Excitement for the fans does not always equal the same for the coaching staff. On Saturday, Wild fans seemed to enjoy the amount of shots being taken through the first two periods of the game but Head Coach Bruce Boudreau admitted to reporters he was angry by how poorly the two teams played defensively. For a team that prides itself on being stingy defensively, to give up over 30 plus shots demonstrated both a lack of focus and dedication to playing responsibly in their own zone. The price for that lack of focus was a 3rd period collapse that resulted in a loss to Colorado.
The Stars have had their share of late-game collapses this season, and the Wild have traditionally struggled in games played in Dallas. Dallas is coming off an embarrassing loss to the Edmonton Oilers where they gave up a hat trick to Connor McDavid. Theoretically you think this would lead to two motivated clubs, so will the Wild please their coaching staff with an improved effort?
1st Period Thoughts: The 1st period was a tale of two halves. The first half dominated by Dallas who appeared to be a step faster and have more cohesion than the Wild who had shaken up its lines with the hope of discovering some offense. The Stars early attack meant Darcy Kuemper had to be sharp right away and he was solid as he denied Jamie Benn on golden chance in the opening few minutes. Kuemper continued to look composed and solid between the pipes and making the first save and the Wild defense scrambled to deny the rebound opportunities. In the 2nd half the Wild would re-group, somewhat sparked by a fight between Chris Stewart and Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak. Stewart would get some quick jabs as he tried to keep the much-bigger Stars’ blueliner close, but he’d get some space and Oleksiak started throwing bombs. A few of those big hooks landed, but Stewart would counter with a few more jabs which were a bit hesitant because his fists were hitting the helmet of Oleksiak which could not feel too good. The officials would break up the fight which probably would’ve been called a draw. The Wild would follow up the fight with a good shift from its new ‘big body’ line of Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Tyler Graovac which used their big frames effectively to work the puck down low and set up a shot from the point. Antti Niemi wasn’t tested all that much, beyond a few shots from the perimeter. The Wild need to show a little more determination to generate some shots from in close. I think Niemi is susceptible, but Minnesota has to show a little more ‘want to.’ Even on a power play after a foolish penalty by Antoine Roussel the Wild failed to do much of anything with it by slow puck movement that made it easy for the Dallas penalty killers to defend.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period was a wonderful cure for anyone suffering insomnia. The snooze fest was caused by two clubs who were not taking many risks offensive and collapsing around their goaltender forcing the teams to settle for shots from the perimeter. The Wild would earn another power play as Charlie Coyle was hauled down by Patrik Nemeth. On the man advantage the Wild puck movement was both slow and predictable making it easy for the Stars to get sticks into passing and shooting lanes forcing turnovers. The Wild could barely get set up in the zone and you could argue the Stars gained momentum off the kill. Dallas would go back on the attack and a long pass from Julius Honka found Radek Faksa for a breakaway and he was stonewalled by Kuemper. Yet it was just a matter of time as Dallas would take the lead as the Stars came barreling in on a 4-on-2 and it was Patrick Eaves firing a shot that Kuemper stopped but it was Oleksiak following up on the rebound. 1-0 Dallas. Minnesota would earn another power play shortly after Oleksiak’s tally, but you wouldn’t know it with the way the Wild sort of went through the motions and Minnesota was barely able to get set up before the penalty expired. Kuemper had to continue to be sharp as his club seemed to have no will to go on the attack and all the Wild were able to manage were a few token perimeter shots that mostly never made it through to Niemi. Minnesota would finally create a quality chance from in close on a power play as Mikael Granlund made a sharp cross-ice pass that found Nino Niederreiter who made no mistake as he lifted it over a sprawling Niemi. 1-1 game. The goal seemed to energize the Wild and they tried to keep working the puck deep in the Dallas zone the last few minutes of the period. It was a surprising ending to a sleepy 2nd period where the Wild were outshot 14-9.
3rd Period Thoughts: Dallas would strike just 1:01 into the 3rd as Honka skated in low and centered pass out front to Roussel who tipped it just behind the crossbar and in. 2-1 Stars. The Wild looked a little tired while the Stars seemed to raise the level of their game as they looked for a cushion for their lead. Minnesota would answer back as Niederreiter worked the puck deep into the Dallas zone and then pass it out to Jason Pominville for a shot he rang off the post who then gathered up the rebound and fired another shot that went over the arm of a sprawling Niemi to strike the post again. As the puck bounced into the blue paint it was jammed home by Erik Haula tying the game at 2-2. It was a fantastic effort by the line that often used hustle over skill. Dallas would try to counter and they’d draw their first penalty of the night when Jonas Brodin hauled down Tyler Seguin. Minnesota kept themselves in a tight diamond formation in front of Kuemper and the Wild were able to block shots and get a few clears to keep the Stars at bey. It wasn’t without a little luck as Seguin rang a shot off the post. The Wild would get he kill but a few minutes later they’d find them down a man once again as Zach Parise drew a holding call in the offensive zone. On the power play the Stars found them frustrated by the aggressiveness of the Wild penalty kill that really kept the Stars from ever getting set up in the Minnesota zone with any level of comfort. With another big kill behind them the two clubs would go back to their chess match of move and counter move being wary of giving up an uncontested scoring chance. The game would then go to OT.
Overtime Thoughts: The Wild would start overtime with a fairly slow group of Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal and Ryan Suter. The Stars tried to press the attack early and at times the Wild struggled just to stay with the faster Dallas forwards. Minnesota’s next shift was marginally better as Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu and Jonas Brodin were sent. Granlund seemed to thrive with the extra ice, but Mikko Koivu has no idea what to do in 3-on-3 and his lack of comfort was exposed when he made a bad choice to dish a pass to Granlund who had no space only to get ran over on a check that turned into an odd-man rush the other way. As the Stars attacked in a 3-on-2, Koivu tried to defend the pass and Kuemper sat back in his crease as Jamie Benn sniped a shot from the high slot. 3-2 Dallas won in painful fashion over the Wild who continue to baffle fans by their decision making in 3-on-3 overtime (more on that later).
Beyond the ugly goal given up in overtime, Kuemper was more than adequate to give the Wild a chance to win this game. He made a number of high quality saves early to keep Minnesota in the game when it probably had no right to be. Kuemper had 27 saves in the loss. Defensively the Wild at times were a bit soft around Kuemper and that certainly had an effect on the outcome of the game.
Offensively the Wild had a few bursts and it was enough to push the game to overtime but that’s about all I can say about it without getting upset. The Wild were far too content with hanging out on the perimeter and doing rather little to pressure Antti Niemi throughout most of the game. I thought the best line of Haula, Pominville, Niederreiter came up with a big answer to Oleksiak’s goal. Yet its inexcusable that the Wild did not utilize them in overtime. The Wild chose to ice slower skaters in a part of the game that emphasizes speed and they got burned again. How many times must we learn this painful lesson that seemingly the rest of the league has learned a while ago? Its insane. It needs to stop now.
The Wild now have to regroup and get ready for what will be another tough battle in Winnipeg tomorrow evening. The Jets are playing well and at least as good as the Stars so the Wild cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves. The more we watch the team, the more it seems Bruce Boudreau is conflicted with the mis-matched pieces it is trying to win with and in a salary cap era you’re stuck trying to make due. Only the Wild can work this one out. A point tonight is ok, but we gave up two to Dallas so now they have leapfrogged us in the standings. Pretty tough to sugarcoat that fact, no matter how hard this organization tries to do so.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Tyler Graovac, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Pominville, Zack Mitchell, Chris Stewart, Jason Zucker, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, Mathew Dumba and Mike Reilly. Devan Dubnyk backed up Darcy Kuemper. Nate Prosser and Christoph Bertschy were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Jamie Oleksiak, 2nd Star Nino Niederreiter, 3rd Star Julius Honka
~ Attendance was 18,532 at American Airlines Arena.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the Florida-native is starting to settle in as a freshman with the Friars as he contributed a goal and an assist while playing for Providence’s 3rd line in their 5-4 win over Northeastern. Duhaime has 2 goals, 4 points, 14 PIM’s and is a -2 in 10 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL) ~ If you need any reason to be excited about the talented Russian, understand his totals as a 19-year old compare to similar starts for Evgeni Kuznetsov and Evgeni Malkin. He had an assist in Salavat Yulaev’s 4-3 OT win over Spartak Moskva. Kaprizov has 12 goals, 26 points, 62 PIM’s and is a +7 in 30 games.
D – Dmitri Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the Omsk, Russia-native registered a rare assist on Sunday as well as two shots on goal in the Wolves’ 5-3 win over Kingston. Sokolov has 3 assists, 17 points, 2 PIM’s and is a -7 in 19 games.