There must be someone at the NHL that laughs when they look at the schedule this time of year. A compressed schedule that makes it a knife fight in a phone booth the last few spots in the playoffs. Fans spend lots of time scoreboard watching and every night is its own roller coaster of emotions as you look to see if your team gained ground or lost it.
Boston isn’t quite in the same situation. They’re comfortably in the playoffs and their main ‘what if’ is can they wrest 1st place from the Tampa Bay Lightning whom the Bruins have two games in hand on. Minnesota has had its share of back to backs this month, but can they secure another 2 points with a victory over the red hot Bruins?
1st Period Thoughts: Our apologies, we missed the first six minutes or so of the game. Here in Wisconsin, we have spring elections, and we got waylaid by one of the candidates for county judge. By the time we got away from him, the game had already started. Fortunately for us, we missed no scoring. And based by the crowd noise, it doesn’t sound like the Wild are having that great a period. I’m hoping this is simply a repeat of last night’s first period, which was pretty uninspired. In what I’ve seen so far, I’m not sure how I’m feeling about Alex Stalock tonight. There have been a couple reactions to the puck where I have to wonder if he’s seeing it and reacting like he normally would. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but it’s just a feeling I’m having. Although I’m glad we’re not seeing a back-to-back Devan Dubnyk outing. Minnesota would get the first power play after Boston’s Torey Krug was called for high-sticking. Tonight’s first power play is slightly less narcolepsy-inducing with Mikael Granlund on the ice with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. I know we frequently rag on Ryan Suter here, but there’s one thing he can usually do pretty well and that’s maintaining the zone, especially on the power play. The Jason Zucker and Eric Staal power play unit did create some pressure on Tuukka Rask but the score remains scoreless after the Bruins killed the penalty. Again, the third and fourth lines are creating scoring chances. Matt Cullen certainly had a slow start this season, but as this season has gone, he is a steady presence on the ice, and from time to time he notches a goal here and there. And that’s what you want from the third and fourth lines. You want a steady presence and to take advantage when scoring chances come your way. With about four minutes remaining in the period, again we’re seeing of the sloppy passing and, to a degree, skating issues we saw last night. It’s hard to see on both ends of the ice. Minnesota would head back to the power play with Brandon Carlo getting called for holding. I have to admit, I’m liking that we’re seeing more the Zucker-Staal-Nino Niederreiter line on the power play. And in fact on both power play lines, I have to say I liked what seemed like a greater sense of urgency. I wish both power play units were equal in that urgency, meaning that the one line you know I’m talking about would pick things up a bit. Stalock would get a rushed flurry in front of him in the waning seconds. While it was hard for him to see the bouncing puck, it looked like he remained calm, and was eventually able to freeze the puck. The end of the period saw several shots come Stalock’s way, but in the end he was able to keep Boston off the scoresheet. I’ll take a 0-0 at the first intermission, especially after playing last night.
2nd Period Thoughts: In the early moments of the period, it looked for the most part that the Wild skaters had a better sense of knowing where each other is on the ice. It looked like the Bruins were going to be the first ones on the score sheet, as it looked like Josh Holden had scored. However the goal was disallowed after Riley Nash took Stalock out of play. There’s going to be a lot of talk about this, as did Stalock waste time in trying to sell the call or was he genuinely unable to get back into play. However, the Bruins would get their revenge quickly as Patrice Bergeron would make a great pass to David Pastrnak. What is frustrating about this one, is that Matt Dumba had more than enough time and space to clear the puck with conviction, but instead he goes for the weak poke at the puck. When you get the time to clear the puck, you have to clear it. But now once again, the Wild have to play catch up with one of the better teams in the league. However since the Bruins aren’t at the same level of awesomeness as the Nashville Predators and it’s the second night of the back-to-back, we’re probably not going to see the same level of intensity. I wish I knew when we will see a Wild team that takes every opponent seriously. Sure, they may be a bit weary after last night’s game, but let’s not forget that they had four days off before the Nashville game. Remember when it looked like they might have a better idea where their teammates are on the ice? I’m going to take that back. You get Rask on his back behind the net and no one is able to corral the puck and no one is in front even if they were able to corral it. With a line change came pressure by Zucker. It look like he scored, the officials had blown the whistle, but the question was where was the puck when the whistle blew. The officials would take a look at it but it doesn’t seem to have gone to Toronto. The call on the ice of no goal would stand. Now we need the Wild to use that frustration to their advantage. Instead, Nick Seeler would get called for roughing and give the Bruins their first power play of the night. One thing is obvious, the penalty killers are giving Pastrnak too much space and time on Stalock’s stick side. And just as this penalty was killed, Jonas Brodin would get called for high-sticking. Normally, Brodin plays a steady, quiet game. He’s not a flashy defenseman. In fact most nights, you don’t even notice him until he makes a mistake, and taking a penalty would qualify as a mistake. Hopefully this time, the penalty killers have a better idea where Pastrnak is at all times. They would again kill the penalty kill, Parise even getting a decent short handed chance. One thing I’m gone to say is that the linesmen have been horrid tonight. Many missed offsides calls. Both coaches could ask for goal reviews due to skaters being offsides and probably win. Of course Bruce Boudreau would probably pick the wrong one to challenge. And the referees are sure quick to blow the whistle when shots go on Rask. Well, everyone should be relieved that this one is still 1-0 Bruins.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well something seems to have woken the Wild up during the intermission. There seems to be a little energy and little more focus. I’m sure I’ll come to regret those thoughts later in the period, but in these early moments I’m appreciating what I’m seeing. However, they need to figure out a way to turn their chances and pushes into actual goals. Niederreiter got a great scoring chance after Staal won the draw in the offensive zone, but was rewarded by a loud clank off the pipes. While Niederreiter has been having some decent games, I have to say I miss the presence of Granlund on the line with Zucker and Staal. I have to wonder if that change has been made since Koivu gets booted from the face off dot so much, that Boudreau wants another forward on that line who is comfortable playing center as well. Staal has also been getting booted from time to time. While Niederreiter isn’t a natural center, he seems comfortable enough taking the faceoff when called to do so. What the Wild skaters need to figure out is how to shoot lower on Rask. So many of the shots land in the middle of his chest. If they could get lower on Rask, he’s going to have to give up a few rebounds. Of course, we need to have skaters then parked in front of the net fighting for the loose puck. It also means people have to be willing to go into the tough areas. Perhaps I telepathically sent a message to the Wild, as it was (surprisingly) Koivu who went to the net and finally got one past Rask. My partner in crime has been watching Twitter tonight and so many are saying “Rask is unbeatable.” No he’s not. You just have to be willing to take the puck to the net. Yes, you’re going to get some bumps and bruises doing so, but it’s what it’s going to take. And come playoffs, you have to go into those tough spots on the ice if you want to advance. And they seem to be doing that, Cullen also getting a great scoring chance but it went off the pipe on Rask’s blocker side. But then Cullen is one of the players who doesn’t seem to be afraid to get in on net. Funny how the oldest player on the team is often the guy willing to leave everything on the ice. I wish we could get some of his never-say-die attitude in his teammates. I will say this. For the first time in a long time, with a game that appears that it will go to overtime, it’s the Wild looking to end this one in regulation. They’re skating harder for the puck than the Bruins, who look like they’re looking for overtime. We’ll take the point, but now is the time to be successful in overtime. With a tiebreaker being the regulation-and-overtime-win, you need the overtime win.
Overtime Thoughts: Well, I barely had time to think. As the NBCSN people were saying “you have to watch for Brad Marchand at all times.” Do you think they did that? No. Dumba was having moments where he was more concerned with himself than the other people on the ice. So 28 seconds in to the overtime session, Marchand scored his fifth overtime winner. I can’t say it’s a surprise. The Wild need to figure out the overtime, because that could be key to the playoffs.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Joel Ericksson Ek, Jason Zucker, Marcus Foligno, Nino Niederreiter, Daniel Winnik, Zack Mitchell, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Nick Seeler, and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock got the start in net with Devan Dubnyk sitting as the backup.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Tuukka Rask, 2nd Star Alex Stalock, 3rd Star Mikko Koivu
~ Attendance was 19,183 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ Crease and Assist: A legally compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog would like to congratulate St. Norbert’s University on winning the Division III Men’s Hockey Championship with a 3-2 double overtime victory over Salve Regina on Saturday. It is the Green Knights’ 5th Division III national championship in the last 12 years.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 2, Grand Rapids 3 SO
With a tight playoff race of its own in a super competitive AHL Central division, the pressure was on Iowa to rally back after losing the night before to the Griffins when the puck dropped Saturday night. Iowa thought a good start might be a omen of good things to come as Sam Anas pounced on a loose puck out in front of Tom McCollum to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. In the 2nd period the Griffins would strike twice as Axel Holmstrom and Matt Puempel rifled a shot by Steve Michalek to give Grand Rapids a 2-1 lead going into the 3rd. At this point, Iowa had to be both annoyed and feeling a little lucky as penalties put the Wild at a disadvantage throughout most of the 2nd. Iowa would rally in the 3rd and they’d get the equalizer as Kyle Rau blasted a shot McCollum off a nice pass from Gerry Fitzgerald. Regulation and overtime wouldn’t be enough and the game would go to a shootout. Iowa couldn’t find the back of the net when needed it the most as Anas and Rau came up empty in the shootout while Holmstrom and Filip Hronek got it done for the Griffins and the Wild would fall 3-2. Michalek had 39 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Brand Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the Florida-native’s season came to an end on Saturday as he had no shots in the Friars’ 2-1 loss to Notre Dame. Duhaime finishes the season with 7 goals, 26 points, 64 PIM’s and is a +12 in 40 games.