Twitter really is the crack of the instant information world that we live in. People hang on tweets made by 'insiders' hoping to have that first glimpse of information before everyone else. It gives the vast majority of the Twitterverse, the followers that feeling as though they too are an insider. I'll admit it, I'm guilty of that as well, whether its retweeting a glorified rumor by TSN's Darren Dreger or the Star Tribune's Michael Russo people enjoy the little bursts of information and then race to retweet it as if it makes them and their followers some sort of 'exclusive' information that is so exclusive its now readily available to the rest of the world. Yet we want to be that 'first' person to move it forward. Why? If I'm the first one to retweet from Darren Dreger or ESPN's Pierre LeBrun that Jarome Iginla is being traded to the Boston Bruins what does that get me? That I'm the first Twitter follower to retweet a false piece of information? I have to admit, I was probably like thousands of other NHL fans out there that as TSN's Aaron Ward tweeted that Jarome Iginla being dealt to Boston was a done deal we all woke up the next morning surprised to hear that he wasn't going to Boston afterall but instead to Pittsburgh. For Western Conference fans, with the lone exception of those in Calgary I'm sure the reaction was a shrug of the shoulders and the happy feeling one gets to see a formidable player leave the conference. Still, it goes to show you a pitfall in this uber competitive, must get the scoop at all costs world that Twitter, Facebook and other parts of social media have given us. As much as the compulsion to be the first to break the big story is, there is that nearly equal compulsion of the followers to be the first to see that information come across their screen whether it be from their computer (like me) or their phone. Because really, how bad would it be to hear that the Flyers acquired defenseman Kent Huskins from Detroit from someone else? How embarassing?!?! (facepalm)
All jokes about Twitter aside, it can be a rather handy tool and as a person who loves to tweet and re-tweet its also a great opportunity to have a dialogue with people we normally never would otherwise. Whether you're communicating with the 'insiders' or perhaps with some of the players of this great game it probably is not going away anytime soon. Not until we can get special contacts for our eyes that have Twitter streaming across it. This way we can even follow Twitter in our sleep. So what will the tweets say about tonight's game between the Minnesota Wild and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings? Will they be tweets to savor or will they be a grim monologue of disaster?
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1st Period Thoughts: The Wild had good energy to start the game, moving well and generating speed through the neutral zone. Brett Clark looked ok in his first shift, holding the zone as well as delivering a nice solid hit to the Kings' Trevor Lewis. The Kings tried to cause some trouble with its big bodied line of Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan as they crashed the crease after a hard snap shot by Clifford caused Niklas Backstrom a few problems. Los Angeles was quick to attack in transition as a steal in their own zone became a quick break for Dustin Brown as he got a step on Clark and motored around him before ripping a shot off the side of the goal and up into the netting above the glass. The Wild's newly frmulated 4th line of Zenon Konopka, Mike Rupp, and Nate Prosser who was filling in for Torrey Mitchell who was a late scratch due to sickness. This line tried throwing its weight around as Rupp tried to check Justin Williams into the Wild bench. The Wild were tagged with a holding penalty as Clayton Stoner sat in the sin bin. Minnesota's penalty kill was aggressive early as they threw a puck on goal and crashed the crease but Backstrom locked it down. The Kings would work the puck down low and Jake Muzzin swung a pass to Brown who fired a quck shot that beat Backstrom between him and the left post, 1-0 Los Angeles. The Wild tried to answer back as Pierre-Marc Bouchard scooted by Slava Voynov but his backhabd bid was stopped by Jonathan Quick and he'd kick out a rebound into the slot were it was pushed just wide by a trailing Matt Cullen. The Wild kept attacking and the 2nd line would strike a few minutes later as Bouchard entered the zone where he passed it cross ice to Devin Setoguchi who fed it back to Cullen who unleashed a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot that beat Quick high glove side, tying the game at 1-1. Minnesota ried follow it up with a strong shift from its top line, and the puck was picked up by Spurgeon who dangled through the defense but didn't get much on the shot and Quick was able to make the save. The Wild kept the pressure going as Clark joined the rush, unleashing a wrist shot that quick held onto. Matt Cullen would draw a tripping call late giving the Wild a power play and some good momentum to go into the 1st intermission. Nice response after the Kings' power play goal.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would start the 2nd period with almost a 1:40 of power play time but the Wild were a bit nonchalant to begin with and the Kings penalty killers were able to get some early clears of the offensive zone. The Wild would come back with its 2nd unit of Cullen, Setoguchi and Heatley up front and this unit would create some good scoring opportunities. Setoguchi and Heatley were making some nice little passes to one another as Heatley blasted a few one-timers wide of the mark. Minnesota would come up empty on the man advantage and as they looked to earn the go-ahead goal the Wild would end up giving Los Angeles a power play as Cal Clutterbuck delivered a late body check to Keaton Ellerby. I didn't think it was particularly late or cheap but the officials thought so and it would prove to be a costly mistakte. On the power play the Kings would score fairly quickly as Jeff Carter flung a wrist shot that beat Backstrom who was screened rather effectively by Jarrett Stoll. Backstrom never saw the puck until it was past him. 2-1 Kings. The Wild tried to answer back, moving up the ice with speed but the Kings can be physical too and Kyle Brodziak was planted with a good, clean open-ice hit by Dustin Brown. Minnesota's top line was finding precious little time and space out there as the Kings' were quick to attack them and poke check pucks away. The Wild kept being aggressive, trying to attack the neutral zone with speed and they'd get close to breaking through the Kings' defense but often were denied from having a clean look at the net. A great example of this was when Tom Gilbert joined the rush with Matt Cullen and as Cullen passed it over to Gilbert who then dropped it back to Setoguchi moving through the high slot and he lifted a wrist shot high of the mark. Minnesota kept pressing and as the Wild tried to work it deep, Kyle Brodziak would pass it out to the point where Clayton Stoner waited for a shooting lane that disappeared under the pressure of Justin Williams who blocked the shot and then raced down the ice on a breakaway despite a hook by Stoner. Williams would close the distance towards Backstrom as Spurgeon tried to challenge but the sniper would fire a laser of a shot underneat the crossbar and in on the delayed penalty to make it 3-1 Los Angeles. Minnesota would answer right back as the top line would get a step on the Kings' defense as Parise chipped a puck off the boards and then chased it down where he fired a sharp angle shot and as he gathered up his rebound the puck would be taken by Koivu who made a sharp turn as Drew Doughty tripped over the skate of Parise. Koivu would dish a puck out front where Charlie Coyle initially fanned on the shot but as he fell to his knees he'd backhand the puck by a sprawling Jonathan Quick to cut the Kings' lead in half 3-2 as Doughty protested to the officials about the non-call of the trip. Minnesota was energized by the hit as Clayton Stoner rocked Slava Voynov with a huge hit near the Kings' bench. The Wild kept hustling and Quick would give the Wild an opportunity as he misplayed the puck behind his net as Parise was on the prowl and as the speedy Minnesota forward picked up the puck Quick tripped him up before he could score on a wrap around on the open net. The Wild would go on the power play with Alec Martinez' serving Quick's penalty and Minnesota moved the puck well on the man advantage but the Kings'penalty kill was working well as they challenged the Wild's puck carriers but Minnesota was patient as they worked for the one timer. Koivu made a sneaky little pass to Brodziak who gunned a shot wide of the mark. Minnesota did a good job of stretching out the Kings penalty kill but not enogh pucks were being directed on goal. The crowd appreciated the Wild's effort and the team was given ovation in the closing seconds of the period. The Wild need to be less picky with their shot selection, and focus on peppering Quick with more shots. No matter what the Wild need to stay out of the penalty box, as their penalty kill is really struggling as of late.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota was playing with a sense of urgency early as they tilted the action into the Los Angeles zone. The Wild were taking their chances to shoot and Brett Clark stepped into a slapper that missed wide and and the puck caromed off the boards and it moved out near the crease that surprised Quick. The chances were piling up quickly as Dany Heatley fed a little saucer pass to Setoguchi as he made a nice little move to get behind the defense for a break away but his chance was stopped by Quick. The Kings tried to counter the Wild with a forecheck from its energy line but as Niklas Backstrom was tripped up by Jordan Nolan earning him a 2-minute sit for goaltender interference. Minnesota's power play was focused and the Wild had a great opportunity early as Kyle Brodziak was set up in the slot all alone but he fanned on the shot and the Kings were able to get the clear. The Wild would attack on the rush and Heatley would set up Cullen on a pass similar to the one he connected with Setoguchi and the speedy veteran was tripped up by Stoll giving Minnesota nearly minute long 5-on-3 power play. Sensing the significance of the opportunity the Wild would call a timeout to talk it over as assistant coach Daryl Sydor scratched everything out on his white board. Minnesota did not use the 2-man advantage effectively as Ryan Suter failed to hold the zone and then the Wild were thwarted twice with some disorganized play that drew boo's from the home crowd. The Wild finally got established in the zone as the 1st penalty to Nolan expired, and Minnesota would light the lamp just moments later as Koivu threaded a cross-ice pass to Parise who got off a quick shot that beat a diving Quick to tie the game at 3-3. It was a nice goal, but unfortunate the team could not have gotten organized and buried it on the 5-on-3 which would've given them some additional power play time. The Kings would try to go back on the attack, as Mike Richards, Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter tried to get working but Niklas Backstrom was up to the task. Both teams would be a little more cautious with the puck as they were quick to retreat and backcheck aggressively to help their defenseman. The Kings seemed to be a bit better at playing this more cautious, puck possession approach and they came dangerously close to taking the lead late as Jake Muzzin rang a shot off the crossbar on a slap shot from the point. Minnesota would have a close one of their own in the final seconds as a shot from the point by Jared Spurgeon was deflected up and over the net by Matt Cullen and the game would go to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: The Wild looked a bit lost through the first minute of overtime as bad passes, strange movement without the puck gave Los Angeles control of the play early in the extra session. After a minute of futility the Wild would get organized and the scoring chances started to pile up. Koivu and Parise would move into the Kings' zone and dropping a pass back to Ryan Suter who bombed a shot on goal but no one could get to the rebound and Los Angeles went back on the attack on what looked like a near 3-on-1 that was thwarted perfectly by the stick of Spurgeon who tried to lead the rush back in the Kings zone as he blasted a shot wide of the mark. Minnesota then had a great solo rush by Cal Clutterbuck who got behind the Kings defense but he was able
Shootout Summary: Minnesota would elect to shoot first, and they'd send out Zach Parise. Parise would move in slowly before speeding up as he stepped out of range of the attempted poke check and he beat him with a quick forehand, 1-0 Wild. Los Angeles' first shooter was Dustin Brown who moved to the right and then tried to fake to the backhand and then moved back to his forehand where he hoped Backstrom would bite but he didn't and he made the save. Minnesota's next shooter was its captain, Mikko Koivu, who took a wide right approach as he went from forehand to backhand, roofing a backhander just inside of the crossbar and Quick was upset as he knew it was Koivu's signature move. 2-0 Wild in the shootout. The Kings' next shooter was Mike Richards who moved in slowly and he raced in and stopped and fired a snap shot that went under the crossbar and in, 2-1 now. This gave Matt Cullen a chance to seal and and he too would take a slow approach, stickhandling just a bit before beating Quick 5-hole and the Kings goalie angrily broke his stick off the right post as the Wild celebrated a 4-3 shootout victory.
Niklas Backstrom certainly benefited from having the day off, looking more composed in his crease as he made 28 saves in the win. While his glove had did have a little trouble controlling the puck from time to time, he wasn't flopping and guessing as much as he did against Phoenix. Backstrom also deserves credit for performing better in shootouts where he was a disaster last season. The Wild did a fair job of sweeping away rebounds. I thought Brett Clark looked reasonable in his debut, he kept it simple but did not look out of place and he stepped in a delivered a few nice hits as well as showing he has a pretty heavy shot too. Jared Spurgeon had a tremendous game as did Jonas Brodin. Clayton Stoner had a rough game. The Wild need to take a long look at its penalty kill which used to be source of strength which has been more than suspect lately having given up 5 goals in the last two games. That needs to be fin tuned, adjusted, fixed, etc.
Offensively the Wild were carried by the top two lines who really were the only lines able to create scoring chances. The top line especially, raised its game to pour it on when the team needed some goals to tie the game so they'd have a chance to win in the shootout. Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard really helped buoy the team's confidence with a big goal late in the 1st. Charlie Coyle's late goal in 2nd served the same purpose. The Wild really sort of took over offensively in the 2nd half of the game and its good to see them being able to attack a quality team like the Kings in waves as they did.
This was a good resilient victory for the Wild. While you'd rather see them win in regulation but the confidence they have allow them to claw back into games. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo was reasonably pleased with the team as he lauded the 'character' of the club but he admitted there are certain things need to be fixed. The Wild will have a day to relish the win and also try to fix some of its holes before St. Louis comes to town for a game on Monday. Either way, it was a nice way to finish off the month of March!
~ The Wild roster is as follows tonight: Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Dany Heatley, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, Nate Prosser, Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka, Brett Clark, Clayton Stoner, Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter. Matt Hackett backed up Niklas Backstrom. Torrey Mitchell and Justin Falk were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Zach Parise, 2nd Star Mikko Koivu, 3rd Star Charlie Coyle
~ Attendance was 19,223 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ Brett Clark wore #5 for the Wild joining Greg Zanon, Kim Johnsson and Brad Bombardir as players to have worn that number for the Wild.
Wild Prospect Report:
F – Mario Lucia (Notre Dame, CCHA) ~ Mario Lucia's freshman season came to a rapid conclusion as he and the top ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish were elminated after getting spanked 5-1 by St. Cloud State. Lucia had just 2 penalty minutes and was a -2 in his NCAA tournament debut. The former Wayzata star finishes the season with 12 goals, 23 points and 18 PIM's in 32 games.
C – Tyler Graovac (Belleville, OHL) ~ Tyler Graovac and the top seeded Bulls are in a fight for their post-season lives against Mississauga and after dropping the last two games Belleville poured it on this evening in a 5-0 victory. Graovac did his part in the role of a set up man, contributing two assists and was a +2. The Brampton, Ontario-native has 2 goals and 9 points in 5 games.
F – Louie Nanne (Penticton, BCHL) ~ Louie Nanne continues to shine in the post-season for the Vees as he buried a goal in Penticton's 5-1 win over West Kelowna. The future Golden Gopher was the game's 2nd star and has 3 goals and 9 points in 6 games.