As families get ready for Thanksgiving, which for many means packing in a car and making a bit of a drive. At least that was how it was for me as a kid, with a little over hour-long ride to grandma’s house. At some point, boredom overtakes the siblings in the back and eventually one decides to take a shot at the other. This usually results in retaliation until eventually someone announces to the whole vehicle that someone has been struck and they’re not happy about it. At this point the adults chime in with, “if you don’t stop, we’ll drop you off here” or “if you don’t stop we’ll turn the car around and go back home.” You usually get one or two quick shots in and then just sort of sit there unhappy with the resolution to your hostilities until they resume on the car ride back home. This to me is kind of like the rivalry between the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche.
As the Wild get ready for tonight’s game against Colorado I hope they remember what happened the last two times they played one another. The Avalanche got the Wild off its game with a little thuggery and Minnesota stopped focusing on hockey and found itself on the wrong end of the score. Can the Wild rise above the cheap stuff after the whistle or will Minnesota have to learn that painful lesson all over again?
1st Period Thoughts: The 1st period was about as intense as it gets for the Minnesota Wild as both clubs were peppering their opposing goaltender with nearly 40 shots in the first frame alone. The Avalanche’s loose defense invited the Wild to be more assertive and funnel shots on Calvin Pickard early and often. Colorado was using its speed to counter attack and that meant Devan Dubnyk was staying pretty busy as well. Minnesota was creating more quality chances than Colorado and that would lead to the first power play of the game as Blake Comeau was tagged for tripping. The Wild would finally find the back of the net on the man advantage as good puck movement set up Jared Spurgeon for a quick shot that was redirected by Charlie Coyle and by Pickard. 1-0 Wild. The Wild did a good job of keeping the pressure on Colorado by driving the net but as Pickard left rebounds, Minnesota just didn’t seem to have the will or strength to pounce on those loose pucks. I was impressed by the speed and hustle of Tyler Graovac who seems to want to make something positive happen on each and every shift. Colorado was being pesky though and I thought Carl Soderberg was looking more dangerous every time he was on the ice. He seemed to be one of the few Avalanche players who could operate with the puck with little difficulty against the Wild. Christian Folin was throwing his weight around with regularity and Minnesota had to feel good about their effort to start the game.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period was more of the same. The Wild were winning many of the battles for the puck along the boards and seemed to focused at creating quality scoring chances from in close. Graovac who had been buzzing would finally be rewarded as he carried a puck into the Avalanche zone, pull off a spin-a-rama to gain a little space and as he carried the puck in close the puck would get knocked off his stick but he’d regather it and from his back fire a shot up and over the shoulder of Pickard. 2-0 Wild on Graovac’s tremendous effort. It was the kind of goal you’d expect to see from Zach Parise and seemed to give the Wild some much-needed cushion. The Avalanche tried to counter attack but Dubnyk was good, making the initial save and at times he got help as Nino Niederreiter poked away a puck before it could cross the goal line after Tyson Barrie rang a shot off the left post. Minnesota would answer back with some good pressure of its own but again as Pickard gave up a rebound the Wild just appeared unable to get a stick on the puck or just missed as Coyle sent a shot through 5-hole that just missed the right post. Those missed opportunities would come back to haunt them. Still, at this point the Wild seemed to be in total control.
3rd Period Thoughts: In the 3rd period, the Wild seemed to fall asleep or go into coast mode. Right from the drop of the puck the Wild found themselves on their heels against a determined Colorado forecheck. It looked like an extended Avalanche power play and the Wild did not seem all that interested in moving its feet and defending, opting to sort of lean and reach at the puck instead of skating. Colorado would keep hustling and after some good puck movement Nathan MacKinnon set up Mikko Rantanen all alone on a backdoor play and the young Finn buried a shot on a yawning net. 2-1 Wild but you could sense Minnesota was still asleep. A lazy Christian Folin penalty where he hauled down Jarome Iginla gave Colorado the opportunity it was looking for. On the man advantage, Colorado moved the puck around with little trouble as Minnesota’s penalty killers were giving the Avalanche a ton of time and space and it was Carl Soderberg who attacked the net and after trying twice and being denied by Dubnyk finally managed to poke a shot by him tying the game at 2-2. With the sellout crowd more than a little anxious you’d expect the Wild might finally wake up right? Nope. A few minutes later with the Wild still mostly in a stand and reach type of defensive effort, the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon would race into the Wild zone and with 4 defenders reaching at him he’d fire a shot that beat Dubnyk blocker side giving Colorado a 3-2 lead. It was a soft goal and an embarrassing defensive effort as well. The crowd was annoyed (as they should be) and the Wild were giving them little reason to believe they had the mental fortitude for a late rally. The Wild seemed to still be playing as though the game was tied and they wasted valuable time just working the puck deep and hoping to be able to find someone open instead of taking it to the net. Pickard had to make some good saves, but Colorado was collapsing down around him pretty fast, sweeping away loose pucks and giving the Wild nothing in the way of 2nd chance opportunities. Even as the Wild pulled Dubnyk for an extra attacker the Wild couldn’t seem to get pucks or bodies in close and they’d fall 3-2.
Normally I’d summarize my thoughts on goaltending and defense as well as their offense. No reason to. Simply put the Wild let up in the 3rd and Colorado seized the opportunity. Minnesota is not talented nor dangerous enough to just coast and win games, no matter how well Dubnyk may be playing as of late. The Wild were in control, with an energetic home crowd wanting something to cheer for. Instead they seemed to just settle and hope someone else would step up. The urgency only seemed to exist within 2-3 players and the rest appeared to be content to just go through the motions. I don’t care if its the last place Avalanche or the 1st place Blackhawks. You can’t let up like that and Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said as much in his post-game presser.
“I need more from a lot of guys. When you’ve got a lead you’ve got to be able to defend.” ~ Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau
No question he needs a lot more. There are lots of guys who just seem happy to be there. The Wild had chances to bury Colorado, if they only would’ve played with a little more will. Instead they seemed to be content to have the advantage at that point in time and felt they had done enough. Obviously that wasn’t the case. It won’t get any easier as the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets are on the schedule in back to back nights to start the week. The Wild cannot afford to take any opportunity to earn 2 points for granted and now they’ve lost twice to last-place Colorado who was without two of its best in Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene. No excuses, they have to be better if they truly expect to win.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Chris Stewart, Nate Prosser, Tyler Graovac, Zack Mitchell, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, Mathew Dumba and Mike Reilly. Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk. Zach Parise was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Nathan MacKinnon, 2nd Star Calvin Pickard, 3rd Star Charlie Coyle
~ Attendance was 19,238 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record (6-9-1) 13pts 7th in the Central Division
17.6% Power Play (15th in the AHL)
76.2% Penalty Kill (25th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #10 Jordan Schroeder ~ 4G 6A = 10pts
2. #17 Alex Tuch ~ 4G 6A = 10pts
3. #13 Gustav Olofsson ~ 2G 7A = 9pts
4. #21 Teemu Pulkkinen ~ 3G 5A = 8pts
5. #22 Mario Lucia ~ 3G 4A = 7pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #27 Mike Weber ~ 38 PIM’s
2. #39 Kurtis Gabriel ~ 28 PIM’s
3. #3 Nick Seeler ~ 24 PIM’s
1. #34 Steve Michalek (4-4-1) 3.09GAA .920%SP
2. #32 Alex Stalock (2-5-0) 4.06GAA .871%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 3, Chicago 2
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Dmitri Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the Russian sniper continues his trend of lighting the lamp as he netted another goal in the Wolves’ 8-2 loss to Barrie. Sokolov has 14 goals, 16 points, 2 PIM’s and is a -5 in 17 games. If that doesn’t impress you, consider the fact that Sokolov is sporting a 20.2% shooting percentage so far this season.
D – Gustav Bouramman (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) ~ the mobile defenseman is starting to heat up a bit offensively as he chipped in a helper in the Greyhounds 4-1 win over Kingston. Bouramman has a goal, 9 points, 12 PIM’s and is -7 in 20 games.
LW – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ the power forward’s strong sophomore season kept rolling as he scored a goal in Boston’s 2-1 win over Connecticut on Friday night. Greenway has 6 goals, 13 points, 26 PIM’s and is a +8 in 10 games.
C – Luke Kunin (Wisconsin, Big 10) ~ the Wild’s 1st round pick from 2016 is starting to heat up for the Badgers as he chipped in a goal and 4 shots in Wisconsin’s 3-2 win over Merrimack on Friday. Kunin has 6 goals, 10 points, 10 PIM’s and is a -6 in 9 games.
D – Carson Soucy (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the big blueliner is starting to exhibit some offensive flair lately as he continues to stay near the top of the Bulldogs’ scoring chart as he chipped in two assists as UMD prevailed 6-4 over Nebraska-Omaha. Soucy has 3 goals, 12 points, 20 PIM’s and is a +7 in 13 games.