Last night we would’ve liked to have provided you our normal in-depth game recap but unfortunately our internet provider was having technical difficulties until the very end of the 2nd period in Minnesota’s 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary. It is fitting that the internet returned as the Wild finally woke up and started playing well enough to get back into the game in the 3rd period. Ultimately they still lost, but sometimes it takes a little while to get things fixed. The problem is, the Wild don’t have much more time to figure it out.
At least it doesn’t appear that way. It seems like just about any given night the Central Division teams win 3/4ths of the games outside of their division so that means there are very few opportunities to really gain ground in the standings. In many cases, you simply hope to hold your place. With a 4-point swing potentially at stake can the Wild earn a big win in Chicago?
1st Period Thoughts: So at the drop of the puck, NBC Sports Network’s Mike “Doc” Emrick decided to talk about Matt Cullen (mostly due to the fact that he was shown on the bench. One of the stats discussed was the fact that Cullen is 41 years old. To which I think to myself “hey, I’m 41 years old as well.” Just one of those factoids that come up during games, but especially for players on the upper end of the age spectrum (the NBC talking heads brought up Jaromir Jagr’s 45 years of age). While I realize that I’m in the mid-part of my life, I don’t like to think of it as being “old.” Age should be thought of really just a number, and not an indication of how you should live your life. So you just keep doing you Cullen. While both teams are getting some zone time in these first 4-5 minutes of the period, it feels a bit like both teams are simply testing the water. I just worry that the Wild will only test the water all night, where as the Blackhawks will dive right in and make a painful showing. Especially when you see moments like the chances given to Tommy Wingels and Jonathan Toews. Thankfully the post came into play with Wingels shot and a wide shot for Toews. Watching the time tick away in this period, it’s starting to feel more like the Blackhawks are being allowed to shoot fish in a barrel, meaning the Wild are making things just too easy for Chicago. And here’s another tidbit of trivia in this game, they just showed a picture of the American Hockey League days of tonight’s coaches, that showed that Bruce Boudreau and Joel Quenneville were on a team together. But we then have to go back to watching Chicago skate circles around Minnesota. While in the Minnesota zone, I’m seeing too much standing around by the Wild players, and it’s a good thing that Devan Dubnyk is looking as sharp as he has so far. But there’s a lot of hockey left, and when you have to be the final stand of defense for skaters showing little fire, it’s draining. While NBC Sports doesn’t keep a shot clock on the screen at all times, it should come as no surprise to most Wild fans, that Minnesota is getting outshot, at an almost 2-to-1 ration. One stat that I wish was kept sometimes was clearing attempts, as I’d be curious what the Wild’s success rate was, because it feel like it would be rather low. And it’s that inability to clear the puck, combined with such “strong” defensive ability that allowed Brent Seabrook to get the first goal of the night after being benched last night. Boudreau would challenge the goal due to being offsides. It looks like Nick Schmaltz was possibly over the blue line before Patrick Kane crossed the blue line. While it looked offsides to me, the linesmen determined that it was after review. And to add insult to injury, the Wild are now on the penalty kill for delay of game. Sometimes I wish the NHL reviewed all goals, just like the NCAA reviews all touchdowns. Near the end of the delay of game penalty, Zach Parise and Eric Staal making a serious push for the equalizer, but it would not come to be. And as the period winds down, the shots keep coming in for Chicago in droves, but mere trickles for Minnesota. It is beyond frustrating to watch this team fail time and time again at clearing the zone. When you spend as much time as the Wild do in their own zone, it’s hard to put up any kind of offense. When it comes to pet peeves, it’s almost as annoying as the amount of time this team spends in the penalty box. Here you go for stats. The Blackhawks attempted 40 shots on goal, of which 14 counted as bona fide shots. The Wild got only five shots on goal. It’s hard to win games with those kinds of numbers. And if this is all we see tonight, it’s going to make for a long night.
2nd Period Thoughts: I hate to even mention it, but there’s been one penalty in this game. That lone penalty wasn’t for any sort of stick infraction, only being called for delay of game. It’s mildly refreshing. However, early in this period we’re already spending too much time in the Minnesota zone (no shock there). You have to wonder if this lackluster season is what finally sends General Manager Chuck Fletcher out of town. During the pre-game broadcast, Fletcher was on a list of GMs across the league who have contracts expiring. It would be nice if owner Craig Leipold decided that the Fletcher experiment isn’t working. Especially considering that Fletcher seems to make more coaching decisions than Boudreau. It would be interesting to see how Parise, Ryan Suter, and Mikko Koivu would function if their biggest ego stroker (Fletcher) was gone. It makes you start to wonder if Mike Yeo wasn’t the issue. If our head coaches aren’t allowed to make coaching decisions, then who would want to coach this team? Or would Leipold get us another guy who lets the players make decisions that put the general manager and coaches in a tight place? Would we get another general manager that would give players like Koivu an underserved contract extension? As you can see, I’m venting about management rather than the game. There’s nothing going on in the game worth talking about, so it makes sense to vent about management issues that are making an impact on this team. Per Doc Emrick, there’s a lot of hockey yet to be played, but that almost feels like a punishment for Wild fans. And as I daydream slightly of better days, Jonas Brodin blasts a puck from the blueline that deflected off of Wingels’ stick, and over the shoulder of goaltender Anton Forsberg. While I wasn’t expecting that, I have to admit I’m glad someone decided to finally get the puck at the net. And of course Brodin’s goal is spurring Chicago to come on strong instead of Minnesota. The first true power play of the game would be awarded to Minnesota after Connor Murphy was called for holding. Now whether they manage to do anything with it has yet to be seen. They’ve definitely had a better second period than they had a first period, so hopefully the power play will be better than we would normally expect. But the last 30 seconds of the power play weren’t exactly what you want. And it doesn’t help when Parise has a prime scoring chance in his normal wheelhouse, and he sends it wide. The longer Parise goes without a goal, the more his teammate are going to try and set him up to the detriment of the team. Watch, it will happen. In the waning seconds of the period, Mikael Granlund would get a great shot on goal, but Forsberg would come up big. I guess at this point we should count our lucky stars that this is currently a tied game.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well the first penalty of the period would go to Marcus Foligno for taking out Jan Rutta. The Wild have been very disciplined so far in this game when it comes to penalties, that you don’t want them to get into penalty trouble. Instead of the Blackhawks coming out strong in their power play, it would be the Wild making scoring chances while shorthanded. Considering how few chances Minnesota have had, you almost need them to score any chance they get. And then Chicago would even up the penalties with Kane heading to the box for tripping Charlie Coyle. It’s not often Kane is sent to the box, so you hope the Wild do something with the time he is forced to sit out. And just when you think that, the most unlikely player to score, does just that. First Granlund passes the puck between his legs, to a skating Koivu out of the zone, who then ends up passing to Suter, who buries the puck behind Forsberg. And now that the Wild have the first lead of the game, we should expect Chicago to come out with guns blazing. There have been moments where I’m thinking “oh crap, here it comes” and then somebody’s stick breaks up the shot or pass, or someone takes the body and blocks a shot. However, they’re still struggling at getting the puck out of the zone more times than not. While he hasn’t scored tonight, one player who is seriously trying to get back on the goal scoring list is Jason Zucker. He’s been a bit MIA in recent games, which is hard when you need him to be on fire every night. In fact, Koivu and Granlund are also have great games tonight. They’re getting looks, and while they’re getting close, if they keep applying this kind of pressure tonight and in future games, this team could win more games than lose. With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, Brodin would be called for hooking. Just what this team needs, a stick infraction penalty late in a game against Chicago, in Chicago, where Chicago is losing. Not excatly a good combination. The frustrating part is that Ryan Hartman got away with holding Brodin’s stick which was then called for hooking. Daniel Winnik would get a great, hard fought, short handed break away, which might have been the most exciting part of the Blackhawks power play. With just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Granlund would get slashed on an odd-man rush, so the Wild would get another shot at the man advantage. Chicago would kill the penalty and pull Forsberg. However, it would not be enough for the Blackhawks, who would end up on the losing end in regulation. This is definitely the kind of self-esteem building win that Minnesota needs. Now what they do with this win is yet to be seen.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Chris Stewart, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jason Zucker, Marcus Foligno, Daniel Winnik, Tyler Ennis, Mikael Granlund, Mike Reilly, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Nate Prosser, and Jared Spurgeon. Devan Dubnyk got the start with Alex Stalock serving as backup.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Ryan Suter; 2nd Star, Devan Dubnyk; 3rd Star, Brent Seabrook.
~ Attendance was 21,721 at United Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (15-12-6-3) 39pts 5th in the AHL Central
20.1% Power Play (7th in the AHL)
87.7% Penalty Kill (3rd in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #7 Sam Anas ~ 12G 15A = 27pts
2. #25 Justin Kloos ~ 10G 16A = 26pts
3. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 6G 20A = 26pts
4. #12 Pat Cannone ~ 11G 14A = 25pts
5. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 10G 8A = 18pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #3 Nick Seeler ~ 51 PIM’s
2. #44 Christoph Berschy ~ 36 PIM’s
3. #2 Alex Grant ~ 35 PIM’s
1. #34 Steve Michalek (8-3-3) 2.62GAA .919%SP
2. #35 Niklas Svedberg (7-7-3) 2.76GAA .909%SP 1SO
Recent Score: Iowa 4, Cleveland 1
Both clubs came into the game desperate for a win and the pace of play was fast where time and space were tough to come by. Iowa would strike first as Cal O’Reilly sniped a shot by Matiss Kivleniks to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. The 2nd period was more defensive in nature where Steve Michalek and Kivleniks were extremly sharp. Iowa would then add to their lead late in the 2nd as San Anas kept his hot-streak going with a pretty goal to make it 2-0 going into the 3rd. The Wild would strike again early in the 3rd as Nick Seeler stepped into a slap shot that rang off the post giving them a three goal lead on his first goal as a professional. Cleveland would cut the lead back to two, as Blake Siebenaler found the twin behind Michalek. Iowa would then seal the deal with an empty netter from Brennan Mennell to give the Wild a 4-1 victory. Michalek had 15 saves in the win.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ the skilled winger continues to be a source of consistency for the Otters as he earned 3rd star honors on Saturday with 2 assists (2 shots on goal) as Erie fell 4-3 in a shootout to Flint. Lodnia has 18 goals, 46 points, 18 PIM’s and is a +7 in 40 games.
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the sniper is settling back in to his normal role as the Wolves’ main triggerman after his time with Team Russia at the WJC’s the last two weeks. He had a goal (on his only shot) but was a -2 in Sudbury’s 3-2 loss to Niagara on Saturday. He followed up that effort with a goal and an assist (3 shots on goal) in the Wolves’ 3-2 loss to Hamilton. Sokolov has 20 goals, 38 points, 8 PIM’s and is a -12 in 35 games.
D – Braydyn Chizen (Kelowna, WHL) ~ the lanky defenseman has been finding his way onto the scoresheet more frequently lately as he had an assist in Kelowna’s 3-1 win over Calgary on Sunday. Chizen has 3 goals, 9 points, 30 PIM’s and is -2 in 30 games.