With the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics, we’re now getting into demonstrations of national pride and identity. I will say that the people of South Korea and Pyeong Chang in particular did a fantastic job last night. Of course while the pageantry was beautiful and meaningful, I think there was one image that stands out to most viewers. It was that of the penultimate torch bearers, two women of the joint North Korea and South Korea women’s hockey team. For the athletes (and the political representation) from the north of the 38th parallel, this will probably be their only trip in their lifetime to South Korea. In fact, part of this Olympic games remind me of some of the ones from the 1970s and 1980s, when the United States and the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republic had their own pissing match over whether or not to participate when the games were held in those countries. Plus, those countries from the Soviet bloc always had to worry and prepare to prevent defections of their athletes, especially when the games were held in western nations. While not an Olympic athlete, one of the best male ballet dancers of the 20th Century, Mikhail Baryshnikov defected in 1974 while on tour to Canada. If one dancer could defect using a much smaller public stage as a world tour, it would be much, much easier for an athlete to get “lost” in the crowded athlete village. It will be interesting if any of the North Korean athletes will make the attempt to remain in the south. However, I have a feeling that should they manage to defect, their family back at home would be at risk. Plus, not only did North Korea send a political contingent to the games, Kim Jong Un sent his own sister, Kim Yo Jong as his representative.
Honestly, I really only think of this kind of nationalism during hockey games when it’s an American team playing a Canadian team. Or I’m forced to listen to a less than spectacular performance of the anthems. However, I will say that’s one nice about the Olympics. When the anthems are playing for medal ceremonies, there are no singers, just instrumental. But tonight is a one-anthem night, but there’s no less pride involved. Or at least there shouldn’t be, but then after Thursday night’s game, it’s hard to say if there’s enough pride in the Wild locker room.
1st Period Thoughts: And just when you need to turn things around (again), you get to face a back up goaltender in Jeff Glass. Without fail, we tend to make backup or rookie goaltenders look like the next coming of Patrick Roy/Martin Brodeur/Dominic Hasek. And I thought they were going to easily give Glass a break when the Blackhawks failed to clear the zone early in the period. I had wished that they had starting their shooting earlier, however, it would just take a bit of time and several attempts. Eventually Charlie Coyle would get it past Glass after about three tries. As the old saying goes, “at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” After that goal, the fireworks would continue. First it was Lance Bouma taking out Nate Prosser. That hit inspired Marcus Foligno to stand up for his teammate. The extra penalty would go against Minnesota, as Mike Reilly was tagged for cross-checking and then Foligno too a roughing (served by Nino Niederreiter) and fighting penalty. There’s nothing I dread more than a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 penalty kill, and when it’s against Chicago, it’s that much more stressful. The Wild would successfully kill it, but then this isn’t the normal Blackhawks team of seasons past. The Wild appear to be looking to take advantage of any chance they get, this time with Gustav Olofsson getting a great rebound chance after a Zach Parise shot. The Wild would get their first power play chance after a Brandon Saad hooking call. What I thought was going to be a lot of pass, pass, pass, maybe shoot, pass, pass ended up being good passing decisions that ultimately turned into a Mikko Koivu goal off of a Matt Dumba shot. While I like what I’m seeing, I have to remember we’ve seen this happen before, like on Thursday night. As we’ve crossed into the second half of the period, we’re seeing the momentum creep back in the Blackhawks’ direction, and the shot clock supports this as the Hawks have doubled up on the Wild. However, I will say this is probably the most undisciplined that I’ve seen Chicago in a long time. With the loss of Cory Crawford, they don’t feel very grounded. Minnesota would get another power play after Patrick Kane was called for hooking. I’m not complaining, but everything about this game feels weird. Yet this power play feels pretty normal when it comes to the Minnesota Wild. You recognize it by the sloppy passes and wasted time. And even worse, it appears that the Wild have taken their foot off the gas as they haven’t gotten a shot on goal since Koivu’s power play goal. Combine that with a missing Jared Spurgeon from the Wild bench, and I’m starting to have a bad feeling about this game, even though the score says something completely different. Yes, I’m glad to see the score as it is, but there’s a lot that needs to change.
2nd Period Thoughts: Thankfully, Spurgeon is back on the ice to start the 2nd period. When you’re already missing Jonas Brodin for the next few weeks, you hate to lose any more defenseman. Instead of trying to put pressure back on Glass, the Wild have decided to start the period in their own zone. Heck, even when they do get the puck into the Chicago zone and take shots, they don’t register as such because they’re high and/or wide. That would change a bit with a two on one with Coyle and Parise challenging Duncan Keith. Just when you thought Coyle would make the pass to Parise, he took a hard shot and beat Glass. Now that’s a rare shot on goal I’m not going to complain about. Nor am I going to complain about seeing a Wild player skate the puck into the zone and then take the shot on goal. Dumba would head to the box for holding, and as mentioned on the television, the Blackhawks are number one in power play opportunities. Minnesota would kill the penalty and shortly thereafter, Coyle would come very close to his first career hat trick. While it would be great to see a hat trick tonight, I do not want to see this team go out of their way to set Coyle up for that chance. Remember, you once had a 3-0 lead on the worst team in the NHL and how did that turn out? Matt Cullen would be the next Wild player called for a penalty, this time for slashing. This bit of a march to the penalty box doesn’t make me happy, because while Devan Dubnyk has looked good so far tonight, there’s only so long you can tempt fate. Minnesota again would kill the penalty. While I’m glad to see that trend continue, I, and many fans, are concerned and frustrated with the fact that the Wild have only 10 shots in 30 minutes. That is unforgivable. And then you combine that with the Wild inability to clear the zone, the score does little to reassure me. Yes the Wild head back into the locker room for the second intermission with a 3-0 lead, but I am not pleased.
3rd Period Thoughts: Again, instead of putting pressure on the Blackhawks early in the period, the Wild look like they’re simply willing to coast. Minnesota has proven they’re the last team that can afford to coast with the lead. Sure, Chicago isn’t having the season they planned on, but even though they’re in last place in the Central Division, they’re still a vastly superior team to the Arizona Coyotes. One of my fellow fans heard an interesting stat on the radio broadcast from Tom Reid. The Minnesota Wild have given up 78 goals in the third period, which makes them the worst in the league. Plus, now we have Jason Zucker and Koivu on the bench shaking off stingers after blocking shots on the same shift. The Wild would get another shot after the power play after the Blackhawks were called for a bench minor for too many men on the ice. This power play would also get Koivu and Zucker back on the ice, which is good to see. Watching Mike Reilly on the power play definitely has me missing Brodin. Especially when Reilly’s mistake allows for a short handed chance near the end of the Wild power play. Chicago continues to get shots on goal, almost at will, yet Dubnyk continues to stay perfect. It would be nice if in the remaining 9 minutes, that they would take some of the action back in front of Glass. A goaltender who sees limited action can often be vulnerable. With another Wild power play, Tommy Wingels getting called for goaltender interference, it might be their chance to get some shots on Glass. I have to say, this was a better power play chance some of the others, as they spent the bulk of the time in Chicago’s zone, and got a few shots on goal. Coyle even came comes to getting his third goal of the night. With four minutes remaining, Chicago would pull their goaltender in an attempt to find their first goal of the night. The Wild would come close to getting an empty net goal, but in the end they managed to hang on to the shut out. Yes, I’ll take the win, but there’s a lot that needs to be addressed before the next game.
~ The Wild roster was as follows tonight: Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jason Zucker, Marcus Foligno, Nino Niederreiter, Daniel Winnik, Tyler Ennis, Mikael Granlund, Mike Reilly, Ryan Suter, Gustav Olofsson, Matt Dumba, Nate Prosser, and Jared Spurgeon. Devan Dubnyk got the start with Alex Stalock serving as backup.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Devan Dubnyk; 2nd Star, Charlie Coyle; 3rd Star, Zach Parise.
~ Attendance was 19,227 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ Crease and Assist: A legally compliant Minnesota hockey blog would like to give a stick tap and wish a Happy Birthday to good friends, Kenney Hanzely and Aaron Lindgren of 3 in the Box who have been celebrating all week.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 4, Chicago 1
After a difficult California road trip, the Iowa Wild returned to Des Moines the 6,522 in attendance were treated to a terrific game. The Wild started out a bit sluggish as they only managed four shots on Max Lagace. The Wolves would strike early in the 2nd as former Minnesota State star Bryce Gervais lit the lamp behind Niklas Svedberg. The game would open up and both teams were trading chances but both goaltenders were sharp. Iowa would tie the game as Sam Anas found a little time and space and he beat Legace with a wicked shot tying the game at one going into the 3rd. In the 3rd, tension was high as both club had some close opportunities. Sam Anas would dangle around a defender and then beat Legace on a wrap around giving the Wild its first lead of the game. Iowa would then add two more goals, from Landon Ferraro and Kyle Rau to give the Wild a 4-1 victory. Svedberg had 29 saves in the victory.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Barrie, OHL) ~ the skilled winger keeps piling up the points with his new team as he earned 1st star honors on Thursday by contributing a goal and an assist (5 shots on goal) in Barrie’s 5-1 win over Hamilton. The Omsk, Russia-native has 31 goals, 61 points, 12 PIM’s and is a -10 in 47 games.
RW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the skilled winger had 2 assists in the Friars’ 3-2 victory over Maine on Friday night. Duhaime has 5 goals, 20 points, 62 PIM’s and is a +12 in 31 games.
D – Jacob Golden (London, OHL) ~ the Toronto-native doesn’t put up a lot of points, but he had 2 assists in London’s 4-1 win over Erie on Friday. Golden has a goal, 9 points, 2 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating in 46 games.