Luke Kunin set up Kyle Rau for shot from just above the faceoff dot to make it 2-1 Wild. The Admirals would answer right back as Richard scored his 2nd goal of the game a few minutes later. Iowa would take the lead back on the power play as Alex Grant tee’d up a blast from the point that beat Lindback cleanly to give the Wild a 3-2 lead going into the 3rd period. Unfortunately that lead would not hold as Harry Zolnierczyk banged home a rebound on the power play late in the 3rd to send the game into overtime. Overtime would not settle the game as Iowa found itself on its heels during most of the extra session so the game went to a shootout. Beyond Sam Anas‘ shootout tally, the shootout was all Milwaukee as they scored on all 3 attempts on Michalek and Iowa would fall 4-3. Michalek had 21 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman is having a strong season as he notched the game winning goal as the Redhawks earned a 4-3 win over NCHC powerhouse Denver on Friday night. Belpedio has 7 goals, 18 points, 28 PIM’s and is a +6 in 19 games.
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ while he probably wished he had a better performance at the World Junior Championships, the skilled winger had an assist (2 shots on goal) in the Wolves’ 5-1 loss to London on Friday. Sokolov has 18 goals, 35 points, 6 PIM’s, -11 in 33 games.
D – Jacob Golden (London, OHL) ~ the defenseman is playing on the Knights’ 3rd pairing and thus hasn’t a lot of prime opportunities. On Friday he had an assist (3 shots on goal) in London’s 5-1 win over Sudbury. Golden has no goals, 4 points, 0 PIM’s and is a +2 in 34 games.
RW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the skilled forward played on the Friars’ 2nd line where he had a goal (4 shots on goal) and an assist in Providence’s 5-2 win over Merrimack. Duhaime has 4 goals, 15 points, 37 PIM’s and is a +8 in 22 games.