The Winnipeg Jets are starting to show signs that all those years of suffering may have been worth it afterall. Even though they are still a team that is 23rd in the NHL in payroll, the years of struggle have been a boon for their performance at the draft. They now have an enviable collection of young players and prospects that will give the Jets a nice pipeline of talent for at least the next few seasons.
This is much to the chagrin of the Minnesota Wild which has not been afraid to spend the money, but the draft has not yielded nearly the same calibre of talent the Jets have received which is a side effect of simply being above average. Minnesota has to dig deep after last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas. Can the Wild go into Thanksgiving with a victory in Winnipeg?
1st Period Thoughts: The 1st period started with the Wild playing up-tempo and looking to get their forecheck going. The pressure nearly yielded an early goal as Zach Parise swept up a dumped puck that settled just outside of the trapezoid that got Connor Hellebuyck caught out of his crease and as Parise fired a shot through the crease he couldn’t connect with a crashing Eric Staal. Minnesota continued to attack and the Wild were able to create a few more high quality chances as an Charlie Coyle shot caught the iron. Winnipeg would counter with some pressure of its own and it was Nikolaj Ehlers who seemed to have at least 1-2 gears that no one else on the ice appeared to possess would rifle a shot that struck the left post. A few moments after that Patrik Laine would send a shot off that same left post. However, the Wild were not giving the Jets much in the way of time and space. Yet as close as that was a pass from former Breck star Blake Wheeler set up Josh Morrissey for what looked to be a sure-thing goal only to be denied by a fantastic save by Devan Dubnyk who looked calm and collected as he made the stop. Christian Folin was again solid, playing physical and keeping it simple when it came to playing the puck. The Wild did a nice job of working the puck out of their zone with good efficiency, a not bad start to the game even if they had no goals to show for it.
2nd Period Thoughts: This period was a bit more of a defensive chess match. Neither club was able to create much in the way of scoring chances. Both clubs were sitting back defensively so was not a lot of room to be had in the offensive zone. The period seemed destined to end in another stalemate. The Wild would strike late in the period as Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker chased down a dump in and then outworked the Jets for the puck and moved it out front where Mikko Koivu swept in and fired a shot by Hellebuyck to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead going into the 3rd period.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would keep their foot on the gas to start the 3rd period and the Jets seemed to crumble a bit under the Wild’s hustle. The Jets were forced to settle for shots from the perimeter and Minnesota did a nice job of applying good puck pressure to create odd-man chances the other way. Minnesota would get an all important buffer goal as a point shot by Jonas Brodin managed to find its way by Hellebuyck. Winnipeg appeared to answer back rather quickly with a power play goal of its own but immediately the Wild bench seemed to believe the play was offsides. Watching the game on TV, I thought it was really interesting seeing team equipment manager Rick Bronwell pointing to the TV the Wild have on the bench as they attempted to quickly decide whether they should challenge the non-call on the offsides. Boudreau had seen enough and he issued the challenge the play was reviewed, and the replay seemed to indicate Ehlers was in the offensive zone a tad bit early. The officials confirmed the play was offsides and Wheeler’s goal was disallowed which was a bit of a turning point in the game. The Jets tried to regroup and a few minutes later it was Wheeler cutting the Wild lead back to one and you could see him look back as if to say, “challenge that” as he tried to rally his club for a comeback but it wasn’t meant to be. Minnesota went into lockdown mode in the last few minutes and it was Zach Parise who would bury the empty netter to seal a 3-1 victory.
Devan Dubnyk had just 15 saves, but he made some timely saves to keep the Jets at bey as Minnesota finally gave him some goal support. Dubnyk was seeing the puck well through traffic and his denial of Josh Morrissey was incredible and the sign of a goaltender who is really playing some of his best hockey. Defensively the Wild did a good job of denying shooting lanes and taking the body aggressively to prevent Winnipeg from getting almost any sort of 2nd chance opportunities.
Offensively, it started out slow but the quality of the Wild’s chances was the difference. The team simplified its game and through persistence was able to finally solve Hellebuyck. I thought Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund were terrific on the forecheck. I think Mikko Koivu owes them both a delicious steak dinner for their hard work that basically gift wrapped the Wild captain goal. Koivu’s lack of want to get involved in the board battles is a bit troubling when you consider Koivu’s size, strength while he leaves the hard work to younger, smaller, weaker teammates. Still, funneling pucks on goal is what resulted in Brodin’s power play marker. I also like the hustle we continue to see from Tyler Graovac who may have got relegated to the 4th line but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
This was an important win against a divisional opponent that was in a position to leapfrog the Wild in the standings. Now the Wild give themselves some space from the Jets and go into the day off with some confidence which they will need against the red hot defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins on Friday. To all of our readers out there, have a safe and great Thanksgiving with your families!
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Tyler Graovac, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Pominville, Zack Mitchell, Jason Zucker, Chris Stewart, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, Mathew Dumba and Marco Scandella. Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nate Prosser and Mike Reilly were healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Mikael Granlund, 3rd Star Mikko Koivu
~ Attendance was 19,022 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 1, Manitoba 0 OT
Going into the game with a 3-game losing streak the Iowa Wild were determined to earn an important road victory. It was a goaltending duel between Iowa’s Alex Stalock and Manitoba’s Eric Comrie. With the game still scoreless after 3 periods the game would go to overtime. It didn’t take long as Gustav Olofsson worked the puck across to Teemu Pulkkinen who wired a shot off the arm of Comrie and in giving the Wild a 1-0 OT win. Stalock made 28 saves in the shutout victory, his first shutout of the season.