Paper cuts are annoying. They’re not all that serious, but they create the kind of pain that is annoying and the wound at times can be tough to heal. As soon as you get one you know how annoying its going to be. That is kind of how I felt watching Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames. As soon as Johnny ‘Hockey’ Gaudreau scored, you kind of knew what was going to happen next. The struggling Flames’ confidence steadily began to build and the Wild’s frustration turned to pain as they fell 1-0 to one of the worst defense’s in the NHL.
So as a resurgent Boston Bruins squad comes to St. Paul we should all be hopeful for some kind of Wild rebound? I’m not so sure about that. The Minnesota Wild offense has sputtered and despite good play from their goaltenders the team has been shutout twice in its last 5. The last time Minnesota played Boston, they took advantage of two inexperienced goaltenders. It won’t be the same this time around, but can the Wild rally after a disappointing effort on Tuesday?
1st Period Thoughts: Forgive me if I have a case of deja vu after watching that period as the Minnesota Wild basically did precisely the same thing they did in the 1st period of their game against the Flames. The Wild had a good first 4 minutes with hustle, a solid forecheck and shots being sent on Tuukka Rask but after that they cooled off and the Bruins took over the rest of the period. Maybe taking a page out of the Flames / Avalanche playbook, the Bruins’ David Backes decided to make his presence felt by taking a run at Nino Niederreiter that sent the Swiss-born forward careening head first into the boards near the Boston bench. Christian Folin moved in and went after Backes who popped the big Swede with a jab but once the officials got involved they gave the Wild defenseman a minor for roughing and Backes a minor for boarding. It was a coincidental minor that never should’ve been. Soon after 4-on-4 ended, the Wild would take a lazy penalty as Erik Haula was caught hooking Jimmy Hayes. On the power play the Bruins came dangerously close to cashing in as Patrice Bergeron took a puck from the half-wall and drove toward the crease nearly deked out Devan Dubnyk and as the puck slid off his stick it would reach a crashing Torey Krug who tried to hammer it into a yawning net. Fortunately, Mikael Granlund got in front of the shot and managed to bail out Dubnyk with a nice save. Minnesota dodged a bullet, so they would try to go back on the attack and they’d get some help from the Bruins who would take a boneheaded penalty of their own. David Krecji would step in front of Zach Parise. On the man advantage the Wild didn’t get much going until they sent out their 2nd unit. Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle had some chances but the Bruins’ shotblocking and Rask was solid and Minnesota would come up empty. The Wild would get one more chance on the man advantage. This time it was Hayes who took offense to Parise giving a pretty light push to Adam McQuaid and decided to throw a punch at the Wild alternate captain. On the power play the Wild did very little thanks to poor decisions with the puck when the team tried to thread passes through defenders when it wasn’t necessary. The result was a series of easy turnovers and Minnesota never really got set up in the closing seconds and you could feel a level of anxiety building in the home crowd as the period came to an end. I thought the Bruins’ scoring chances were better than the Wild’s and Minnesota must play a little tougher in around either crease.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period was a snoozefest. Lots of back and forth through the neutral zone and once in a while a puck gets through and either Dubnyk or Rask were forced to make a save. The Bruins seemed to have more energy to start the period and the Wild started to lose the territory battle as they had in the 1st. Boston seemed to be able to work bodies closer to the crease and it appeared it was only a matter of time before they’d be able to break the stalemate. They did have one golden chance as Granlund found himself set up with an open net to work with but the reach of 6’9″ Zdeno Chara was able to deflect it at the last moment. The Wild would squander an early power play and the Wild seemed incapable of creating anything beyond a few shots from the perimeter that would be blocked on their way to the goal. A few minutes later the Wild would get tagged with a penalty of their own as Jared Spurgeon was given a high sticking call. The Bruins nearly took full advantage of it as a point shot by Chara had just enough momentum to squeeze through the leg pads of Dubnyk and trickle in. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau would challenge the play saying Boston was offsides and while the replay was pretty close it was enough to overturn the call and Minnesota dodged another bullet. Minnesota had one last quality scoring chance late in the period when Haula set up Jason Pominville in a 2-on-1 but Rask was there to make the big save. The Wild had to feel fortunate to still be knotted at 0-0, but the team still doesn’t understand it has to play with more determination around the blue paint if it wants to break its goal scoring drought.
3rd Period Thoughts: Its not always how pretty you start but whether you finish strong that is the difference. The 3rd period was almost as boring as the 2nd. Lots of work through the neutral zone for one-and-done offensive opportunities. Icing calls also helped to kill the flow and you just knew it was going to come down to one lucky / unlucky bounce or mistake and it probably would stand as the game winning goal. Mathew Dumba nearly gift wrapped the game to the Bruins with a lazy pass parallel to his own blueline that was stolen by Matt Beleskey and as he beared down on Dubnyk, the big goalie aggressively challenged Bruins’ forward and surprised him to make a huge stop. The next 10 minutes was the team trading shots from the perimeter, all hoping for some lapse in the opposing goaltenders concentration. It finally happened in the final minute of the game as the line of Koivu, Granlund, Parise as Granlund just kept buzzing and the Bruins worn down and their persistence paid off as the Finnish wunderkind’s attempted pass went off McQuaid’s leg and in. 1-0 Wild. Minnesota then fought off a furious last-second surge by the Bruins to hold onto the victory.
Devan Dubnyk was again superb, making 25 saves in the victory and earning his 4th shutout of the season. I think he lucked out a bit with the offside call but beyond that he was doing a good job at locking down rebounds with plenty of traffic near his paint most of the night. I thought Christian Folin was tremendous and he continues to get better and better each game. Ryan Suter was also very solid.
Offensively the Wild were again guilty at times of working for the perfect shot instead of taking what the Bruins were giving them. Give Rask some credit, he came up with some huge saves to keep his team in the game. The stop off the rush on Pominville was tremendous as he managed to lift the shot and he was all over it. I thought Haula was doing a nice job at helping create opportunities but the Wild just couldn’t buy a goal. Hopefully they can rekindle their offense soon, because you can’t expect to win too many games 1-0. The power play needs to simplify its approach and work on generating more shot on goal instead of feeling as though it has to set up some kind of tic-tac-toe play.
There was a collective sigh of relief at Granlund’s late goal as this one had all the hallmarks of another disappointment in the mold of their game on Tuesday against Calgary. The Wild didn’t have a great start, suffered from poor execution but this time Dubnyk bailed his club out enough for Minnesota to get the game winner. Its an important 2 points to help keep pace with the rest of the division and gives them at least a little confidence going into Saturday’s tilt against the Avalanche. It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Chris Stewart, Tyler Graovac, Zack Mitchell, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, Mathew Dumba and Mike Reilly. Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nate Prosser was the lone healthy scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Tuukka Rask, 3rd Star Mikael Granlund
~ Attendance was 18,774 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 1, Rockford 3
The Iowa Wild can be a terrible tease. They have a strange tendency to score very early and then their offense stalls and they find themselves losing by 2-3 goals. Wednesday was one of those nights. Iowa would strike first as Teemu Pulkkinen would take a pass from Pat Cannone and he’d bomb a shot by Lars Johansson as the in 3,457 in attendance celebrated the power play tally. Rockford would answer back with a power play tally of their own a Ville Pokka found the back of the net behind Steve Michalek. The Ice Hogs would add two more goals in the 2nd period on goals from Tanner Kero and Sam Carrick. Iowa would try to rally in the 3rd, but just couldn’t solve Johansson and would fall 3-1. Michalek had 31 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL) ~ the slick skating Russian seems to be heating up as he tallied a goal in their 3-2 win over Torpedo Nizhny Novogorod on Monday. Kaprizov has 12 goals (a career high), 24 points, 62 PIM’s and is a +9 in 28 games.
D – Gustav Bouramman (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) ~ the poised Swedish defenseman is starting to find his groove again as he had an assist with 2 shots on goal and finished the night with a +2 rating as the Greyhounds prevailed 5-3 over Saginaw on Wednesday. Bouramman has a goal, 8 points, 12 PIM’s and is -7 in 19 games.