Routines are a part of most people’s lives. During the work week we get up at our scheduled time and prepare ourselves for the day ahead. Once at work, we go through the routines and procedures to get things done and then return home and repeat the process for the next work day. Yet at times, we have events that throw that routine askew and we have to adjust. The Minnesota Wild will be forced adjust in their next two games with matinee games which are a rarity in their schedule.
The Anaheim Ducks know this game is important as a club trying to catch the Wild for one of the wildcard spots so I think its reasonable to expect a spirited game today. Improving and adapting is an intangible of any successful player or worker. Can the Wild demonstrate they can improvise and adapt to earn a victory this afternoon?
1st Period Thoughts: If they say first impressions are everything, the Minnesota Wild better hope that’s not true as Nino Niederreiter held up Josh Manson for an easy to call penalty in the offensive zone. He simply didn’t move his feet and just mugged the Ducks’ defenseman as he tried to go after the puck. As bad as the penalty was (the call was fine) the penalty kill was worse as a puck would be on the stick of Mikael Granlund apparently with the time to clear the zone but he didn’t move his feet and was stripped of the puck by Adam Henrique who pushed a pass up to Corey Perry who dangled it around Devan Dubnyk. 1-0 Ducks. Minnesota would draw a little later on the next shift as Hampus Lindholm inadvertently opened up Charlie Coyle‘s stitches with a high stick. On the power play the Ducks defense were putting up a wall near its blueline making zone entries difficult and the Wild struggled to get much of anything going on the man advantage. Bad passes and poor decision making continued to give the Ducks prime opportunities throughout the first half of the period. Nate Prosser would get an interference penalty when he delivered a check to Antoine Vermette and as J.T. Brown skated over to investigate, Prosser went after him and the two Minnesota-born players would fight. It was a fairly even struggle with both fighters landing a few nice hooks before the officials moved in to break it up. Prosser’s interference penalty would give the Ducks a power play. The Ducks power play was very patient as the Wild were content to let the Ducks have the perimeter but a failed clearing attempt turned into a good opportunity for Brandon Montour who’s point shot was absorbed by Dubnyk as he had Perry at the top of his crease. The Wild’s penalty killers continued to be unable to clear the zone to alleviate pressure and create a much-needed opportunity for a line change. Minnesota would manage to get the kill and they’d try to work for the equalizer and they’d have a terrific opportunity as Niederreiter managed to intercept a puck in the slot but instead of taking a shot he’d pass it to Granlund who also decided to pass looking for Dumba who wasn’t ready as he expected his peers to pull the trigger. Minnesota was still being lazy with its passes and an ill-advised drop pass nearly turned into a goal the other way as the Ducks worked a 2-on-1 between Ondrej Kase and Rickard Rakell only to have it broken up by a nice play by Nick Seeler. Fortunately for the Wild they’d get a little lucky late in the period as Mikko Koivu would steal a puck near the Ducks’ blueline and with no other options he’d take a shot on goal that fluttered towards the goal but at the last moment the puck would strike the skate of Cam Fowler and deflect by John Gibson. 1-1 game. The goal seemed to finally get the Wild’s legs going and they’d follow up the goal with a good shift where they cycled he puck down low and generated some pressure in an around the Anaheim goal which led to Ryan Getzlaf sending a puck into the stands for a delay of game penalty. On the power play the Wild’s gaffes with the puck meant the Ducks would have the most dangerous scoring chance of the penalty. The Ducks set up Kevin Bieksa all alone in the slot but he was stopped by Dubnyk before Niederreiter was able to skate the puck out of harm’s way. It was a sluggish start, but Minnesota had to feel fortunate to be tied going into the 2nd period.
2nd Period Thoughts: Nino Niederreiter would take another penalty in the first minute of the 2nd to give the Ducks a power play. Fortunately, the Wild were able to kill off the man advantage without too much struggle due to lots of poor puckhandling by Anaheim. Minnesota would then start steadily applying more and more pressure; working pucks deep and giving the Ducks fits. The newly reconstituted line of Daniel Winnik, Chris Stewart and Eric Staal was causing some genuine havoc as they were strong and physical along the wall and the Wild almost appeared to be on the power play with all of the time they were spending in the Anaheim zone. The Wild would take the lead a few shifts later as Nate Prosser stepped up to hold the zone by firing a quick shot that was redirected by Jason Zucker by Gibson which was immediately waived off due to a high stick. The officials would meet to decide whether or not Zucker made contact with the puck with his stick over the level of the crossbar but they’d overturn their own decision and the goal would stand. 2-1 Wild. The Wild continued to outwork and outhustle the Ducks all over the ice and Minnesota was taking hits to make plays. Minnesota were creating some nice scoring chances but just couldn’t get the puck to the open player for what would be a tap in goal, so more often than not they were settling for shots from the perimeter. The Wild would have a power play late as Prosser was crosschecked by Vermette who then tried to go after the defenseman similar to the way he went after Brown in the 1st period. Prosser stayed calm but the Ducks would try to start something anyways and a scrum would occur but ultimately only Vermette would be going to the sin bin. On the man advantage the Wild moved the puck well but were guilty of over-passing and they were only able to set up a few blasts from the perimeter and Minnesota would hold the 2-1 lead going into the 3rd.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would sit back, content to defend its 1-goal lead early in the 3rd which was a recipe for failure. Minnesota seemed to want to conserve energy and seemed to be giving more shifts to its lower lines. The Ducks would go on the attack and the Wild spent lots of time chasing Anaheim around Minnesota’s zone. It was not much of a surprise that the Ducks would tie the game up as a point shot by Hampus Lindholm that Dubnyk stopped but he’d give up a rebound that was swept up by Ondrej Kase and dragged around the sprawling goaltender. 2-2 game. Minnesota would return to its mostly lethargic play. Jason Zucker tried to put the team on his shoulders as he fought off Cam Fowler for a while before falling to the ice as he swung a shot on goal that nearly snuck through Gibson’s pads. A few minutes later the Wild had another good shift as Granlund was stopped on a wrap around and then seconds later Jared Spurgeon dangled around a diving Ducks defender to fire a shot on goal that Gibson held onto. Minnesota was moving its legs better, but in so many situations the team just didn’t have the legs to get free enough to create a quality scoring chance. Matt Dumba had the best chance to put Minnesota ahead in the closing minutes as he rang a shot off the post that went back underneath Gibson who held on for a whistle.
Overtime Thoughts: In overtime the Wild flirted with disaster a few times as players got caught on extremely long shifts that turned into an odd-man rush the other way. Fortunately Dubnyk and some savvy work defensively thwarted those 2-on-1’s and Minnesota was stick around to at least flirt with the idea they might win this game in overtime. Yet it wasn’t meant to be as Minnesota got pass happy at the worst possible times and the Wild passed up chances to shoot the puck. If they did pull the trigger it was from the perimeter that gave Gibson little difficulty. Perhaps the most egregious of these was late in overtime when the team decided to give what I’m guessing was a pretty fatigued Jason Zucker a shift. The speedy winger had a chance to work a 2-on-1 with a clear shooting lane but instead of taking the shot or forcing the defenseman to commit he instead passes the puck which was deflected away and they don’t even get a shot off. Later on that same shift, Zucker again decides to pass instead of pull the trigger and the game went to a shootout.
Shootout Summary: Minnesota decided to shoot first and they’d send Koivu where he we went wide left where he attempted to go to his forehand to backhand shelf, but he wasn’t able to lift it and missed wide. The Ducks first shooter was Ryan Getzlaf who was patient and waited for Dubnyk to flop before lifting a shot over the Wild goalie. Chris Stewart was Minnesota’s next shooter but he’d make a coy little move before firing a shot towards the 5-hole that Gibson shut down. The Ducks next shooter was Rickard Rakell and he’d try to make a little dangle but Dubnyk slid across and made the stop. That put the game in the hands of Minnesota’s alternate captain, Zach Parise who moved in patiently where he made a pretty little backhander 5-hole. That gave Corey Perry a chance to win it for Anaheim as he moved in and fired a wrist shot that was steered wide by Dubnyk. Minnesota’s next shooter was Nino Niederreiter and he’d start moving from left to right but would put on the breaks and go upstairs with a forehand for a goal. The Ducks next shooter was Ondrej Kase who took a slow deliberate approach that got Dubnyk to open up and he’d beat him 5-hole prolonging the shootout. Minnesota’s next few shooters seemed to be low on creativity with a number of unimpressive and uninspired moves and we’d go to the 11th round. After Matt Dumba failed to dangle a shot by a sprawling goaltender in front of him it gave the Ducks another chance to win it. Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie would move in and take a simple approach he’d fire a wrist shot that beat Dubnyk 5-hole to give the Ducks a 3-2 shootout win.
I heard people call ties ‘sister kissers’ where I guess it was supposed to represent that disgusting feeling siblings have when they’re asked to kiss each other. This game feels more like a slap to the face. The team sat back and basically dared the Ducks to tie the game up in the 3rd period. I don’t get it. The Ducks are in the same race as the Wild are in; you know they will gladly climb over you for that extra point or two and not think twice about it. Yet Minnesota sat back anyways as the Wild frittered away a 2-1 lead and then showed little urgency in overtime.
Minnesota was passing up shots all over and this game is as much about the shots they didn’t take as the ones that they did. You could sense there is certainly some tension on the Wild bench as Minnesota was a two-line team at the start of the 3rd as they just used the Koivu-Zucker-Granlund line and the 4th line of Joel Eriksson Ek-Winnik-Cullen. I am not going to get too mad about that other than point out that it tired out its best player Zucker so when the club needed him the most he didn’t have the legs to make it happen. Its another terribly disappointing loss and they only have themselves to blame. Minnesota now goes on the road to the east against 3 teams it has traditionally had a hard time defeating on the road in the Islanders, Devils and Rangers only to return home against another desperate team in the Sharks.
Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau tried to imply the media was being overly harsh to the Wild lately, but he made a pretty clear adjustment late in the game and that doesn’t tell me he was satisfied with how the team was playing. He can try to say he was happy with it but his actions prove otherwise. One thing is for sure, Wild fans are sick and tired of seeing this team coast and play not to lose instead of playing to win.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Chris Stewart, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Joel Eriksson Ek, Daniel Winnik, Matt Cullen, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Gustav Olofsson, Matt Dumba, Nick Seeler and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Mike Reilly and Tyler Ennis were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Nick Ritchie, 2nd Star Corey Perry, 3rd Star Nate Prosser
~ Attendance was 19,192 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
F – Jordan Greenway (Team USA, Olympics) ~ the big power forward continues to play impactful role for the Americans as he had 2 PIM’s and 4 shots on goal (which led the team) in their 2-1 win over Slovakia late Thursday night. It wasn’t quite so good on early Saturday as the Americans were shutdown 4-0 by ‘Team Russia.’ Greenway has a goal, 12 shots, and 4 PIM’s in 3 games thus far.
F – Kirill Kaprizov (‘Team Russia’, Olympics) ~ the skilled forward will again make Wild fans buzz with excitement has he had a hat trick (6 shots on goal) as he led Russia to a 6-3 win over Slovenia on Thursday night. He accomplished this with a little over 13 minutes of ice time. Kaprizov has 4 goals, 9 shots on goal in 3 games thus far.
RW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ The skilled winger played on Providence’s top line where he chipped in assist in the Friars’ 5-2 win over UMass-Lowell on Friday. Duhaime has 5 goals, 21 points, 62 PIM’s and is a +12 in 32 games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the freshman continues to demonstrate poise beyond his years as he had two assists (3 shots on goal) in the Bulldogs 4-0 rout of Miami last night. Swaney has 4 goals, 18 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +6 in 22 games.
D – Jacob Golden (London, OHL) ~ the defenseman has been patient and there are signs that the offensive potential is starting to finally bloom as he scored a goal in London’s 6-2 win over rival Kitchener on Friday. Golden has 2 goals, 11 points, 2 PIM’s ans is an ‘even’ rating in 50 games.
C – Bryce Misley (Vermont, H-East) ~ he may not play every night, but he’s trying to make the most of his opportunities as he centers the Catamounts’ 4th line and he had an assist (3 shots on goal) in Vermont’s 4-3 loss to Northeastern. Misley has no goals, 5 points, 10 PIM’s and is a -9 in 24 games.