The Chinese symbol for misfortune is also the symbol of opportunity. When word passed around that the Minnesota Wild would be without Devan Dubnyk at least a week, it became an opportunity for Alex Stalock to step into a starting role. The athletic, former South St. Paul Packer and University of Minnesota-Duluth star can run the show for a while. I remember watching Stalock playing in the Minnesota State High School Boys Hockey Tournament, and I’m looking forward to see how the team responds to its energetic netminder.
Maybe more immediately, its a chance for Stalock to settle some old scores as he told the Athletic‘s Michael Russo. Telling Russo that the Toronto Maple Leafs ‘really didn’t want me’ he should be motivated to stifle them tonight. Can the Wild help give Stalock his dose of revenge?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota didn’t exactly start out slow, more like stumbling. An early tripping penalty on Zack Mitchell put the Wild a man down. On the penalty kill the Wild did a pretty good job at keeping the Maple Leafs to the perimeter. Toronto tried to stretch out the Wild’s penalty killers with some cross-ice passes but the Wild were able to challenge those passes and they failed to click. Alex Stalock didn’t have to face much beyond a few blasts from the point by Morgan Reilly. Minnesota didn’t have much push offensively and the Wild didn’t register its first shot on goal, a mild wrist shot by Chris Stewart. Meanwhile the Wild kept living dangerously with penalties as Mikko Koivu took offense to a hit he felt was a little late and he gave the former Michigan star Zach Hyman an elbow that got him 2 minutes for elbowing. Luckily for Koivu, the Wild’s penalty killing effort was rock solid, led by Joel Eriksson Ek who did a nice job of working the puck deep into the Toronto end. Minnesota would kill it off and the Wild tried to go back on the attack. Toronto was not giving the Wild much in the way of time and space, so shots were hard to come by. The Wild would strike late in the period as Morgan Reilly was hit by Stewart who treated him almost like a hockey puck as he rode the Maple Leafs defenseman along the dasher before knocking him onto his backside. The somewhat illegal play helped get Tyler Ennis free and as a puck skittered a long the wall, he’d sweep up the biscuit and tuck in a shot just inside the left post before Frederik Andersen could get across his crease. 1-0 Wild. The period would end with the Wild holding a 7-5 edge in shots on goal. I thought Mike Reilly looked decent in his return to the lineup.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild earn its first power play early in the 2nd, James van Riemsdyk was called for hooking as he tried to slow down Charlie Coyle. Minnesota struggled on the man advantage to get set up in the offensive zone. After wasting nearly a minute of time on the power play, the Wild would finally get set up and they had two reasonable chances as Ryan Murphy let go a slap shot that Andersen absorbed. The Wild would then go back on the penalty kill as Matt Cullen headed to the box. On the penalty kill the Wild were again aggressive in challenging the puck carrier and they were able to challenge a bit shorthanded but as Daniel Winnik had a 2-on-1 the defender would deny the passing option leaving Winnik by himself to shoot but he refused to shoot and tried to thread a pass that was intercepted much to the frustration of the sellout crowd. Minnesota would have a few more quality shots that Andersen continued to absorb with the glove. Then the Wild seemed to be content to simply defend its 1-goal lead. Sloppy, half-hearted passes led to turnovers and Alex Stalock had to bail the Wild out with some big saves with traffic near his crease. You could hear the anxiety in the crowd as the Wild’s poor execution continued to result in good chances for the Maple Leafs. Minnesota had to feel lucky to still have its lead intact. Mikko Koivu is either hurt or has lost a step (or more) as he’s been a step and a half too slow all night long. He is not even fast enough to provide puck support while the Wild are on the forecheck and seems barely quick enough to be an effective defender right now.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild tightened up their game in the 3rd period. The Wild still had some moments where they were scrambling a bit but they were helping prevent clean shooting opportunities. Stalock was also very good, not giving up rebounds as the Maple Leafs kept storming the crease. The Wild had good effort from its 4th line most of the game as Tyler Ennis was particularly pesky all night. Minnesota’s effort would eventually be rewarded as Nino Niederreiter won a battle for the puck along the boards and swinging a pass back to Eric Staal who threaded a backhand pass between two defenders to Mikael Granlund who was about 5 feet in front of the blue paint for a quick shot that Andersen had no chance on. 2-0 Wild that really gave Minnesota some much-needed cushion. The officials let a pretty blatant trip by Roman Polak go when he swatted down Eriksson Ek and then moments later called a hooking call on Jonas Brodin. The Leafs really tried to pour it on the last 6-7 minutes and Mitchell Marner demonstrated his ability to dangle as he knifed through the Wild defense forced him to dish the puck and the Wild would feel the satisfaction of a 2-0 victory.
Alex Stalock was terrific, stopping all 28 shots he faced and looked poised and in control all game long. He certainly moves around a lot more than Dubnyk; but he wasn’t over committing. He was locking down potential rebounds and the Maple Leafs had little in the way of secondary chances. I thought Jonas Brodin had a strong game and I was reasonably pleased with Mike Reilly. The penalty kill went 4 for 4 and didn’t let the Maple Leafs create much in the way of momentum.
Offensively the Wild didn’t have a ton of prime scoring opportunities but they found ways to make a few plays near the net that gave them enough scoring to win the game. Ennis helped make the 4th line reasonably effective and it was good to see him be rewarded for his effort. Mikko Koivu seems to be dead weight and seems to be a step or two too slow to be effective in the offensive zone. As soon as Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau put in Staal on the Niederreiter and Granlund line it found the back of the net. Hopefully that combination is kept for Saturday’s afternoon game against the Oilers.
This was another big win to keep pace with the Chicago Blackhawks and the rest of the division who seems to win more often than not. After winning its last 3 games in overtime or the shootout it was good to see the team hold onto its 3rd period lead and shut the Maple Leafs down. I must admit I enjoy not having a nail biting finish.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Joel Eriksson Ek, Zack Mitchell, Tyler Ennis, Daniel Winnik, Chris Stewart, Matt Cullen, Ryan Suter, Mathew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Ryan Murphy, Nate Prosser and Gustav Olofsson. Steve Michalek backed up Alex Stalock. Marcus Foligno and Gustav Olofsson were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Alex Stalock, 2nd Star Tyler Ennis, 3rd Star Mikael Granlund
~ Attendance was 18,857 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 3, Grand Rapids 4 SO
The Wild would get out to a fast start as former Grand Rapids Griffin Matt Caito fed a puck over to Sam Anas who pulled the trigger on a quick shot that beat Jared Coreau to make it 1-0 Iowa. The Griffins tried to counter attack by Niklas Svedberg looked sharp in his first game in at least a week. Iowa would extend their lead to two late in the period as Michigan-native Gerald Mayhew tapped in a rebound off a Justin Kloos shot. Early in the 2nd, with the Wild on the power play it was Kloos who unleashed a one-timer to give Iowa a 3-0 lead. Unfortunately for Iowa, that was as good as it would get. The Griffins would answer back with two goals in the 2nd as Brian Lashoff‘s point shot and Ben Street beat Svedberg off the rush cutting the Wild lead to one going into the 3rd. Street would tie the game up with a power play tally in the 3rd and both clubs battled hard for the go-ahead goal but Coreau and Svedberg were both solid. In overtime it was all Griffins who controlled the play and peppered Svedberg with 6 shots in the extra session while the Wild failed to register a single one. In the shootout, Coreau denied all 3 of the Wild’s shooters while Street gave Iowa the coup d’ grace and they’d fall 4-3. Svedberg had 40 saves in the loss. Kloos had a goal and 2 helpers on the night.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Braydyn Chizen (Kelowna, WHL) ~ the 6’6″ defenseman is officially ‘on fire’ offensively as he had an assist (2 shots on goal) in the Rockets’ 6-3 loss to Moose Jaw on Tuesday night which I believe puts him on a 3-game point streak. Chizen has 3 goals, 7 points, 24 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating through 21 games this season.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ it has been an exciting time for the California-native who signed a 3-year entry level deal with the Minnesota Wild late last week. He had an assist (2 shots on goal) in the Otters’ 3-2 overtime loss to London on Tuesday. Lodnia has 16 goals, 34 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +3 in 32 games.
G – Kaapo Kahkonen (Lukko Rauma, Sm-Liiga) ~ the Finnish goaltender is having making the best of what has been a challenging season for his team. Kahkonen has an 11-13 record, a 1.94 goals against average and a .928% save percentage with 2 shutouts.