After the last season-long lockout in 2005, the league introduced the shootout to give fans the satisfaction of a winner and loser because so many complained about the preponderance of ties. For a while it was mildly appealing to end a game (after 5 minutes of overtime) with a glorified skills competition. As time went on the novelty wore off, and pretty soon fans were loathing the shootout so the league began to change overtime so most games would avoid a skills competition to decide who comes away with 2 points. 3 on 3 overtime has been a welcome change and far less games are going to the shootout but who knows maybe we’ll tire of that as well.
Back in 1967, some people saw the addition of the Los Angeles Kings as nothing more than a novelty. Afterall, hockey in the hot and sunny southern California seemed to be a bit of a reach for the NHL as they arrived at the same time as the Minnesota North Stars. Time has proven that move was a wise one on the part of the league and the Kings have been a successful market with a good fanbase. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild certainly caught fans attention with their winning ways in December and can they start a new winning streak in January or was that just another novelty?
1st Period Thoughts: It was a rare afternoon game for the Wild but Los Angeles looked like the team that hit the snooze button one too many times. The Wild had good puck pressure to start the game and Mikko Koivu gave Minnesota a lead after stealing a puck in the neutral zone and he’d skate in and fire a snap shot that snuck through Peter Budaj. 1-0 Wild. It was a soft goal given up by Budaj and should’ve been a sign to the Wild to pepper Budaj with more shots but Minnesota was pretty judicious in sending pucks on net. The Wild was trying to set a physical tone early in the game as Chris Stewart and Kurtis Gabriel were dishing out the hits with regularity. The Los Angeles Kings were not moving too well and the Wild were backchecking fairly well. Minnesota would add another goal as they worked a puck towards the Kings crease before Charlie Coyle jammed it by Budaj who seemed to be off his game. Kings Head Coach Daryl Sutter would call a timeout to refocus his club who was being outworked in nearly every facet of the game. Oddly enough, the Wild seemed to figure the game was in the bag and they started to get lazy and sloppy with the puck. Minnesota used area passes far too often which led to easy turnovers and the Wild didn’t seem to think there was any reason to keep sending shots on goal against a goaltender who was clearly struggling. It didn’t make any sense. The Kings didn’t exactly put Minnesota on its heels, but it was clear the Wild were starting to play with fire as Drew Doughty tried to channel his inner Serge Savard as he was dangling by Minnesota defenders with spin-a-ramas and sending shots through traffic. Darcy Kuemper didn’t have to be great, but the Wild were getting pinned in their own end with greater frequency. Especially the 4th line of Tyler Graovac, Stewart and Gabriel were resulting in some offensive pressure from the pop-gun attack Kings. The Wild still came away with a 2-0 lead going into the 2nd, but the it was troubling to see Minnesota playing with little urgency. Minnesota needs to step up its game so this game doesn’t become a debacle.
2nd Period Thoughts: Well speaking of that debacle, precisely what I feared took place in the 2nd period. The Wild kept their foot off the gas and the Kings spent most of the period in the Minnesota zone. Lazy area passes and the fact the Wild stopped moving their feet meant Minnesota was playing with fire all period long. It was just a matter of time before the Kings would start to cut into the Wild lead and it began on an unscreened shot off the rush by Jeff Carter that blew by Kuemper. It was the kind of soft goal that gave the Kings life and the home crowd a reason to wake up and become a factor in the game. Minnesota still did not take the hint that they need to start moving their feet and at least compel the Kings to play at least a little bit in their own end. Instead the Wild kept throwing the puck away and inviting the Kings onslaught. So the result was again predictable as the Kings got another goals as a puck went off the skate of Marian Gaborik and then the face of Ryan Suter and into the net. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau considered challening the play but after checking out the replay on the bench monitor decided it wasn’t worth it. With the game now tied at 2-2, the Wild were fortunate that Kuemper made a number of saves over the next few minutes to keep his club in the game as Minnesota was still sleepwalking until the 2nd period buzzer sounded. Minnesota was outshot 16-10 which sounds less one-sided than the period really was.
3rd Period Thoughts: The dumpster fire continued at the start of the 3rd as Jared Spurgeon was called for cross-checking just 7 seconds in giving the Kings a power play. Los Angeles would take full advantage of the power play as Jake Muzzin blasted a shot form the point, beaten short side by Kuemper who was sitting only a foot from the goal line instead of challenging it. 3-2 Kings with their first lead of the game. Minnesota appeared to finally want to play a skating game, but a ‘too many men’ penalty forced them to waste precious time defending instead of working for the equalizer. Minnesota would get another power play, but like many we’ve seen over the years, one could call it irrelevant. It’s hard to watch, when no one can ever get anything set up. While I’m not a big fan of passing just to pass, that would have been an improvement because they were never able to claim possession of the offensive zone with the puck. But then when they struggle to maintain anything resembling possession even strength, you can’t really hope it will happen with the man advantage. Yet with two minutes remaining in regulation, they managed to put pressure on the Kings which also forced Los Angeles to take a tripping call (Drew Doughty) while the Wild had the empty net. While the Wild can go 6-on-4 with just over a minute remaining, the Kings will be able to shoot on net with no risk of icing. The Kings would win the faceoff in their zone is dump it out of the zone. Just when you thought there was no way that it would end up being tied, Zach Parise would find a way go get the tying goal on the power play.
Overtime Notes: So as exciting as it was to tie up the game, and it looked like Minnesota was going to try and make a game of it during the overtime, ultimately it didn’t come to pass. There were the moments early in the extra session where it looked like they just might score the game winner, but just over three and a half minutes (you know, that point where you start to think it’s going to go to a shoot out), Tanner Pearson scored the game winner. Sure it’s one point, but when you were only trailing Chicago by one point, you wanted to keep that point differential in place. Now it will be two points, and you have to worry if the two points will grow into more.
~ The Wild roster this afternoon was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle, Jason Pominville, Tyler Graovac, Chris Stewart, Kurtis Gabriel, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Marco Scandella and Christian Folin. Devan Dubnyk backed up Darcy Kuemper. Nate Prosser and Jordan Schroeder were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Jeff Carter; 2nd Star, Drew Doughty; 3rd Star, Mikko Koivu
~ Attendance was 18,230 at Staples Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Avery Peterson (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the former Mr. Hockey recipient played in his first game with the Bulldogs since transferring from Nebraska-Omaha and he made it an impact for UMD by tallying a goal in their dramatic 3-2 OT win over Colorado College. The goal was also his first point as a Bulldog.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the former Team USA captain has had a rough season as he’s battled injuries but he also has the ability to be clutch and he was just that on Friday by chipping in two assists (4 shots on goal) as Miami upset St. Cloud State 3-2 in overtime. Belpedio has 3 goals, 8 points, 27 PIM’s and is -3 in 13 games.
D – Gustav Bouramman (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) ~ this has not be the big scoring season some may have expected from the Swedish blueliner who has struggled to find his way onto the scoresheet but he had an assist in the Greyhounds 6-5 win over Kitchener. Bouramman has a goal, 17 points, 24 PIM’s and is a +8 in 37 games.
C – Dmitri Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the ‘other’ Russian prospect in the Wild prospect pool continues to have an impressive campaign as he had 2 goals and an assist (3 shots on goal) in the Wolves’ 5-4 OT loss to London. The Omsk, Russia-native has 26 goals, 37 points, 4 PIM’s and is a -20 in 34 games.
High School Hockey Rankings:
Let’s Play Hockey released its latest set of rankings for Minnesota High School hockey at both the Class A and Class AA level for both boys and girls. You can see those rankings here. Here are the Top 10 for each.
3. St. Paul United
4. Proctor / Hermantown
5. Thief River Falls
7. New Prague
8. Delano / Rockford
10. Red Wing
2. Maple Grove
3. Eden Prairie
4. Elk River / Zimmerman
8. Lakeville South
10. Cretin-Derham Hall
3. St. Paul Academy
5. St. Cloud Cathedral
6. East Grand Forks
10. Hibbing / Chisholm
2. Elk River / Zimmerman
3. Grand Rapids
5. St. Thomas Academy
7. Lakeville North
8. Eden Prairie
10. Holy Family CatholicRead next
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