With the trade deadline approaching on February 26th, the rumors are really starting to fly and updates about which players get sat out of the lineup stirs tons of discussion from hockey mad fans on social media as pundits prognosticate about where deals will be made. Like the real estate cliche says, its all about location, location, location as is which players end up with which clubs. The last few seasons, the Wild have certainly been a part of those deals and having advanced beyond the first round only twice in the last 5 seasons of making the playoffs its safe to say most of those deals did not pay off as the franchise had hoped.
As a team battling for a spot in the post season, both the Minnesota Wild and the San Jose Sharks have no doubt had their names mentioned as potential trade destinations as clubs hope to make tweaks to their roster. Right now, the odds are that only one of these teams will make the playoffs. If you’d like to make a bet on the Sharks or Wild, then using a Bet365 promotional code is a great way to get started with hockey betting. Everyone wants to draft a Butch Goring like the New York Islanders did back in 1981 to lead them to a Stanley Cup but the fact we’re bringing up such an old example tells you exactly how many times those deadline deals really pay off. Can the Wild translate some of that momentum built up from a 3-game road sweep to earn another important win at home?
1st Period Thoughts: The opening period of this game seemed to lack the sharpness the team had during its road trip. Minnesota wasn’t connecting on passes and Minnesota had a number of ‘oh so close, but not quite’ plays of the puck. The Sharks were not super aggressive but they were not giving Minnesota much time and space at either end of the ice. The puck pressure by the Sharks was effective enough at creating turnovers and making it difficult for the Wild to get many clean looks at the goal. Minnesota would try to activate their defense to sustain some offensive zone pressure but they’d get caught as Mike Reilly would over skate a puck and the Sharks would counter attack and Jason Zucker would leave his man to try to shadow Jannik Hansen which left Joakim Ryan all by himself and he blasted a one timer top shelf by Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk was easily the best player on the ice for the Wild as he stopped the Sharks on a number of good chances from close range as he denied Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Lebanc and Melker Karlsson at point-blank range. Without Dubnyk’s alert play to stop those chances this game could have easily been 3-0 or 4-0. The Wild seemed to be trying to make the perfect pass instead of just taking what the Sharks were giving them. Minnesota did have a few quality chances of their own as Charlie Coyle hammered a shot on goal that drew a big rebound by Martin Jones who then got across to deny Tyler Ennis‘ rebound bid. Zucker had the best chance in the closing seconds of the period as he turned on the afterburners and flew by the Sharks defense but Jones was just able to dismiss his backhander and the Wild would go into the intermission trailing by one, outshot 17-10.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild was moving their feet well at the start and they came dangerously close to tying the game as Jason Zucker made a diagonal pass to Joel Eriksson Ek who was denied by a nice stop by Jones. The missed opportunity would be especially unfortunate as Reilly coughed up a puck in the neutral zone and the Sharks raced down the ice in a 2-on-1 where Lebanc fed a pass to Chris Tierney who made a quick little move to go forehand to backhand and up underneath the crossbar to extend San Jose’s lead to 2-0. Minnesota would try to answer back as the top line of Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund and Zucker would create a chance for Staal from the slot who let go a big shot that was kept out by the glove arm of Jones as Staal shook his head in disbelief. The Wild were working hard and it was creating opportunities as Jones denied Granlund who shoveled and hacked at the puck looking for a reward to no avail. Minnesota stayed persistent but they lucked out too as Barclay Goodrow let go a shot that snuck through 5-hole and thankfully it went just wide of the goal. The Wild would finally get on the scoreboard late in the period as Marcus Foligno worked a puck up to Jared Spurgeon who skated just beneath the right faceoff dot before centering a pass to Matt Cullen who deftly redirected it up and over the shoulder of Jones. 2-1 Sharks and the Wild had to feel like they had a chance going into the 3rd. Not a bad period, but Reilly is probably done for the night with two ugly decisions that have resulted in goals for San Jose.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild had good energy throughout the 3rd period as they seemed to have the urgency in their game as they worked for the game tying goal. Minnesota was activating their defense and trying just about everything in their bag of tricks to direct pucks on Martin Jones. The Sharks at times almost seemed content to just possess the puck and kill time in such a way it almost resembled 3-on-3 overtime with lots of weaving through the middle of the ice. One player who was particularly motivated was Mikael Granlund who repeatedly split the Sharks defense for chances on Jones, who was up the task and unfortunately he didn’t have any help with him to pounce on the rebounds. Zach Parise also seemed to have a little more jump in his skates and he’d help work pucks deep as Minnesota looked for an opening off the cycle. Dubnyk couldn’t afford to fall asleep even though the Wild had the ice tilted in San Jose’s zone for most of the period as he calmly denied Karlsson from in close. The Wild’s persistence would be rewarded as Eric Staal managed to sneak in a shot just inside the left post to tie the game at 2-2 on his 30th goal of the season. Minnesota seemed hungry and looked motivated for overtime as they still had a chance to win this game.
Overtime Thoughts: Minnesota flirted with disaster in overtime as long shifts had tired legs on the ice for an uncomfortable amount of time, but they’d get it together just in time to earn a dramatic victory. It started with some of the same maddening combinations of Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter who lack the wheels to really take full advantage of the open ice of overtime. Minnesota had Mikael Granlund out for nearly 2 minutes to start overtime and then give him a quick break and put him back out on the ice that nearly cost us a goal. Fortunately the Sharks didn’t execute that well and Minnesota would force a turnover from Brent Burns with less than a minute left and Jared Spurgeon found Jason Zucker with a pass that drew the defense towards him and the speedy winger passed it back to Spurgeon who one-timed it by a diving Jones to give the Wild a 3-2 victory. I don’t understand why Jason Zucker doesn’t get a look earlier into overtime as his speed and shifty-ness is perfectly suited to the open ice.
Devan Dubnyk was superb, making 26 saves in the victory. Early on when the Wild’s legs were not working too well, he was key in keeping Minnesota in the game with a number of top notch saves on chances from in close. Down the stretch, he continued to stonewall the Sharks and bought the team enough time to earn a win. I thought Nick Seeler and Jared Spurgeon were outstanding. Mike Reilly had a better 3rd period, but those mistakes early in the game nearly cost the team this evening.
Offensively the Wild created a plethora of chances throughout the 2nd and 3rd period. Martin Jones played a terrific game and Minnesota was attacking with speed and working pucks and bodies towards the goal but they were persistent and they got enough to send this one to overtime. The Staal, Granlund, Zucker line was again big for the Wild and probably deserved more than the 1 goal they had tonight. I thought Eriksson Ek had some great chances and it was good seeing an assertive Charlie Coyle using his strength to win battles along the boards.
This was a big come-from-behind win for the Wild and while you don’t want to give up a point to a Western Conference team battling for a playoff position it still put pressure on the other Conference teams that lost today in Anaheim and Blues respectively. Minnesota’s win gives them a 3-point cushion to stay a bit more comfortably in 3rd place in the Central Division. Now the Wild have another big opportunity against St. Louis on Tuesday.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Joel Eriksson Ek, Charlie Coyle, Tyler Ennis, Matt Cullen, Marcus Foligno, Daniel Winnik, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Seeler, Mike Reilly and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Gustav Olofsson was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Jared Spurgeon, 2nd Star Martin Jones, 3rd Star Devan Dubnyk
~ Attendance was 19,105 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ Crease and Assist: A legally compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog would like to congratulate Breck High School and Edina High School of Class A & AA respectively as your 2018 Minnesota High School Girls Hockey Champions! Congratulations to all of the Class A & AA teams that made it to the Tourney this year, it was great to see so many new teams make it. Extra congratulations to Eden Prairie’s Alexa Dobchuk on being named Girls High School Hockey Goaltender of the Year and Red Wing’s Taylor Heise being named 2018 Ms. Hockey Award winner.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ the junior defenseman continues to be on the Gophers’ top pairing and he had an assist in Minnesota’s 5-1 loss to Penn State on Friday. Sadek has 2 goals, 9 points, 36 PIM’s and is a +2 in 35 games.
C – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ he returned from Peyongchang and picked right up where he left off as he had an assist in Boston University’s 2-0 win over Vermont. He would have a goal (7 shots on goal) on Saturday in their 1-1 tie against the Catamounts. Greenway has 10 goals, 27 points, 44 PIM’s and is a +5 in 30 games.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman continues to lead the way for the Redhawks as he had an assist (4 shots on goal) and finished the night a +2 as Miami came from behind to defeat North Dakota 4-3 in overtime on Friday. Belpedio has 9 goals, 27 points, 40 PIM’s and is a +1 in 31 games.
LW – Avery Peterson (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the former Grand Rapids star is starting to find his groove again as he had an assist in the Bulldogs 8-0 rout of Western Michigan on Friday. 2014’s Mr. Hockey Award winner has 5 goals, 10 points, 23 PIM’s and is a +4 in 23 games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the freshman’s strong season continues as he netted a goal and an an assist in Minnesota-Duluth’s 8-0 demolition of Western Michigan. The former Lakeville South star has 5 goals, 20 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +7 in 24 games.
D – Nick Boka (Michigan, Big 10) ~ the junior defenseman is never going to be mistaken for a big point producer but he plays a simple game and he had an assist in Michigan’s 5-3 win over Arizona State. Boka has no goals, 5 points, 54 PIM’s and +13 in 33 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ early in the season, he was a regular on the scoresheet for the Otters but as their fortunes have turned sour they have coincided with his scoring drought. On Friday, he had an assist (5 shots on goal) in the Otters’ 4-1 win over Saginaw. The skilled winger might be rekindling his scoring touch as he had the game winner on Saturday in 2-1 victory over Sarnia. Lodnia has 21 goals, 56 points, 24 PIM’s and is a -2 in 59 games.
G – Dereck Baribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ sometimes as a goaltender you get spoiled with a ton of goal support and such was the case on Saturday as Baribeau had 28 saves in an 8-2 win over Chicoutimi. Baribeau has a 20-15 record, 3.01 goals against average and an .892% save percentage with 3 shutouts.
F – Kirill Kaprizov (‘Team Russia’, Olympics) ~ to say Kaprizov’s Olympics was memorable is underselling it a bit as he had a 4 point game in the Olympic Athletes from Russia’s gold medal victory. In fact, Kaprizov scored the game winning goal in a 4-3 overtime thriller as well as chipping in 3 assists. Kaprizov finishes the tournament with 5 goals, 9 points, 2 PIM’s and was a +7 in 6 Olympic games and finished as the tournament’s 2nd best scorer.