Minnesota Wild (0-1)
1.00 Goals For (10th)
2.00 Goals Against (12th)
0% Power Play (16th)
66.7% Penalty Kill (9th)
Top 2 Scorers:
1. #22 Cal Clutterbuck ~ 1G 0A = 1pt
2. #4 Clayton Stoner ~ 0G 1A = 1pt
3 players tied with 2 PIM's (Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Tom Gilbert)
#20 Ryan Suter ~ 41:08
1. #37 Josh Harding (0-1) 1.56GAA .946%SP
Chicago Blackhawks (1-0)
2.00 Goals For (5th)
1.00 Goals Against (8th)
33.3% Power Play (3rd)
100% Penalty Kill (1st)
Top 2 Scorers:
1. #81 Marian Hossa ~ 1G 0A = 1pt
2. #29 Bryan Bickell ~ 1G 0A = 1pt
4 players tied with 2 PIM's (Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Michal Rozsival)
#32 Michal Rozsival ~ 27:11
1. #50 Corey Crawford (1-0) .78GAA .963%SP
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So Wild fans, are you enjoying the ride so far? What are your feelings about tonight's game? Let's talk about it. Leave some comments below and let's get the discussion started.
The Wild gave it their all on Tuesday night against the Blackhawks, but ultimately it wasn't enough as they fell 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Bryan Bickell. Josh Harding did about all that he could to keep the Wild in the game, as he was literally a last-minute replacement for Niklas Backstrom who hurt himself during pre-game warmups just minutes before the game started. Backstrom is still out of action, which prompted the team to call up Darcy Kuemper from Houston to back up Harding who will likely carry the goaltending load for the foreseeable future. Also out of the lineup is defenseman Clayton Stoner who took a big hit from Andrew Shaw in the 1st period and only played sparingly after that. Some Wild fans joked that Stoner's lack of playing time was one of the reasons the team was able to stay in the game as long as it did, but most likely it will be Justin Falk that will be asked to absorb Stoner's minutes. Basically Falk's mission will be the same as Stoner's as well which is to provide physicality to a blueline that lacks sandpaper and simply do whatever he can not to make mistakes. Lastly, the team will again be without the services of Jason Pominville who seems to be struggling through what sounds a lot like post-concussion syndrome from an elbow to the face he received from Los Angeles' Dustin Brown. Pominville's absence means the team is without a valuable source of secondary scoring that it sorely needs, not to mention his effect on the other lines making this team more dangerous overall. The team had hoped the little bit longer rest between games would give him the time necessary to recover but apparently we'll have to wait a little longer.
Despite not having Jason Pominville the Wild's offensive mantra has to be, "when in doubt, shoot the puck." The Wild were shooting the puck more in the 1st period when they were controlling the pace of play and catching the Blackhawks' napping a bit and they were able to create quite a few chances in transition. While Corey Crawford is certainly an able goaltender, he at times was fighting the puck and the more pucks we put on goal I think we could be rewarded with perhaps a soft goal ore two. Ugly goals count just as much as the pretty ones do. And a shot that deflects off the skate of a defenseman is often more demoralizing than a goalie being victimized by some wicked shot. The shoot first mentality must be more evident on the power play where the Wild spent the majority of their time helping Chicago kill time and not a lot of pucks were even being directed on goal. The top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Chalie Coyle need to be more of a threat offensively than they were Tuesday and some of that also comes from the line's inherent unselfishness with the puck. Sometimes an 'ok' shot directed at the right time leads to better more quality chances. The 2nd line of Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi and Jason Zucker need to continue to play fast and put Chicago's defense on its heels. Zucker was particuarly pesky and his late 3rd period shot nearly won the Wild the game. The 3rd line of Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kyle Brodziak was physical but I felt they could have been even better if they shot the puck a bit more. Clutterbuck's goal should proves that there is no such thing as a bad shot if you put it on goal. The 4th line got a little flak for being a bit easier to bottle up in the Wild's zone, but I felt overall they provided good energy and were one of the few lines that were able to match the Blackhawks physicality. Torrey Mitchell is my pick to be a playoff hero for the Wild as his speed and tenacity around the net are a nice combination to
Defensively the Wild played an excellent game in front of Josh Harding. The team was collapsing and helping their goaltender consistently and sweeping away dangerous pucks all night long. Ryan Suter was outstanding, logging a franchise record 41:08 of ice time and providing a stabilizing presence with each shift. Jonas Brodin looked as cool as the other side of the pillow in his own end and continues to demonstrate an ability to shut opposing forwards down 1-on-1. Yes, he overplayed Viktor Stalberg a bit on the game winning goal, but it wasn't for a lack of hustle; it was a desperate play and Stalberg was able to make the pass that sealed a victory for the Blackhawks. Marco Scandella played his first game for the Wild in nearly 2 months and did not look out of place at all. He was physical when he needed to be, very responsible in his own end and seemed to have better judgement about when to move up and join the attack. Tom Gilbert and Jared Spurgeon also played pretty well; blocking shots and doing the other little things to give the Wild a chance to win the game.
I would expect the Blackhawks are going to try to get more traffic in front of Harding tonight so the Wild will have to be very diligent about clearing out the 'Hawks' forwards from camping right at the top of the crease. I thought the Wild did a nice job at making Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews a relative non-factor throughout most of the game and they will have to try to take those two away again tonight. Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville didn't look too happy at his team's effort and felt his club made it 'too easy' on the Wild. The Blackhawks were at their best being physical and fast on the forecheck and I would expect the first 10 minutes to be a storm of activity in the Wild end as Chicago will try to put the boots to Minnesota early. If the Wild can endure the storm I think they can make it a real good game.
Since the Wild dropped Game 1, winning Game 2 is pretty close to being a must-win. If not just to go into their 2-game homestand with a victory under their belts proving that its actually possible to beat the Blackhawks but also in the bigger game of momentum. Getting blown out tonight would erase what was a pretty decent effort on Tuesday and put the Wild in a hole it may not recover from, proving the many experts that felt this series would be a cake-walk for the Blackhawks were correct afterall. Its time the Wild proved their detractors to be wrong.