Minnesota has had a strange first half of the season where there have been a series of 3-4 day breaks followed by 3-games-in-4-days weekends. It is because of this the Wild still have games in hand on most clubs throughout the division, including division-leading Chicago. That is going to change soon as the schedule will start pick up for what will be a brutal 2nd half. Thank you World Cup of Exhibition!
The Montreal Canadiens are battling to stay atop the Atlantic Division and plays a similar style to the Wild. Minnesota got the best of them in a rare victory in Montreal. No doubt the Canadiens will wish to return the favor in St. Paul. Can the Wild sweep the season series against Les Habitants?
1st Period Thoughts: I know a lot of people might look back and see the Wild got an early 1-0 lead and think it wasn’t too bad for Minnesota but I was disappointed in the effort. The Canadiens looked like a team that had a few days off and the Wild looked sluggish and rusty like a team that took a day off. Passes were consistently off target and beyond the line of Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise the rest of the Wild’s forward groups were not accomplishing much of anything. Staal was the Wild’s best forward as he seemed to be only player able to handle the Canadiens speed and not be bothered by it as he set up Christian Folin for his 1st goal of the year. Folin kind of got lucky as he fanned on the forehand shot which served to freeze Carey Price and then he gathered up the puck and beat Price on a backhander. Montreal’s line of Arturi Lehkonen, Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron gave the Wild fits with their speed and Minnesota got lucky it didn’t end up in the back of the net. Devan Dubnyk was good but he didn’t get tested too much considering how much the Wild were chasing the Habs around their own end. The Wild must get their feet moving and improve their effort or they’re going to find themselves on the wrong end of the score in the 2nd. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau commented during the game he wasn’t overly happy with the effort so far so it might be a while before we see him give the team another day off like he did yesterday. Wild were outshot 8-6 in the 1st, but it felt more like 14-6 for how outhustled Minnesota was that period.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild must’ve gotten chewed out during the 1st intermission because the Wild played a lot more inspired in the 2nd. Minnesota started to win more of the small races for pucks and the result was the Wild started to sustain more offensive pressure than they did in the 1st. Montreal looked a bit sluggish and the Wild would take full advantage as Mathew Dumba sent a long pass up to Charlie Coyle who found Eric Staal all by himself near the Canadiens blueline and he’d race in and rifle a shot top shelf stick side to put Minnesota up 2-0. The goal sort of opened the floodgates as Minnesota would add to its lead less than a minute later as Jared Spurgeon fired a shot from the point that deflected off a diving Jordan Schroeder and by Price, 3-0 Wild. The Canadiens were starting to show signs of frustration as Radulov high sticked Folin for a double-minor. On the power play the Wild’s confidence was perhaps too high as they tried to make tic-tac-toe plays work instead of just sending shots on goal. As the double-minor expired they’d cash in as Nino Niederreiter was inexplicably left all alone in close and he beat Price to give the Wild a 4-0 lead going into the 2nd period. It was a nice recovery after a lethargic 1st period and hopefully they keep their foot on the gas in the 3rd whether Price stays in the game or Michel Therrien lets him sit in favor of Al Montoya.
3rd Period Thoughts: The 3rd period the Wild kept their foot on the gas and the Wild would score twice in the first 7 minutes of the 3rd as Minnesota struck on the power play on back to back chances on goals from Jason Zucker and Ryan Suter. The Canadiens just didn’t want to skate or do much of anything. Strangely, Therrien kept Price between the pipes as the Wild kept applying pressure and they’d add another goal as Nino Niederreiter scored his 2nd of the night from in close. With the game 7-0 and the home crowd raining down a “Car-ey” chant the Wild were relishing a curbstomping of an alleged elite opponent. Perhaps out of frustration the game started to get a bit chippy as Chris Terry ran into Devan Dubnyk that drew the ire of the home crowd. A few minutes later it was Dubnyk leaving his crease for a puck and he was checked a bit by Plekanec that angered the Wild goalie who cross checked him as he skated away. On the next shift Chris Stewart went after Paul Byron and he’d earn an extra minor for roughing the small forward. The Habs would spoil Dubnyk’s shutout bid with 8.5 seconds left as Plekanec buried a rebound to solidify a 7-1 loss. It was good to see the Wild playing with some swagger late in the game.
Dubnyk didn’t have to be fantastic, making 20 saves in the victory. Its a shame he didn’t get the shutout, but he never really gave the Habs any hope to build some energy off of. Defensively the Wild did a much better job beyond the 1st period at pressing the attack in the Habs zone which really served to limit the amount of chances Montreal was able to generate the other way. I thought Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon were tremendous.
Offensively the Wild got started thanks to some tremendous play by Eric Staal. I think its wrong he wasn’t one of the 3 stars of the game. He was the one of the few Wild players that seemed to be ready to go at the start of this game and he set up the first goal and scored what I feel was the real momentum turner in the 2nd. Later on the the Niederreiter, Jason Pominville, Erik Haula line started to get involved but it all started with Staal. The scoring depth of this team has really been something and its good to see so many different players getting involved on the scoresheet.
This was a nice recovery after a slow start against a quality team. Sure the Canadiens have had a lot of injuries, they’re on the 2nd night of a back to back, but they put up 7 goals the night before on Winnipeg. Its good to see the Wild put the boots to the top team in the Atlantic and take advantage of their situation for what will be a challenging weekend with back-to-backs of their own against Dallas and Chicago respectively. The Wild cannot let up and have a strong two-game road trip.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter, Chris Stewart, Tyler Graovac, Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, Marco Scandella and Mathew Dumba. Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nate Prosser and Kurtis Gabriel were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Marco Scandella, 2nd Star Jared Spurgeon, 3rd Star Devan Dubnyk
~ Attendance was 19,104 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (16-18-2-1) 35pts 5th in the Central
15.6% Power Play (25th in the AHL)
81% Penalty Kill (17th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #21 Teemu Pulkkinen ~ 12G 14A = 26pts
2. #12 Pat Cannone ~ 5G 14A = 19pts
3. #17 Alex Tuch ~ 8G 10A = 18pts
4. #28 Grayson Downing ~ 6G 9A = 15pts
5. #13 Gustav Olofsson ~ 4G 10A = 14pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #27 Mike Weber ~ 60 PIM’s
2. #3 Nick Seeler ~ 57 PIM’s
3. #6 Hunter Warner ~ 26 PIM’s
1. #32 Alex Stalock (10-10-2) 2.83GAA .904%SP 2SO
2. #34 Steve Michalek (6-8-1) 2.81GAA .915%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 3, Manitoba 1
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Dmitri Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the Russian continues to be one of the OHL’s most dangerous scorers as he potted two more goals in the Wolves’ 4-1 win over Guelph on Sunday. He then followed it up with another solid performance against Sault Ste Marie where he had 2 goals (7 shots on goal) and a helper in their 5-4 loss to the Greyhounds. The Omsk, Russia-native earned 1st star honors in the game. Sokolov has 32 goals, 44 points, 4 PIM’s and is a -16 in 37 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL) ~ after having a tremendous World Junior Championships, the skilled Russian winger arrived back to the KHL brimming with confidence and he put on a show with 2 goals and 2 assists in Salavat Yulaev’s 5-3 win over Spartak Moscow. Kaprizov now has a career high in goals (17), points (34), 64 PIM’s and is a +10 in 38 games.
High School Hockey Rankings:
Let’s Play Hockey released their latest Minnesota High School hockey rankings on Wednesday. Here is their top 10 for both boys and girls in class A & AA respectively as of January 11th, 2017.
3. St. Paul United
4. Proctor / Hermantown
5. Thief River Falls
7. Delano / Rockford
8. New Prague
10. Red Wing
2. Maple Grove
3. Elk River / Zimmerman
5. Eden Prairie
7. Cretin-Derham Hall
10 Lakeville South
4. St. Paul Academy
5. East Grand Forks
6. St. Cloud Cathedral
8. Sartell / St. Stephen
2. Elk River / Zimmerman
4. Grand Rapids
6. St. Thomas Academy
7. Lakeville North
8. Eden Prairie
9. Holy Family Catholic