“Listen, we stunk in the 1st, we better come back in the 2nd. Resilient? You make us sound like we’re good- I’m done.” ~ Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau after Minnesota’s 5-4 loss to Winnipeg on Sunday
This was the scene after the Wild’s most recent loss, their 5th straight. Two questions from reporters and the Wild head coach was emotional and cut the post-game presser short before saying something worse. The reaction on Twitter was mostly sympathetic to their coach as the team has simply not performed with the urgency one would expect from a playoff team. Minnesota sports fans need little reason to be skeptical of their professional sports teams, history has taught us well in that regard. As the San Jose Sharks come to town the Wild begin all important homestand if the team is to salvage any chance at earning the top spot in the Central Division. While Minnesota has faded, Chicago seems to be getting better each night and currently hold a with the Wild holding a game in hand.
After the game the players held a ‘closed door meeting’ so what should we expect? Will this team re-focus and right the ship against the defending Western Conference champion? Congratulations folks, whether you are there or not, this organization is in panic mode. Usually when you panic around Sharks it doesn’t turn out too well. No doubt with the turmoil viewed from afar and mentioned by the media, the blood will be in the water. So will Minnesota stem the panic or will there be a feeding frenzy in St. Paul tonight?
1st Period Thoughts: A rare nice start for the Wild, where the club demonstrated good energy and keeping the game up tempo. I wonder if Minnesota’s confidence was bolstered by the late news that the Sharks were going to be without Marc-Edouard Vlasic who got hit with the flu. After an early fight between Minnesota’s Chris Stewart and the Sharks’ Michael Haley that seemed to get the team dialed in. Whatever it was, the Wild were able to tilt the play into San Jose’s end with a good forecheck and it was the veteran line of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Martin Hanzal causing some trouble in the Sharks’ zone. The Sharks had a good chance of their own as Patrick Marleau nearly cashed in on a wrap around only to be denied by Devan Dubnyk who looked a bit slow reacting to Marleau’s move. The Wild would draw the first power play of the game as Joel Ward hooked Jared Spurgeon. On the power play, the Wild moved the puck around well as they got the Sharks’ penalty kill to chase a bit and this opened some ice for Mathew Dumba to skate into the slot where ripped a shot by Martin Jones. 1-0 Wild. Minnesota continued to carry most of the play with strong play along the wall and nice, crisp passes. Minnesota came dangerously close to adding to its lead on a few occasions as they set up close chances for Hanzal and Parise but they couldn’t get anything by Jones. As the period went on I felt the Wild were trying to be too fancy with the puck, trying to set up tic-tac-toe plays instead of taking what the Sharks’ were giving them. This was especially true on the power play where the Wild had good puck movement that got the Sharks’ penalty killers having to move but as they opened up shooting lanes Minnesota inexplicably then would slow the play down allowing San Jose to recover and the opportunities were lost without so much as a shot being taken. That lack of urgency may come back to haunt them. Minnesota cannot afford to feel too confident, especially against a quality Sharks’ squad.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period had a very event-filled ending, but initially the game would slow down a bit. Minnesota seemed comfortable with its 1-goal lead and the team was looking for some kind of pretty play to extend their lead. This meant a lot of errant passes and the good things the Wild did in the 1st kind of faded to the point where the Sharks were winning the small battles for the puck along the wall. This meant the Sharks were able to create a few quality chances including a breakaway for Joonas Donskoi and as he tried to dust off a move he’d lose the puck right at the top of the crease and Dubnyk and the Wild lucked out. Yet Minnesota continued to let the Sharks hang around and it was only a matter of time before it hurt them. It would come after a failed puck battle in the Wild zone and David Schlemko would step into a slap shot that deflected off a few sticks and by Dubnyk. 1-1 game. Minnesota would answer right back just seconds later as Jason Pominville wouldn’t be denied near the right post and he’d deflect a puck off the back of Jones and in. 2-1 Wild. With the home crowd still worked up after Pominville’s goal, Zach Parise would outleg a Sharks player to the puck and then feed Charlie Coyle for a one-timer that beat Jones. 3-1 Wild just 15 seconds after Pominville’s goal. But Devan Dubnyk wanted to ‘do his part’ and he’d foolishly leave his crease to play a settle a slow moving puck for no reason and in the process lose it between his skates where it was swept up by Patrick Marleau who then slid a puck by the contorting goalie before he could reset in his crease. 3-2 just 15 seconds after Coyle’s goal on a completely boneheaded play by Dubnyk. The last few moments were anxious as I’m sure everyones’ nerves on the Wild bench had to have been a little frazzled after that crazy sequence of events. Dubnyk needs to stay in the crease, he’s a average to below average puckhandler for a goalie and his defense didn’t need his help and all he served to do was to get in the way, cause a turnover and give up a goal. We’ll see if that gaffe ends up hurting them even more later (knock on wood).
3rd Period Thoughts: The 3rd period clearly was about doing the little things right defensively and locking the game down as opposed to padding their lead. Minnesota seemed to commit themselves to working pucks deep and forcing the Sharks to waste precious time and energy trying to get the puck back. At times the Wild flirted with scoring as Jason Zucker set up Mikael Granlund for a shot off a 2-on-1 that was forced wide by Jones. The Sharks were only able to create a few shots from the perimeter, but Minnesota was working hard to tie up San Jose’s forwards so they couldn’t pounce on rebounds. I thought Dubnyk looked a little shaky on the few saves he had to make. The Sharks repeatedly set up Brent Burns for one-timers and luckily Dubnyk was reading those shots well and was able to get in front of them. Minnesota kept it simple and would come away with a big regulation win over San Jose.
Devan Dubnyk was not that great. In fact, he seemed to make just about every save a bit of an adventure and his gaffe with the puck nearly cost Minnesota the game. I think that stems from fatigue or a lack of focus and to me its clear he needs to be sat and Darcy Kuemper be given the chance to give Minnesota’s starter some rest. His rebound control is a bit rough, his angles and post-to-post movement is labored. Defensively, he got a better effort from his blueliners who did a good job at sweeping pucks out of danger and not allowing the Sharks to have much in the way of 2nd chance opportunities.
Offensively I thought the Wild were at their best taking the puck to the crease and if Jones wasn’t as sharp as he was Minnesota may have won 4 or 5 instead of just one. Mathew Dumba has been a bit of a hot hand as of late with his 3rd goal in the last 5 games and tonight he did a better job of picking his spots to join the attack. One player who perplexes me a bit is Jason Zucker who seems to be going way out of his way to try to be a playmaker instead taking his chances to shoot the puck. I think he’s at his best when he’s a little selfish and taking the chances that come his way instead of trying to be another Mikko Koivu on the ice.
It wasn’t the prettiest effort, but the Wild found a way to get it done. Chicago rallied back from a 3-goal deficit in the 3rd to force overtime against Vancouver but would only earn 1-point this evening meaning the Wild trail the Blackhawks by 6 points after tonight’s win over San Jose. At this point it was just good seeing this team playing with some confidence and a better overall effort. They’ll need to keep that up when Philadelphia comes to town.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Martin Hanzal, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Erik Haula, Chris Stewart, Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Mathew Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Gustav Olofsson. Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nate Prosser, Ryan White and Christian Folin were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Zach Parise, 2nd Star Charlie Coyle, 3rd Star Martin Hanzal
~ Attendance was 19,104 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Gustav Bouramman (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) ~ the Greyhounds are getting ready for what will be an intense playoff fight as one of the OHL’s favorites even though division rival Windsor is guaranteed to make it as the Memorial Cup Tournament host, and the offensive defenseman is set to be a big part of that run. He had an assist and was a +2 in Sault Ste. Marie’s 6-4 win over London who has another strong squad. Bouramman has 2 goals, 36 points, 44 PIM’s and is a +10 in 66 games.