“The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, we don’t need no water, let the motherf%cker burn, burn motherf%cker, BURN!” is the classic tune Fire Water Burn by the Bloodhound Gang. I used to play it back in college after we’d have some fool set the fire alarms off for being stupid and forgetting about some food they were cooking in the dorm kitchen. It was meant to capture the snarky mood after such a lame false alarm. For whatever reason, its kind of how I feel about the Minnesota Wild’s season in its current trajectory.
Last season the team took offense to the cynical attitude and questioning by the media as it literally fell into the playoffs. The Wild have clinched a spot, but now the team seems to be bent on worsening their playoff position. Fans have now fallen into two camps, sarcastic and the homers pleading the madness stops and telling off those who are calling out the team to be fairweather fans. So as the league’s top team comes to town, the Capitals will likely do the Wild no favors. Can Minnesota surprise everyone; cynical and ardently hopeful fans alike by earning a win against Washington?
1st Period Thoughts: (sigh) I feel like I’ve written this paragraph 5-6 times the last few weeks. Minnesota had good effort and energy to start the game; carrying the play by racing to the loose pucks and sending shots on goal. Brayden Holtby was busy, but he didn’t have to contend with too many 2nd chances because the Wild had to commit so many players to the boards to win puck battles there they usually couldn’t spare more than one near the crease which made it pretty easy for him to do his job. Minnesota would draw a penalty as Dmitry Orlov tripped up Nino Niederreiter. On the power play the Wild’s puck movement was a bit slow and for whatever reason they seemed to be trying to set up Jason Pominville to be the triggerman from the point. Pominville fired a few shots wide of the mark which made for easy clears of the zone and Minnesota’s power play would come up empty. The Capitals stayed patient, weathered the Wild storm and then went on the counter attack. Nicklas Backstrom would steal a puck in the neutral zone and managed to find a little space and then sent a pass out front that T.J. Oshie directed on goal that snuck by Devan Dubnyk to give Washington a lead even though Minnesota had been carrying the play. 1-0 Capitals. The game would go even more haywire when Zach Parise had a nasty mid-ice collision with Washington’s Tom Wilson. In the collision the stick appeared to catch Parise up underneath the visor and the Wild alternate captain laid face down on the ice kicking his feet in pain. As the Wild training staff attended to Parise, you could see there was some blood on the ice and with the distressed way Parise was moving you had to fear he had suffered some kind of eye injury as he was led to the Minnesota locker room. Wilson would get a double-minor for high sticking and the Wild would go back on the power play. Minnesota started its 2nd unit on the man advantage where they used Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon as the triggermen but they couldn’t hit the net with their point shots which made for easy clears of the zone for the Capitals. As Minnesota bungled a few zone entries the home crowd started to aire its displeasure with a smattering of boo’s and the Wild just appeared to be disorganized. At one point they sent out Martin Hanzal to replace Parise on the power play which did not fail to be noticed by fans who were pretty annoyed over the personnel choice. Minnesota would again come up empty on the man advantage. Predictably, after the hit that knocked out Parise and their failed power play the Wild were feeling a little feisty and Chris Stewart would drop the gloves with Wilson. Stewart managed to get one punch in before Wilson tagged him with a big right hand that sent him to the ice and as he pulled Wilson down to the ice he punched the ice hard as Stewart fired a few late jabs that cut the Capitals’ tough guy. The period would end with both teams pushing and shoving and exchanging pleasantries meaning there is a fair chance there will be more fireworks later in the game.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would score just past the 2-minute mark of the 2nd as Martin Hanzal freed a puck near the crease that was pounced on by Pominville who jammed it by Holtby tying the game at 1-1. If there was anything the Wild should’ve circled in their game plan to try and beat the Eastern Conferences’ best team was to stay out of the penalty box. Minnesota failed mightily in that mission in the 2nd period. The Wild were fortunate to escape undamaged after Hanzal’s hooking penalty but you got the notion they were playing with fire as Alex Ovechkin was hanging out (mostly with no Wild players near him) near his favorite spot in the area around the left faceoff dot. Soon after the Wild got the big kill (and just after a nice save by Dubnyk on a Ovechkin wrist shot) they’d go back on the penalty kill as Nate Prosser was tagged for holding. The Capitals were patient and sure enough there was Ovechkin all alone just below the dot and they found him with a pass that he one-timed by Dubnyk. 2-1 Capitals. A few minutes later, Nino Niederreiter would get another penalty and again the response was fast on the power play as Washington seemed to set up a little faster than the Wild penalty kill and again they worked the puck to Ovechkin who was just above the dot this time and he rifled another one-timer by Dubnyk. 3-1 Wild. I do not understand how and why you don’t shadow Ovechkin and force the Capitals to find another way to score with the man advantage. The chippy play continued as Tom Wilson returned to the ice and he was looking to start more trouble with Chris Stewart, but nothing would come of it. Minnesota would cut the Capitals’ lead to one, as Jason Pominville’s shot would pop up into the air and Hanzal would chip a backhand by Holtby. The goal seemed to rekindle the Wild’s legs and they had a few promising efforts late in the period but couldn’t light the lamp. Mikael Granlund rang one of the crossbar in the closing seconds and Minnesota would skate into the 2nd intermission trailing 3-2. Minnesota was definitely are playing hard, but can they score when the Capitals will go into lockdown mode?
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota tried to press hard for a game tying goal but the Capitals started to being more aggressive with their physical game. The Wild did an ok job of trying to use its speed to create chances, especially from in close but they struggled to close the distance in order to be able to pounce on rebounds. Holtby was also very sharp, playing strong along the post and his glove hand was superb. The Wild would take another penalty midway through the period and the Capitals would again make Minnesota pay on the man advantage as Alex Ovechkin was again inexplicably left wide open to then snipe a shot from about the left faceoff dot. 4-2 Capitals. The Wild didn’t give up, and like Sunday they would get lucky with sort of a fluky goal as Jared Spurgeon stepped up to take a puck near the Capitals’ blueline and then fling a wrist shot that would hit Orlov and change directions and beat Holtby rather similar to Prosser’s goal against Detroit on Sunday. 4-3 game and Minnesota would throw everything they had at the Capitals. Minnesota would tie the game with just 26.6 left on a great diagonal skip pass by Jared Spurgeon which found Eric Staal on the back door for an easy goal. Washington would challenge the play saying it was offsides but the review would confirm the Wild waited for players to touch up before resuming the attack. The goal stood and we’d go to overtime despite a pretty angry Washington bench who were insistent the play was offsides.
Overtime Thoughts: Minnesota tried to be aggressive in overtime and their best chance came off a nice diagonal pass by Jonas Brodin to a crashing Mikko Koivu that he got a stick on but the puck hit Holtby in the chest and he was able to sweep away the rebound. Minnesota was getting caught pinching a little too deep in the Washington end of the ice in overtime. The Capitals would recover and it was Marcus Johansson finding T.J. Oshie with a pass and he hammered a shot from just beneath the left faceoff dot that beat Dubnyk under the arm to give Washington a 5-4 victory.
I will dispense from the normal assessment of Devan Dubnyk and simply offer this. He gave up 5 goals on 20 shots, with 4 goals coming from the same part of the ice. He has to be better if the Wild were to have a chance in this game let alone against anyone else. I am not buying the post-game excuses that because the Capitals had T.J. Oshie in the middle of the ice that meant they had to leave Alex Ovechkin all by himself on the power play. Ovechkin scored 3 times on the power play, all from the same spot as if it was a surprise. It was the first time he’s ever done that, so obviously other teams took steps to take that play away and he failed to get a hat trick in that manner. That is the kind of thing that causes fans to begin to question the coaching staff. Anyone who has watched any hockey know that is the Capitals’ go to play, especially on the man advantage. We got a point but it feels like we threw away a good chance to get two points this evening.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, Martin Hanzal, Jason Pominville, Erik Haula, Chris Stewart, Ryan White, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Mathew Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Nate Prosser. Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk. Jordan Schroeder, Joel Eriksson Ek and Christian Folin were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Alex Ovechkin, 2nd Star Nicklas Backstrom, 3rd Star Jared Spurgeon
~ Attendance was 19,188 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the Russian forward is trying to do what he did in the regular season for the Wolves by lighting the lamp as often as possible. He had a goal, 9 shots on goal in Sudbury’s 5-1 loss on Sunday. Sokolov has 2 goals, 3 points, and is a -1 in 2 playoff games.