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Tired Wild can’t find offense in 5-1 loss to Flames

When I purchased a house for the first time this summer I told people now my mindset has changed to two things.  When I wake up I now think of the grass in the spring, summer and fall and in the winter its all about snow.  So like many I came home from work and took out my snowblower and went to work, and when I wake up the next morning the driveway looks as though I never even touched it at all.  Its been this way the last 3 days and I’m not writing this to make you feel bad for me; its part of home ownership and I understand that.  Yet part of me wonders if this is how an NHL’er views a back-to-back.  Where you get a nice win the night before only to have to do it all over again the very next evening.

Minnesota is coming off a solid win over Edmonton, and now faces the feisty Calgary Flames in the classic Alberta back-to-back.  The Flames burned the Wild the last time the two clubs faced one another, can the Wild give Calgary a set back this time around?

1st Period Thoughts: In the first few minutes, I’m not sure if both teams are trying to feel each other out or things just look a bit sloppy because the Wild are tired from playing last night. The first bit of serious pressure by the Wild would come from Zach Parise who stole the puck from TJ Brodie along the far boards near mid-ice. Parise would get a nice break away of sorts, but Brian Elliott was up to the task. It also appears that tonight might end up being a more physical game, with players like Matthew Tkachuk throwing his body (and running his mouth) on the ice. Eric Staal would discover that early on. After the hard work by Parise, the puck would end up in the Wild zone, where the Flames made the most of the opportunity. The opening goal of the night would go to Alex Chiasson. The goal itself wasn’t thanks to any shot by Chiasson, as it went off his chest. Those are the kinds of bounces you hope don’t happen too often, because the Wild just might not have the energy tonight to bust out offense like they did last night in Edmonton. The tiredness is also exhibiting itself by taking the first penalty. Jason Zucker would get called for interference. It was a weak call in which Calgary should have been called for embellishment, and Bruce Boudreau game the officials a piece of his mind. Worse, they’re the same referees from last night. That power play would gift the Flames with another goal, this time by Sean Monahan. If the Wild want to keep their lead on Chicago and the rest of the Western Conference, playing a game like this, especially when they’re not going to be playing again until Saturday, cannot happen. Minnesota would get their first power play with Brodie getting called for hooking on Parise. With just over half of the man advantage, Jared Spurgeon would get called for tripping. To me, the penalty came about because Spurgeon wasn’t ready for a pass. The main takeaway in this first period, is that Calgary is playing their game, that being slow things down, use their bodies, and get into the heads of their opponents. Tonight, the Wild simply haven’t strong enough mentally or physically to win the battles. One of the players that has decided to play, it would be Chris Stewart. He’s using his size to power through and get pucks on net. Plus, he’s ready to try and deflect shots and passes. The Flames’ physical game would send them back to the penalty box, with Matt Stajan getting called for holding, which was really more of a headlock than a hold. Now if the Wild can either generate some offense, that would be nice. At the very least not take a penalty of their own, halfway through the man advantage would be nice. While a goal wouldn’t be scored, it was a victory of sorts because they put the pressure on Elliott and were getting shots. I’m still not a huge fan of Mikko Koivu, mostly due to his inflated salary, but he is a much different (and better) player this season. It’s great to see him willing to take shots on goal during the power play. Last season, he would have looked to pass. If you were to notice one thing so far, beyond the score, take a look at the Wild bench. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of communication with each other taking place. And another observation, Boudreau tends to give a lot of icetime to the fourth line, especially in back to back games. Lately, their play in general is deserving of ice time. They play a smart game and are willing to push and take shots on goal. The other benefit of their extra ice time, is that it helps give a little relief to the other three lines. Minnesota seemed to pick up the pace, spending more time in their offensive zone, which of course helped them generate scoring chances. Hopefully the picking up of the pace will carry on to the next 40 minutes.

2nd Period Thoughts: It’s clear that the intermission came at a bad time. The energy that the Wild generated in the last five or so minutes in the first has not carried over to the opening of the second. Interesting line chances would come early in the period. Replacing Charlie Coyle on the top line is now Jordan Schroeder. Considering how hard Schroeder has worked on the fourth line, it’s a deserved promotion. How long it lasts is yet to be seen. It would be nice if Coyle would figure what he’s doing soon, as it helps to have a center with some size. And it’s definitely something this teams needs come playoffs. With just under twelve minutes remaining in the period, Lance Bouma would take a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Minnesota wouldn’t get the same kind of zone presence that they did on the previous penalty. In the moments that they did keep the puck in the zone, it was almost like it took too much work to maintain the possession that there was little left to exert on actual offense. Where some teams are able to create offense just after their power play ended, tonight is the night where Minnesota takes a penalty of their own, this time Nino Niederreiter for roughing. It looked like Parise scored a short-handed goal, however it was waived off for contact with Elliott. Strangely enough, the officials were called to a somewhat lengthy chat on the headphones with Toronto. As expected, it remained a waived-off goal. This would be a nice kill for the Wild, keeping sticks in the way as well as creating some offensive pressure of their own. However as they pan the bench, you still see some dead faces, clearly showing their exhaustion. Yet, we still get to see speed and energy. The Wild’s second line with Zucker, Koivu, and Mikael Granlund would find some jump, with beautiful work of Zucker and Granlund in particular. The beauty would come from a much needed by Zucker, which of course makes this an attainable game. We’ve seen games this season where all it takes is the first goal by Minnesota to change things around when they’re losing. And as we are seeing, the first goal has Minnesota buzzing. Right about now, I’d like to see what the Wild’s power play could do. Of course the second line continues to push for more goals. I would also like to see Boudreau use the second line on a power play sometime instead of his normal power play lines. But then that line relies on Zucker, and to a lesser degree, Granlund’s speed and passing to make goals happen. You don’t get those same kinds of chances during the power play. In the waning seconds of the period, again the second line and in particular Zucker, would make their presence known. It would send Zucker as well as Kris Versteeg for Calgary to the box for roughing, although some questions by Calgary didn’t get an extra penalty for dropping his gloves and throwing a punch. But considering what we’ve seen of this officiating crew tonight and last night, I can’t say I’m surprised. Minnesota would head to the puck trailing by one goal.

3rd Period Thoughts: As you’re watching Coyle wonder what the heck is going on with him, there’s some possible relief coming. It was announced earlier today that Alex Tuch was being recalled from Iowa. It’s hard to say if he’s coming up because of Coyle’s struggles or if there’s someone else who needs some time away. I feel a need to point something out. I really do not like Matthew Tkachuk. It shouldn’t come as a shock, because I didn’t like his father, Keith Tkachuk either. I still vividly remember when he two-handed his stick across the throat of Wes Walz, and wasn’t called for it. The Wild would go back to the penalty box, with Parise called for slashing. Again, Boudreau showing his distaste for this officiating crew. The Flames power play would prove deadly, with Monahan scoring his second of the night, with Devan Dubnyk screened perfectly by Troy Brouwer. Remember how I wondered how long Schroeder would remain on the top line? Well, he’s back on the fourth line where I think he’s much more effective. Well, if you thought things would get better after the Monahan goal, the Flames would go up 4-1 with a goal by Deryk Engelland. However, considering how the series with Calgary has gone so far this season, I can’t say I’m completely surprised. As I mentioned earlier, it is the Flames playing their game. They live to slow the game down and to get on the power play. They don’t have the best power play, but they can make opponents pay for their infractions. So Schroeder has been moved again, in his journeyman’s role tonight. He’s finding time with Niederreiter and Staal as well. Considering how things are going, it’s clear to me that Boudreau is moving Schroeder around because it seems that he can trust him on just about any line. My guess is Boudreau is trying to find the best place for the guy that Schroeder is replacing on each line. And this game continues to get worse and worse. Calgary would get their fifth goal of the night by Micheal Ferland. Perhaps this is the kind of game Minnesota needs to remind them that there’s still a long way to go. That just because they’re sitting in first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference, that they cannot afford to get too big for their britches. Dubnyk has not had a great night, however he’s getting little in the way of support. As the old saying goes, the best defense is offense. Since they’re not getting much in the way of offense and not much more in the world of defense, it makes it hard for a goaltender to ultimately win it. Add that combined with tiredness isn’t the best way to play a game. However, I don’t want to give the team the benefit of an easy excuse like being tired. If they’re tired now, they better look at the schedule, because it’s going to be an absolute grind to the finish line. Thankfully this game is over. I’m tired and I deserve to find my pillow to rest my head. Now the Wild need to first get an earful and then head to bed themselves.

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild lineup this evening: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Tyler Graovac, Chris Stewart, Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Mathew Dumba, Mike Reilly and Christian Folin.  Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Nate Prosser was the lone scratch.

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Sean Monahan; 2nd Star, Brian Elliott; 3rd Star, Deryk Engelland.

~ Attendance was 18,044 at ScotiaBank Saddledome.

Iowa Wild Report:

The Minnesota Wild traded Marc Hagel, a hard-working forward for the Iowa Wild the last 4 years to the Ottawa Senators for ‘future considerations.’  He had 26 goals, 74 points in 192 games for Iowa.  Hagel was also very active in the Des Moines area, doing lots of charity work.

Wild Prospect Report:

C / W – Joel Eriksson Ek (Farjestads, SHL) ~ the lanky forward is back to being a key contributor for his club after a pretty good performance at the World Junior championships.  Eriksson Ek has 4 goals, 8 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +4 in 14 games.

About Derek Felska

I am a hockey blogger originally from Elk River, MN. I have been blogging about Minnesota hockey for over 13 years and I like to cover it from the NHL on down to High School hockey. I try to provide honest, objective perspective from a 'non-homer' sort of fan. I hope my work reflects this approach.

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