No more breaks. It’s time for the push for the playoffs or just an end to the regular season. The margin of error for the Minnesota Wild is pretty small when you consider its calculated odds for making the playoffs are hovering around 25%. With the exception of Eric Staal, the team should again be well rested and it will be interesting if they come out of the gates like a team playing with some urgency or are they going to look a bit groggy especially when you consider they were a club that had its 5-game furlough a little over a week ago as well.
Since it was the All Star break, Columbus should be equally rested and they too are in a tight race of their own in the Metropolitan Division and these expansion cousins never seem to be short of intensity when they face one another. Columbus and its fanbase has always had a chip on its shoulder whenever their team faced Minnesota; and for years their mantra used to be “as long as we’re better than Wild.” Can the Wild earn a big road win coming out of the All Star break?
1st Period Thoughts: The game would not start well for Minnesota. Less than 2 minutes in, a failed battle for the puck near the boards in their own end by Zach Parise was taken away by Artemi Panarin who then worked the puck out to David Savard who let go of a shot from the point that deflected off the butt of Ryan Suter and by Devan Dubnyk. 1-0 Columbus. It wasn’t a soft goal, but Dubnyk seemed to struggle a bit tracking the puck a bit. The Wild would work for the equalizer but it was a series of close but not quite chances that didn’t really put any substantial pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. The best chance through the middle of the period was an opportunity for Matt Cullen that Bobrovsky blocked aside. Columbus would appear to add t its lead as Minnesota couldn’t handle a swarming effort by the Blue Jackets and it was Savard pushing the puck home. Minnesota would protest but the officials didn’t seem too interested in reviewing the play but luckily Toronto intervened. The replay clearly showed Savard giving a bit of a kick to the puck and thus it was ruled no goal. This was a fortunate break for the Wild and they’d get another big opportunity with a power play as Savard sent a puck up into the stands for a delay of game penalty. On the power play the Wild moved the puck reasonably well but very little in the way of shots were being taken and the team accomplished very little on the man advantage. The only Wild player that seemed to be able to create anything offensively was Cullen who was moving his feet and sending a few shots on goal but Minnesota in general seemed to be lacking urgency and ‘want to’ in this one. Matt Calvert nearly made it 2-0 for Columbus but his shot would ring off the pipe and out. The Wild had to feel lucky to only be trailing by one going into the 1st intermission. Not a good road period for a team that should’ve been well-rested after the All Star break in my opinion.
2nd Period Thoughts: The first half of the 2nd period, the Wild finally started to move its feet and the ice began to tilt into the Columbus end. Bobrovsky found himself fighting off shots and making saves while the Wild swarmed. Minnesota would tie the game up on the power play as Jason Zucker found Jonas Brodin all alone on a back door pass but Bobrovsky was able to make the initial save but the Wild crashed the net and it was Zucker shoveling it home. 1-1 game. Minnesota continued to apply good pressure as its 3rd line combination of Marcus Foligno, Charlie Coyle and Joel Eriksson Ek nearly cashed in but Bobrovsky kept the game knotted at 1-1. Minnesota would then appear to tire out and the ice would tilt back into the Wild zone. Whether it as dead legs or just laziness the team was spending lots of time chasing the puck around its own end, and Devan Dubnyk had to stay sharp to keep his club from giving Columbus the lead. Minnesota would go on the attack late and it was Tyler Ennis skating down the wing and he’d fire a snap shot that Bobrovsky got a piece of and the puck trickled in as the 2nd period ended. The replay clearly demonstrated Ennis’ shot was late by a scant a tenth of a second before time ran out; so no goal for the Wild. It was a better period of play for the Wild, but Minnesota was fortunate its lapse in effort didn’t come back to haunt them. On the bright side, the Wild did pepper Bobrovsky with 20 shots in the 2nd period alone.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would have a better effort to start the 3rd period, picking up where they left off in the 2nd where they were shooting early and often. Daniel Winnik had a golden chance on the 1st shift of the period as he picked up a loose puck in the slot but he’d miss wide of the goal. Minnesota had moments of weakness; particularly when its 4th line was out and the team would invariably get hemmed in its own end causing a long shift that threatened to result in a goal if for not some timely saves by Dubnyk. The Wild would take the lead off a pretty goal off the wing by Charlie Coyle who beat Bobrovsky cleanly, glove side. 2-1 Wild. With the crowd hushed after the go-ahead goal the Wild would get caught in a long shift and it was a desperate Jason Zucker sending a puck into the stands for a delay of game call. The penalty would prove costly as Artemi Panarin was given a lot of time and space and he’d wind up and blast a shot from the point that beat a well-screened Dubnyk. Minnesota would challenge the goal for goaltender interference but it was obvious there was no contact with Dubnyk and the goal would stand. 2-2 game and we’d go to overtime. I get the challenge to a point, but if you know its worth less why do it?
Overtime Thoughts: Overtime was a 2 parts excitement and 5 parts of frustration. Minnesota continues to flirt with disaster by using Koivu and Suter together in 3-on-3 which is a disaster waiting to happen as their lack of footspeed becomes a big problem especially if they work the puck deep in the offensive zone and fail to score because it almost always results in an odd-man rush the other way. I liked seeing Zucker and Coyle in 3-on-3 where they could use their speed to fullest advantage but too many times the Wild were a bit too cute with the puck. Minnesota had a few quality opportunities but Bobrovsky was rock solid and the game would go to a shootout.
Shootout Summary: Columbus would opt to shoot first, and Cam Atkinson goes wide right and his backhander was denied by Dubnyk. Minnesota’s first shooter was Chris Stewart. Stewart would go wide left and he’d make a slick little fake to the backhand and then beat Bobrovsky 5-hole with a pretty forehand move. Panarin was the Blue Jackets next shooter and he’d go wide left and then rip a shot top corner glove side to even it up at 1-1. Coyle would move in and try to score by going backhand to forehand but Bobrovsky wasn’t fooled and made the save look easy. Jussi Jokinen would make a winding approach going left and back across to the right but Dubnyk poke checked it away. Minnesota’s next shooter was Mikko Koivu who then went wide left but he’d fire a wrist shot that was steered aside. Alexander Wennberg was next and he tried to catch him by surprise with speed by Dubnyk dismissed the attempt. The Wild’s next shooter was Zach Parise and the alternate captain made a nice move forehand to backhand and he’d lift a shot just up and over the outstretched glove arm of Bobrovsky giving Minnesota a huge 3-2 victory.
Dubnyk had 28 saves in the victory. He had some timely saves to keep his club in it; most notably stopping Panarin on a partial breakaway late in the 3rd. Yet to me his movement in the crease seems more erratic as if he’s guessing more or he’s struggling to track the puck. Defensively the Wild had some lapses where they got caught in long shifts and with tired legs. The power play goal given up hurts; given how much time and space they gave to Columbus’ most dangerous offensive player but I put that more on the play of the penalty killing forwards than the blueline.
Offensively the Wild certainly sent pucks on goal, firing 43 shots that reached Bobrovsky this evening. It was good to see Coyle play more assertively and the team needs him to be a factor on the scoresheet. Zucker also seems to be finding ways to make plays to be the only semblance of a go-to attack for the Wild. Eriksson Ek continues to flirt with goals but just can’t bury one to save his life. The team still found itself caught with unfavorable personnel groupings in 3-on-3 and they must find a way to prevent #9 and #20 being on the ice at the same time.
Sure it was a shootout victory, but the team came away with 2 points in the standings which is really all that matters. It has been well documented the road has been tough for the Wild but hopefully this was a sign of things to come. Minnesota now must refocus for what will be another tough challenge when the Vegas Golden Knights come to town on Friday.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Charlie Coyle, Joel Eriksson Ek, Chris Stewart, Matt Cullen, Daniel Winnik, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Gustav Olofsson and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Mike Reilly is the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Sergei Bobrovsky, 2nd Star Devan Dubnyk, 3rd Star Zach Parise
~ Attendance was 17,734 at Nationwide Arena.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (21-13-7-3) 52pts 2nd in the Central
19.9% Power Play (4th in the AHL)
85.7% Penalty Kill (6th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 8G 28A = 36pts
2. #7 Sam Anas ~ 15G 20A = 35pts
3. #25 Justin Kloos ~ 14G 18A = 32pts
4. #12 Pat Cannone ~ 11G 17A = 28pts
5. #41 Landon Ferraro ~ 9G 12A = 21pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #3 Nick Seeler ~ 60 PIM’s
2. #2 Alex Grant ~ 47 PIM’s
3. #44 Christoph Bertschy ~ 40 PIM’s
1. #35 Niklas Svedberg (11-8-3) 2.68GAA .914%SP 1SO
2. #34 Steve Michalek (9-3-4) 2.78GAA .915%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 3, Cleveland 1
Like the Wild last week, Iowa wanted to go into the AHL All Star break on a high note but unlike their NHL big brother, they made it happen. Iowa would strike first as Ryan Murphy ripped a shot off the rush by Joonas Korpisalo to make it 1-0 Wild. Iowa would add to its lead in the 2nd period as Nick Seeler unleashed a bomb from the point to extend the Wild’s lead to 2-0. The Wild would add another goal just 15 seconds later as Kyle Rau took a pass from Joel Eriksson Ek and give Iowa a commanding 3-0 lead. The Monsters would score late in the period as Alex Broadhurst sniped a shot over the shoulder of Niklas Svedberg. Svedberg was solid down the stretch, stopping all 10 shots he saw in the 3rd giving Iowa a big road victory. He had 31 saves in the victory.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ Erie has had a rough few weeks, but Lodnia keeps plugging away for the Otters as he had an assist (5 shots on goal) in their 4-1 loss to Sarnia on Saturday. Lodnia has 20 goals, 52 points, 22 PIM’s and is a +1 in 48 games.
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Barrie, OHL) ~ the skilled sniper’s offense has really started to take off since his trade from Sudbury and Omsk-native had 2 goals and an assist (3 shots on goal) in the Colts’ 4-3 loss to Sault Ste. Marie. Sokolov has 28 goals, 54 points, 12 PIM’s and is a -8 in 43 games.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman continues to have a strong season for the Redhawks as he had a goal and an assist in Miami’s 4-4 tie with Colorado College on Saturday. Belpedio has 9 goals, 22 points, 36 PIM’s and is a +6 in 24 games.
LW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the freshman is continuing to make his presence felt with Minnesota-Duluth as he had a goal in their 2-1 loss to in-state rival St. Cloud State. Swaney has 4 goals, 16 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +6 in 19 games.
C – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ the big power forward is probably finding himself thinking more about the Olympics as it gets closer as he had 2 assists (7 shots on goal) in Boston’s 8-0 demolition over Arizona State on Friday. Greenway has 8 goals, 23 points, 40 PIM’s and is a +5 in 26 games.
RW – Kirill Kaprizov (Team Russia, Olympic Pre-Season) ~ the skilled winger scored twice in a 3-0 rout of regional rival Belarus on Tuesday morning. The young player hopes to be a go-to scorer for Team Russia in the Olympics.