Trick or Treat!?! Happy Halloween to everyone across the State of Hockey. As temperatures start to approach freezing and the wind has that bite that seems to chill someone to their bones, it is beginning to truly feel like hockey season. I am lucky enough that I’m only talking about frost when I describe the cold. For those in the northern parts of Minnesota up near Duluth they already have snowfall and in the next few weeks high school hockey will be in full swing. Winnipeg is certainly no stranger to the cold but they are hoping to take a step closer to the post-season and with a mostly healthy lineup the locals have grown tired of excuses and being also rans.
Fans in the State of Hockey are just as demanding as those north of the border, and they have been pleased the team is starting to play like playoff team again after back-to-back wins over Metropolitan division clubs in the Islanders and Penguins. Can Minnesota continue to use this homestand to start climbing the Central division ladder or will they discover the bitter taste of nasty Halloween candy?
1st Period Thoughts: Dare I say the Wild were a bit zombie-like to start the game. Minnesota wasn’t moving its feet all that well and the result was they found themselves pinned in their own end by the Jets. Alex Stalock found himself under siege and the Jets appeared to score early in the game as Tyler Myers appeared to direct a puck from his shoulder into the back of the net. The goal was immediately waived off by NHL referee Dean Morton. The play would be reviewed but ultimately sort of called off as Morton explained to ‘Toronto’ he had waived the goal off because of a hand pass (where the puck struck the glove of) Joel Armia. The Jets bench was not happy with the call and to be honest they had a fair reason to be annoyed but Minnesota lucked out. It wouldn’t matter a few minutes later the Wild would get bottled up in their own end, and Minnesota couldn’t seem to get the puck away from Blake Wheeler who used his 6’5″ frame to protect the puck and he’d work the puck over to Mark Scheifele who hammered a shot on goal that Stalock stopped but he gave up a rebound that was pounced on by Kyle Connor for an easy goal. 1-0 Jets. The goal seemed to finally awaken the Wild a bit and they’d get another gift from Winnipeg as Brendan Lemieux would put Minnesota on the power play with an interference penalty. On the man advantage the Wild were pulling the trigger early and often as Jared Spurgeon stepped into a few slap shots. Moments after that Mikko Koivu set up Mikael Granlund for a one-time chance that he fired right into the face of the mask of Conor Hellebuyck that drew a whistle as his mask fell away. Hellebuyck was ok, and Minnesota would renew their attack. The Wild started to work the puck deep and the Jets seemed to give Minnesota some time and space but all too often we were settling the puck instead of taking the available one-timer allowing Hellebuyck to square up to the shooter. The Jets would nearly cash in late in the period as Wheeler turned on the afterburners and blew by Tyler Ennis for a swooping move near the Wild’s crease that was stopped by an acrobatic save by Stalock. Minnesota was lucky Stalock was as sharp as he was, because they probably should’ve been trailing by more than one at this point. The Jets outshot the Wild 11-7. They better pick it up in the 2nd.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd was mostly more of the same. The Wild’s effort was lacking urgency and all too often they found themselves a step too slow to where they needed to be. Conor Hellebuyck didn’t get tested much beyond a few weak shots from the point. When you consider the Wild had 3 power plays in the period, its pretty embarrassing. The same basic cause, Ryan Suter quarterbacking the power play and slowing the puck movement down and as the opponent cover the other options it leaves Suter to send a wrist shot on goal that is an easy save for the Jets goalie. Making matters worse, the best chances on the power play were for the shorthanded team as Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler both had breakaway chances only to miss the mark. The only positive effect of the Minnesota power plays was the Jets were not able to bottle the Wild into its own end. There was some feisty play in the period as Jacob Trouba tried to run Nino Niederreiter‘s face through the glass to no call and the Swiss winger would try to throw a bit of an elbow to Bryan Little which was noticed by the officials and he’d earn a penalty. Luckily Stalock was still pretty sharp in his crease and the Wild were able to escape unscathed. In the waning moments of the period the chippy play continued as Patrik Laine took offense to a hit he took from Marcus Foligno and he’d give a wicked two-handed lumberjack slash to the back of Foligno’s legs that sent him to the ice. The officials felt Foligno played up the two-handed whack so they sent him to the penalty box for embellishment that drew the home crowd’s ire. The period would come to an end, but the fans should’ve saved their disdain for the Wild who let so many opportunities come up empty. Minnesota outshot Winnipeg 10-6 that period.
3rd Period Thoughts: In a way this period was insulting on a few levels. First, was the effort the Wild put forth for the last 14 1/2 minutes of the game as threw about everything they had in an unsuccessful attempt to tie the game. As I saw another person on Twitter say, “where was that the whole game.” Exactly. The Wild seemed to just kind of hang out for most of the game and suddenly they had all of the energy in the world to win races to loose pucks to turn this into a real game. It doesn’t make sense. While the team had some good chances they got stymied in the biggest moments as Josh Morrissey neutralized Eric Staal from pouncing on a rebound off a nice shot by Suter in the closing minute of the game. Yes, the goal from Luke Kunin was pretty and it certainly ignited the comeback bid. However, the team didn’t get many clean looks from in close down the stretch. The Wild need to play with more killer instinct in around the opposing crease but it was a reasonable finish. Yet why did it take that long for this team to start really pouring it on. The other insult of course was the rancid turnover by Mathew Dumba with about 40 seconds into the 3rd when he made a no-look behind the back pass that went right to Nikolaj Ehlers who gathered it up and moved in and deked out Stalock for an easy goal. I can’t fault Stalock, Dumba left him completely out to dry with that horrendous turnover. Dumba was nailed to the bench after that garbage shift and I would not be surprised if he watched the team’s game against Montreal from the press box. The Wild fall 2-1.
Stalock had a reasonable game, making 17 saves in the loss. He gave the team a chance to win and even though he tried to deflect some of the blame from Dumba by saying he should’ve made the save, but he’s being far too kind. Mathew Dumba was an absolute trabashamockery tonight. Turnovers, poor decisions with the puck and without it made him a disaster waiting to happen this evening and his gaffe was directly responsible for their loss this evening. On the bright side, Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson were actually pretty good. Reilly continues to look more and more comfortable each game he plays and is starting to get time on both special teams which demonstrates the trust the coaching staff has in him. The penalty kill was perfect this evening.
Offensively it was too little, too late for the Wild. The Wild waited far too long to really press the attack and work pucks deep into the Jets’ zone. Jason Zucker didn’t seem to want to shoot the puck and Minnesota seemed a little weak in and around the blue paint. Minnesota will have to show more want to against Montreal on Thursday.
This was a game that was ripe for the taking. The Jets were just ok and they let the Wild hang around most of the game. Minnesota needed to find away to earn two points and instead they lose two. A 4-point swing in the wrong direction that keeps the Wild in the Central Division cellar. The Wild had plenty of chances on the power play but the sense of urgency didn’t seem to be there. I am not sure what the the Wild are waiting for. No matter what, it better get better soon in November because the natives are already getting restless at this mediocre start.
~ The Wild lineup was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek, Chris Stewart, Matt Cullen, Daniel Winnik, Luke Kunin, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Kyle Quincey was the lone healthy scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Conor Hellebuyck, 2nd Star Nikolaj Ehlers, 3rd Star Luke Kunin
~ Attendance was 18,814 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the skilled winger had a solid night for the Wolves with two helpers and 8 shots on goal in Sudbury’s 5-2 win over Niagara on Saturday night. He had another helper on Sunday against Erie in a 4-1 loss. Sokolov has 8 goals, 19 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +3 in 15 games.
D – Nick Boka (Michigan, Big 10) ~ the junior defenseman doesn’t put up a lot of points, but he’s playing on the Wolverines’ top pairing. On Saturday he had a solid evening registering his first assist of the season in Michigan’s 5-2 win over Penn State.
G – Dereck Barribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ the goaltender had a bit of a rough patch last week but he recovered nicely on Sunday making 23 saves in the Remparts’ 4-3 overtime win over Sherbrooke. The right catching Barribeau has a 7-3 record, a 2.77 goals against average and an .898 save percentage with one shutout this season.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ the Novi, Michigan native had an assist and a shot on goal in the Otters’ 4-1 win over Sudbury on Sunday. Lodnia has 9 goals, 13 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +2 in 15 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow) ~ the super skilled winger continues to have a strong season as he chipped in two helpers, including setting up the game-winning goal in CSKA’s 2-1 overtime victory over Avangard Omsk. Kaprizov has 12 goals, 25 points, 0 PIM’s and is a +10 in 22 games.