Co-workers. Unless you run an small business all by yourself, you’ve probably dealt with co-workers at one point or another. They can drive you crazy for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the most frustrating is when they are lazy or do not do their job and that results in you having to pick up the slack for them. You may confront them about it and in many cases it doesn’t result in an improvement of their effort or their attention to detail so the situation continues to cause frustration and tension. Eventually (hopefully) the management realize the issue and terminate or re-assign the bad employee. However, what takes place when you come across that former ‘co-worker from hell’ whether out in public or on the job site in some capacity? Is it cordial, is it awkward and tense? Or is it no big deal at all?
I wonder if that is how it shall be when the team sees Thomas Vanek this evening. Perhaps no player was more divisive among Wild fans than Vanek, where fans seemed to love him and give him the benefit of the doubt or people hated just about everything about him. By the time he was bought out by the team (aka closest thing to being fired as a player) most fans were relieved to see him go. No doubt Vanek, who is still being paid by the Wild to the tune of $1.5 million this season and $2.5 million next year will be motivated to take to his former club. Will Vanek get the last laugh or will the Wild give their former employee and the Florida Panthers a rude reunion?
1st Period Thoughts: Well at least we’re getting a good start to the game. Just a few minutes in, and we’ve seen jump in the Wild players and scoring attempts. I’ve missed the past two games thanks to work, but from what I understand, we’ve seen way too much of nothing. You know, either trying to be fancy or lethargic. Both of which is such a great combination of, well nothingness. Tonight is a night where Darcy Kuemper needs to absolutely come out big, not just for the team, but for himself as well. With each game, we get closer and closer to the playoffs, and you need to know you have a trustworthy backup available. And of course, a goalie’s best defense is offense from his teammates. That first bit of offense would come from Jason Zucker after a blast from the blueline from Jonas Brodin with just over twelve minutes remaining in the period. Even better, is that the team didn’t decided to just sit back after that opening goal. They’re definitely looking more hungry, as demonstrated by additional scoring attempts right after that goal. It helps that everyone on the bench is looking fired up tonight. Most likely, we’re going to see some fisticuffs from Chris Stewart at some point tonight as he was having some choice words while on the bench. I also think there could be some tired legs on both sides of the ice. Both Florida and Minnesota are trading skating rushes, which can make for an exciting game. The first power play would go to Florida after Martin Hanzal was called for tripping. It would only take seven seconds of the power play for Jonathan Marchessault to tie this one up. Now we get to see if the more invested Wild we’ve seen throughout much of this period will continue through to the end of the period and through the end of the game. That hope would be short lived, as the Wild seem to have chosen to sit back after the Florida goal, as shown by the second Panthers goal of the night, this time by Mark Pysyk. I’m beginning to think the presence of Vanek in this game is just enough to make them play uninterested hockey. He has a way of bringing everyone down. So now, the Wild get to play catch-up hockey yet again.
2nd Period Thoughts: Well, I’ve been asking for the Wild to get in close to goaltenders lately. Here in the first two to three minutes, I’m getting my wish. Unfortunately, I’m not getting the result I want. However, I’ll take it, because we’ve been needing to get people in the faces of opposing goaltenders. And in general, this works much better than being kept to the perimeter. That also demonstrates a team that has found their legs again. They’ve also found some piss and vinegar, as they’re not taking Florida’s hits and shoves after the whistle lightly either. You know they’ve reached the sick and tired point, when usually calm and collected Mikko Koivu is getting in someone’s face after getting tripped and shoved. This period hasn’t been one of extended zone presence, but thankfully the time they have gotten, has finally paid off. Off of a great backhand pass by Nino Niederreiter, Eric Staal found the back of the net. Again, it’s the kind of goal that proves that you need to get in the area of the blue paint more often than not. Yes, you can take the big blast from the blue line like Brodin did early in the game, but you need to have guys around the crease ready to tip or redirect the puck. Perhaps they’re starting to figure that out, as the Wild would take the lead again with a goal by Jason Pominville with a down James Reimer. The Panthers would challenge the goal based on their impression of goaltender interference because of contact by Zach Parise. After the review, the goal would stand and Florida will lose their timeout. What is more concerning is that Hanzal has left the ice after a two-handed slash by Marchessault. That lead would be short-lived after a goal by none other than Jaromir Jagr. Seriously, does this guy ever quit? Thankfully, Hanzal is back on the ice. Minnesota would finally get their first power play of the game after Niederreiter was dragged down by Aleksander Barkov. While it was a power play that didn’t score, it was a power play that kept the puck moving. Minnesota would get another chance with the man-advantage with Derek MacKenzie finally getting called for cross-checking. MacKenzie has been being a pain all game. In fact the Panthers in general have been a pain. During the power play, Niederreiter pulled both a slashing and a roughing call where Florida only got a roughing penalty of their own. Mind you, Niederreiter was trying to dig out a puck and had three Florida players jump on him. Both teams would eventually get full strength again and ultimately finish off the period with a 3-3 tie. It was nice to see some fire from Minnesota, however they need to not let it interfere with the game as a whole. I get the feeling that Florida is trying to get under Minnesota’s skin.
3rd Period Thoughts: And here we go. Devan Dubnyk is in net to start the third. Hopefully, this is what it takes to power the Wild through to the victory. Unfortunately, Dubnyk decided to go for one of his ill-timed sojourns behind his net, which creates the absolute gift of a goal by Barkov. There was absolutely no reason for Dubnyk to go back there. And for a period that we needed the Wild to come out strong, it’s been the strong start for the Panthers. Yet, tonight we’re seeing a Wild that refuses to give up. After a strong rush by Charlie Coyle and a beautiful shot by Marco Scandella which creates the rebound that Staal gets past Reimer for his second goal of the night. It looked like it was going to be 5-4 Minnesota after a well-timed give and go by Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund, however Reimer was up to the task. However, Jonathan Huberdeau would head to the penalty box for roughing after the play. If ever there was a time for a power play goal, this would be the time. Even though Minnesota didn’t score, the last 20 seconds or so of the power play led to some great scoring chances that even extended into after Florida killed the penalty. If this game wasn’t physical enough already, as we head into the second half of the final period, the physical aspect of the game has picked up even more. Lots of hard work by everyone. The Wild would take the lead again after a Jared Spurgeon pass to Brodin who again blasted the puck on goal. The puck would slowly squeeze through Reimer’s pads which was jumped on by Parise. If I were responsible for awarding the 3 Stars of the Game, I would be giving one to Brodin. He’s not flashy and he’s not going to score tons of goals, but he’s steady and a team-first kind of player. Every team needs a player, especially a defenseman, like him. Zucker almost scored his second goal of the night on the empty net, pretty much going from in front of Dubnyk down the ice, however his shot was blocked by the pipes and ended up being icing. The Wild would seal the deal after two icings, with an empty net goal by Granlund. And for some reason, the Panthers decided to pull Reimer again after Granlund’s empty net goal. That allowed for Coyle to score an empty netter of his own with just 2 seconds remaining.
~ The roster tonight was as follows: Charlie Coyle, Chris Stewart, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Martin Hanzal, Ryan White, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Pominville, Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund, Marco Scandella, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Nate Prosser, and Jared Spurgeon. Darcy Kuemper got the start with Devan Dubnyk serving as backup.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Zach Parise; 2nd Star, Eric Staal; 3rd Star, Mark Pysyk.
~ Attendance was 16,232 at BB&T Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Gustav Bouramman (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) ~ the offensive defenseman still anchors the Greyhounds’ top pairing and he had an assist in Sault Ste. Marie’s 6-3 win over Sarnia on Wednesday. Bouramman has 2 goals, 32 points, 42 PIM’s and is a +6 in 61 games.