Turkey day is behind us, leftover days are now upon us. Of course there is Black Friday, but unless you get great enjoyment out of watching insanity you probably stayed back and decided to relax instead. The bargains will still be there next weekend so no worries right? While the Minnesota Wild is a team that has quite a few players who are not American, hopefully they didn’t gorge themselves too much on Thanksgiving food if they chose to celebrate it. If they’re a member of the Colorado Avalanche, I hope they filled up their plate multiple times with stuffing, mashed potatotes and lots of turkey. They probably didn’t though, as more and more athletes go gluten free and it was probably some supplement-loaded protein shake with a wheat-grass chaser. Blech, but that’s the life of professional athletes these days.
To all of our readers, we hope you had a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday. So now that you’ve fixed yourself up a turkey sandwich and re-heated some other side dishes from the feast its time to sit back down and enjoy some hockey again. So put your feet up, take a bit of that tasty leftover turkey sandwich and enjoy folks. Can the Wild leap frog their arch rival this afternoon with a victory?
1st Period Thoughts: The period started off well enough with the Wild working the puck deep, winning the small races to the puck early which led to a quick goal as Eric Staal fed a pass from beneath the goal line to Jason Zucker in the slot who rifled it home. 1-0 Wild. Minnesota had a lot of momentum early; continuing to work pucks behind the Avalanche defense and the pressure was leading to scoring chances. The Wild seemed to be close to adding to their lead on a delayed penalty on Nail Yakupov. Even on the delayed penalty the Wild moved the puck well and got 2-3 good shots on goal before Gabriel Landeskog finally touched it up for the whistle. On the power play, the Wild struggled a bit with the Avalanche’s puck pressure and it was Landeskog sweeping a puck off the wall that eluded both Charlie Coyle and more importantly Mike Reilly (who took a terrible angle on the play and then compounded his error by foolishly diving for the puck) and out to J.T. Compher who turned on the jets for a breakaway. Compher moved in and Alex Stalock didn’t do much more than wave at the puck as it blew by him, 1-1 game on the shorthanded tally. The goal seemed to completely flip the momentum in favor of the Avalanche. Stalock looked pretty solid to this point, but now he appeared to be fighting the puck and had a hard time calculating his angles. A few minutes later, Reilly would get caught trying to sneak up the ice and Blake Comeau would intercept a pass and he’d skate in and beat Stalock short side. 2-1 Avalanche. Minnesota would have a chance to tie it up late in the period as Mikko Koivu got free down the middle of the Avalanche zone and as he tried to go to his forehand he couldn’t lift the puck over the outstretched leg pad of Jonathan Bernier who then covered it up for a whistle. Reilly and Kyle Quincey continue to look pretty suspect out there. Quincey just doesn’t seem to have the footspeed to stay with just about any player who has a little quickness to their game. And the world seems to be moving really fast for Reilly who 1-man skating catastrophe, who seems to only make the kind of mistakes that lead to prime scoring chances for the opposition. It would be one thing if he’s trying to make some kind of great play that could result in a chance for the Wild, but these are really just really poor decisions. I don’t envy the Wild coaching staff who has to choose which of their bottom 3 will not hurt us the most each night.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period was marginally better than the 1st period. The Wild again had a good start by moving their feet and working pucks deep in the Colorado zone. They get fortunate early in the period as Blake Comeau would get caught slashing well away from the puck. Minnesota’s power play would capitalize as Koivu skated into the Avalanche zone and send a cross-ice pass to a waiting Nino Niederreiter for a perfect one-timer that beat Bernier. 2-2 game. The Wild weren’t too bad the rest of the period, keeping the Avalanche at bey with timely sticks and good puck support. Defensively the Wild were backchecking diligently and Stalock was bailed out a few times by his teammates who swept away dangerous pucks. Minnesota was also creating some quality offensive chances as Daniel Winnik was set up by Koivu for a good chance that Bernier fought off and a few minutes after that Koivu had a one-timer that Bernier stopped and the puck just eluded the reach of a roving Mikael Granlund. However, the 3rd pairing kept giving the Avalanche windows of opportunity and it was no coincidence they’d apply more pressure when #27 and #4 were on the ice. Eric Staal would take a lazy tripping penalty in the closing seconds of the period giving Colorado a power play to start the 3rd. Stalock seemed to be a bit sharper in the period, as he had a few great saves where he demonstrated his athleticism post-to-post. Niederreiter’s goal was his 6th consecutive game with a goal, stick tap to him.
3rd Period Thoughts: The 3rd period was a bit more chaotic with both clubs having 7-8 minutes where they had their opponent chasing around their zone. The first half of the 3rd was all Minnesota as they were moving their feet and keeping Bernier plenty busy. Minnesota had some great chances but just couldn’t get the stick on the puck as it was sliding slowly in the blue paint or before Bernier could recover to square up to the next shot. Minnesota seemed to flirt with disaster a bit with some penalties, but the penalty kill was solid and did a nice job of working sticks into passing lanes and never really yielding that clear look. Compher would get another shorthanded breakaway but this time Stalock would cut down the angle by challenging it aggressively and he was able to bail his team out with a huge save. The Avalanche dominated most of the 2nd half of the period as they got Minnesota to chase around its own zone. But Stalock kept making the initial save and the team was able sweep away the dangerous pucks sending the game to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: It was nice to see the Minnesota Wild learned their lesson from the previous overtime and did not send out both Koivu and Suter to start 3-on-3 play. Instead the team opted for Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Mikael Granlund. The Wild clearly realized its error and sent out more speed in overtime and the result was far more scoring chances and only a few chances for the Avalanche. Brodin would have a terrific opportunity to score late in the period but Bernier was able to come up with the save. No matter what it was good to see the Wild be assertive in overtime. The Avalanche appeared to try to waste time and opt for the shootout.
Shootout Summary: Unusually, the Wild opted to shoot first and its first shooter was Mikko Koivu. The captain took a mostly straight line approach as he tried to dust off his forehand to backhand move, but with so little angle created by his approach he was unable to get Bernier to really move enough and he was able to steer it aside. Colorado’s first shooter was Nathan MacKinnon and the Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia-native had a rather uninspired attempt as his wrist shot was dismissed by Stalock’s blocker. Minnesota’s next shooter was Charlie Coyle which I thought was interesting considering how he’s still kind of getting his hands back after being out of the lineup the last 6 weeks, but he would move in and beat Bernier with a simple flip of the puck that went over the glove and in. 1-0 Wild. Colorado’s next shooter was Mikko Rantanen and the skilled Finn would try his own forehand to backhand deke but he’d push the shot wide against a sprawling save attempt by Stalock. This meant Chris Stewart had the game in his hands and the rugged forward made it look easy as he moved up the ice with speed and then dusted off a sweet little move before beating Bernier 5-hole to give the Wild a 3-2 shootout victory.
Alex Stalock was pretty good, making 28 saves in the win. While the goals he gave up were soft-ish, he locked it down after the 1st period and had a number of high quality saves including an Avalanche breakaway in the 3rd. Overall his rebound control was pretty good and he got decent support from his defense. It was noticeable that Reilly again spent the 3rd period and overtime stapled to the Wild bench which is the 2nd game in a row this has happened. If he’s that bad, he shouldn’t be playing or the Wild need to seek out some kind of replacement if they don’t have faith in him, Gustav Olofsson or Kyle Quincey.
Offensively again found the back of the net on the power play, this time off a rare one-timer by Niederreiter. Interestingly enough, Nino did not get deployed at all during overtime. I thought Granlund was again assertive and a major catalyst for the Wild offensively. Zucker seems to still be dogged by some kind of lower body injury that is preventing him from fully using his speed to its fullest advantage but he certainly showed he can still finish. Mikko Koivu continues to be snake bitten but its good to see him take his chances to shoot the puck.
Even though the Wild did give Colorado a point in the standings they still leap frogged by them which is what matters the most. The team wasn’t as guilty of just coasting as it has in some of its more recent games and that is a good sign for the rest of this Central Division swing of their schedule. Minnesota will have to dig deep if it wants to earn 2 points against the St. Louis Blues tomorrow. The Blues look like the team to beat out of the Central thus far. Either way, it was a fun Black Friday win.
~ The Wild roster is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Daniel Winnik, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Zack Mitchell, Tyler Ennis, Chris Stewart, Matt Cullen, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Kyle Quincey and Mike Reilly. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Gustav Olofsson was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game: 1st Star Alex Stalock, 2nd Star Charlie Coyle, 3rd Star Nino Niederreiter
~ Attendance was 19,084 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (8-7-2-0) 18pts 5th in the AHL Central
14.1% Power Play (23rd in the AHL)
89.9% Penalty Kill (1st in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #36 Colton Beck ~ 6G 5A = 11pts
2. #12 Pat Cannone ~ 6G 5A = 11pts
3. #25 Justin Kloos ~ 4G 6A = 10pts
4. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 3G 6A = 9pts
5. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 4G 4A = 8pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #3 Nick Seeler ~ 29 PIM’s
2. #28 Carson Soucy ~ 21 PIM’s
3. #39 Kurtis Gabriel ~ 18 PIM’s
1. #31 Niklas Svedberg (5-7-1) 2.64GAA .912%SP 1SO
2. #34 Steve Michalek (3-0-0) 2.00GAA .938%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 1, Rockford 3
Like their NHL parent club, Iowa had to play on Thanksgiving Eve. This was not one of their better efforts. After embarrassing the Ice Hogs in their last two meetings, the Chicago Blackhawks affiliate really controlled the tempo of the game right from the drop of the puck. Iowa seemed sluggish and uninspired and that showed on the shot counter as the Wild only generated a meager 6 shots through the first period. The Ice Hogs put Iowa on its heels and they’d find the back of the net first as Matthew Highmore banged in a rebound that gave Rockford a 1-0 lead going into the 2nd period. At times, when your feet stops moving you get frustrated because you just can’t get away from your opponent and this turned into chippy play. Carson Soucy crosschecked a Rockford player for getting too close to Niklas Svedberg and eventually would drop the gloves with Luke Johnson earning a 7-minute sit in the penalty box in the process. It didn’t seem to light a fire in the Wild, as they would see their deficit increase by another goal as Highmore cashed in on a nice pass from Anthony Louis. 2-0 Rockford at the end of the 2nd. The Wild would try to dig deep to push for a comeback in the 3rd but they simply didn’t seem to have enough jump to get it done. Late in the 3rd, a turnover near the blueline turned into a quick 2-on-1 and it was Highmore dangling a puck around Svedberg to complete his natural hat trick and give the Ice Hogs a 3-0 lead. Iowa would get a pride goal late in the game as Joel Eriksson Ek tried scoring on a wrap around and as the puck skittered across the crease, Gerald Mayhew was there to jam it just inside the post before he could shut it down. 3-1 loss for Iowa. Svedberg had 37 saves in the loss. For the fans that are annoyed Luke Kunin got sent down, he didn’t do much of anything in this game. He didn’t even register a shot on goal, if he’s as NHL ready as people say he should dominate and be a force for Iowa and prove to us all he never should’ve been sent down in the first place.