College and European league hockey are in the playoffs, major junior hockey will be there soon enough and the State Tournaments for boys and girls in Minnesota is behind us. This is my ‘March Madness’ but more so for the inanely annoying every other night or back to back NHL schedule. The hockey isn’t madness, it is usually exciting and fun. At least its supposed to be, but the schedule is stupid for teams and fans. While I am not advocating the 3-4 days off and then a 2-games-in-3 night weekends, but its almost like the league wants to anger its fans during what is supposed to be the ‘best time of year’ for sports. But hey, that’s the anti-fan NHL for you.
On another note, the Wild are last night in a game against the Rangers, while the Jets had the day off. Winnipeg isn’t likely to make the post-season, but they certainly have the talent to play the spoiler. The Jets will have to wait a little longer for its young core to experience the playoffs, so can the Wild earn a big two points in this 2nd game of a back to back?
1st Period Thoughts: Well, since everyone thought Darcy Kuemper was going to get the start, we’re all in for a surprise. Much to everyone’s surprise, it’s Devan Dubnyk getting the start. Let’s just hope that decision doesn’t come back to bite us in the butt. Also, it should be pointed out, that the Jets are wearing their white jerseys, and throwback ones even, at home. And since it’s a bit of old school hockey, we’re also getting a fight early in the game between Chris Stewart and Chris Thorburn. While that provided a little bit of excitement, the Wild seem to be looking much like they have as of late. The first goal of the night came in the first four minutes, and it wasn’t by Minnesota. The opening goal came from Andrew Copp. What I noticed on that goal was that Marco Scandella looked out of place and Matt Dumba was on his guy (Copp) but unable to lift Copp’s stick. So it’s more of the same from that defensive pairing. And it doesn’t help when Gustav Olofsson gets called for high-sticking. Winnipeg would make the Wild pay early for that penalty. This goal going to Adam Lowry, and again, Scandella was on the ice. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Wild would go back to the penalty kill after Martin Hanzal got called for tripping. If Christian Folin wasn’t injured, I would say that Scandella needs a night in the press box. Honestly, I don’t understand what is up with Scandella and Dumba, it’s almost like they’re not Bruce Boudreau defensemen. Whatever the issue, I would like them to get their heads out of the sand. Thankfully the Wild would kill Hanzal’s minor penalty. It was also a nice change of pace to see Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker pushing for a goal after the kill. Being down two goals early, Minnesota is going to have to push themselves to turn things around. I have to admit, it was nice to see the Winnipeg fans cheer on Eric Staal who is playing in his 1000th game. I wonder if fans in Denver or Chicago would be so generous. So far, it looks like two of Minnesota lines seem genuinely interested in playing. The Mikko Koivu line with Granlund and Zucker as well as the Hanzal line with Nino Niederreiter and Ryan White. I wish I knew where the other lines go on most nights. The reason the Wild were leading the conference and division was the fact that they had four lines that played all night long. Minnesota would get their first power play with Mathieu Perreault called for interference. However, it was short-lived when Charlie Coyle was called for hooking. And again, Winnipeg made Minnesota pay for that even-up call with a 4-on-4 goal going to Ben Chiarot. Makes you wonder if it was wise to start Dubnyk tonight. There’s so much to be concerned with with this team right now. Considering what we’ve been seeing this month, I’m actually glad that I miss most games due to my work schedule. I know we should try to find a silver lining, but I don’t know if that’s possible right now.
2nd Period Thoughts: As I watch the early minutes of this period, I feel like I want to go on strike. As a fan and as a blogger. It finally looked like after the opening minutes of the period that the Wild had settled things down. It looked like they were getting some possession of their own and spending some decent time in the offensive zone. But of course, it’s nothing more than a mirage. Goal number four would come from Dustin Byfuglien. Yet somehow, Dubnyk remains in goal. Makes you wonder if Kuemper is feeling under the weather, answering why he didn’t get the start. The Wild’s penalty kill would get tested again, this time with Staal getting called for tripping. At least, they found their souls a bit and managed to kill the minor penalty. The Wild would finally erase the goose egg on their part thanks to lots of hard work by Zach Parise on the end boards to get the puck out front to Charlie Coyle who would bury the puck. Coyle’s goal should say to the team that they need to get their shots off quickly. They need to stop thinking of their shots too much. And while Coyle’s goal is a bit of a moral victory, it’s most likely a case of too little, too late. That’s been the story of the team lately. And it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Minnesota would get a power play after an interference call on Copp. Finally, the power play saw some results. After hard work by Jonas Brodin to maintain possession, the puck would get onto Koivu’s stick who would blast it on goal for Granlund to deflect it past Connor Hellebyuck. That power play goal would power the Wild to their third goal of the night with a goal by Stewart. Like I said earlier, it’s nice to see them fighting now and not waiting until the last five minutes to decide to wake up and actually play hockey. There’s still a long road to travel in this game, but this is definitely a positive sign. The shots on goal are definitely a positive sign. As we near the end of the period, the Wild have 34 shots on goal to the Jets 12. And the just when you were happy to be heading to the locker room trailing by just one, you get will see a Wild team heading into the second intermission with a tied game, after a second goal of the night by Stewart. It was a four-goal period and an all hands on deck mentality. Now, it’s up to Minnesota to continue this push through the next twenty minutes.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well earlier in this game I was expecting a goaltender change. However, it’s not the one I expected. Dubnyk is still in the Wild’s goal. The change is coming in the Jets’ goal, with Michael Hutchinson taking over for Hellebyuck. What’s even better is seeing Minnesota challenge Hutchinson early. The fourth line had a great set up of Stewart for the hat trick, yet Copp was able to block the shot. While it would be great to see the hat trick, I hope they don’t spend the rest of the period shooting for the hat trick when they should have focused more on the game itself. In fact, Haula had the better position for a goal, yet he passed it up in order to set up his linemate. Yes, hat tricks are fun, but winning the game is far more important right now. When the Wild try and force particular goals, it usually works against them. Like when the Wild were so focused on helping Parise score his 300th goal against his former team. As we near the midway point of the period, both teams would push for the go-ahead goal. One could easily say whoever scores the next goal will ultimately come away as the winner. And as things have opened up on the ice, it feels like that goal should come sooner rather than later. It’s also helping that Dubnyk seems to be feeling and tracking the puck better than he did the first half of the game. And of course as I say that, Josh Morrissey would get the go-ahead goal. The Wild now need to find their hearts again and find a way to get that one back. Considering how this game has gone, I don’t know if they have it in them. Especially considering that they have put little pressure on Hutchinson this period. The Wild would get a chance with just over two minutes remaining when Byfuglien was called for closing his hand on the puck. The Wild would pull Dubnyk. It looked like the Wild scored early in the power play, but the puck rolled through the blue paint. The Wild would maintain possession in the offensive zone for the majority of the power play. Hutchinson made an amazing toe save on a last chance shot by Dumba. Like I said, whoever scored their teams fifth goal of the night would come out the winner. Yes, the come back was good to see, but there’s an issue when you allow your opposition four goals to start the game. If Minnesota had prevented even half of those four goals and came out and played like they did in the second half of the second period, then they would have had a great chance of breaking this losing streak. Instead, Minnesota is leaving Winnipeg, losing their fifth straight game.
~ The Wild roster this afternoon was as follows: Charlie Coyle, Chris Stewart, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Martin Hanzal, Ryan White, Nino Niederreiter, Tyler Graovac, Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund, Marco Scandella, Ryan Suter, Gustav Olofsson, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon. Devan Dubnyk got the start with Darcy Kuemper serving as backup.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Josh Morrissey; 2nd Star, Chris Stewart; 3rd Star, Adam Lowrey.
~ Attendance was 15,294 at MTS Centre
Iowa Wild Report:
18.6% Power Play (11th in the AHL)
82.2% Penalty Kill (15th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #17 Alex Tuch ~ 15G 16A = 31pts
2. #12 Pat Cannone ~ 9G 22A = 31pts
3. #7 Sam Anas ~ 11G 13A = 24pts
4. #9 Mike Reilly ~ 5G 19A = 24pts
5. #44 Christoph Bertschy ~ 9G 10A = 19pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #3 Nick Seeler ~ 105 PIM’s
2. #27 Mike Weber ~ 92 PIM’s
3. #39 Kurtis Gabriel ~ 59 PIM’s
1. #32 Alex Stalock (19-13-7) 2.37GAA .923%SP 3SO
2. #34 Steve Michalek (11-11-1) 2.56GAA .920%SP 1SO
Recent Score: Iowa 4, Milwaukee 1
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ the former Lakeville North star scored a game-tying goal to keep the Gopher’s hopes alive at a Big 10 title, but it wasn’t meant to be as the fell 4-3 to Penn State in double overtime. Minnesota’s season isn’t done as they are a sure lock to make the NCAA tournament, so now its simply a matter of waiting to see where and who they will be playing. Sadek has 4 goals, 11 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +10 in 33 games.
RW – Luke Kunin (Wisconsin, Big 10) ~ the Badgers’ alternate captain lit the lamp first as Wisconsin managed to hold on to earn a 2-1 victory over Ohio State to advance to the Big 10 Championship. In the Big 10 Championship he had an assist in the Badgers’ 2-1 loss in double overtime. Kunin has 22 goals, 38 points, 30 PIM’s and is -2 in 35 games.
C – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the Russian sniper has been quiet, but he made a big statement on Friday night as he scored a hat trick and added a helper earning 1st star honors as he helped Sudbury earn a 5-2 win over North Bay as major junior teams close in on the playoffs. Sokolov has 47 goals (2nd in the OHL), 71 points, 8 PIM’s and is a -30 in 62 games.
NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament Seedings:
All regional games will be next weekend.
Fargo, ND – West Region
#2 Minnesota-Duluth vs. Ohio State (Friday, 5:30PM CST, ESPNU)
Boston University vs. North Dakota (Friday, 2PM CST, ESPN2)
Cincinnati, OH – Midwest Region
#1 Denver vs. # Michigan Tech (Saturday, Noon CST, ESPNews )
Penn State vs. Union (Saturday, 3:30PM CST, ESPN3)
Manchester, NH – Northeast Region
#4 Minnesota vs. Notre Dame (Saturday, 2:30PM CST, ESPNU)
UMass-Lowell vs. Cornell (Saturday, 11AM CST, ESPN3)
Providence, RI – East Region
#3 Harvard vs. Providence (Friday, 3PM CST, ESPNU)
Western Michigan vs. Air Force (Friday, 6:30PM CST, ESPN3)