Goaltender interference seems to be more of a fine line these days. At times, goaltenders can be ran over and it doesn’t seem to matter and in others they get barely touched and goals are negated and player sent to the box. It is understandable coaches, players and fans are equally frustrated at what really defines goaltender interference when it seems it can be interpreted so differently from game to game. I realize officiating is difficult and plays happen fast and unlike the officials fans have the benefit of multiple camera angles and slow-motion replay within seconds after any play. Yet with goaltender interference, when its under review shouldn’t we be able to detect some kind of standard being used?
The NFL got lambasted by fans over its nebulous language it used to describe the action of a catch and it even affected the outcomes of games where balls seemingly caught were ruled ‘incomplete’ and other plays where it looked like the receiver didn’t have possession were deemed a catch. Its tough for the game to be taken seriously when the rules seem to be so unclear. What is fairly clear is the Wild and the Predators both lost in games that went beyond regulation on Sunday to the Bruins and Jets respectively. Minnesota edged Nashville the last time they played, can the Wild end the season series with another win or will the Predators get their revenge?
1st Period Thoughts: I have to say, playing games in Nashville is one of my least favorite locations. The fans are obnoxiously loud and they always have been. With all the boos that Ryan Suter receives, it reminds me to a degree the opening scenes of Slapshot, where when Ned Braden is introduced, you hear a fan shout “I hate you Braden.” And this night is clearly going to be a long one when just under three minutes in, Roman Josi on a pass right after the faceoff in the offensive zone. And things almost got worse because Marcus Foligno lost the blade from one of his skates. I have to wonder why that’s not the kind of thing that draws a whistle, as the player is really at risk of injury as he can’t push off on the skate missing a blade. They have to then hop across the ice or risk straining something because they do try to push off. Thankfully Foligno was eventually able to get off the ice and down the tunnel without Nashville making things more painful, and not for lack of training. In the seemingly slow start for the Wild, the first real push for offensive pressure was by the 4th line came near the midway point of the period. Next best chance would be by Jason Zucker. He would pick up the puck from a pass along the far boards, and just when you thought there was a chance to tie it up, he would get in too close and Pekka Rinne would come up big. NHL rookie Jordan Greenway is making his debut tonight, and he’s already been made to feel “welcome” by Scott Hartnell. Greenway has been dealing these kinds of hits in the NCAA, and I’m sure he’s going to need a bit of time to adjust the heavier hits of the NHL. While I’m sure it will take some time, I for one am glad to get a bigger body on the bench, especially at this time of the season. I don’t expect Greenway to be a game-changer like some seem to believe, but I’ll take the size and skillset he brings. The Wild would get the first power play of the game with Colton Sissons getting called for interference. Considering the ineffectiveness of the Wild’s power play, at some point this needs to change soon. I’m getting to the point where I don’t even want to talk about this power play. We see the same effective lines combined with the lack of shots. I mean how do you expect to score on the power play when you’re lucky if you get one shot on goal. And when it comes to shots on goal in general, when you head to the first intermission with a measly four shots on goal and facing a hungry, determined foe, it’s an all out miracle the score is only 1-0 Nashville.
2nd Period Thoughts: So I’ll admit, we generally mute the television during the intermission. My guess we missed more of what we’re hearing from Anthony LaPanta and Mike Greenlay during the early parts of the period. You all about Jordan Greenway, who has yet to do anything of real note in his young NHL career. Sounds like he’s nothing but pepper his teammates with questions. I bet when roommates were being set up, there was a classic game of “1-2-3-not-it.” We should be spared a bit of the Greenway evangelizing for a few minutes, as Ryan Murphy got called for hooking. It gets difficult when your penalty killers got caught on the ice for well over half of Nashville’s power play. The killers had several chances to clear, but are having some of their classic struggles with basic hockey concepts. With how this game has gone so far, it’s an accomplishment to simply kill the penalty. The next power play would go to Minnesota with Ryan Hartman getting called for tripping, albeit a rather suspect tripping call. And as we’ve discussed so far, Nashville fans really should stress out too much about the weak call. The Wild are far more effective in an even strength situation, and I would imagine that every team in the league (at least those we still have to play in the regular season or as potential playoff opponents) realizes this. If you can keep them to the perimeter, they have nothing. Minnesota would head back to the power play with Charlie Coyle getting called for roughing. Watching the replay, I’m not sure how Coyle ended up with the penalty when Hartman was doing the holding. Most likely it was a complete make up call for Hartman’s phantom tripping call. The sad thing is the Wild have gotten more offensive chances on this penalty kill than they did on their power plays. As this game has ticked along, it’s apparent that Greenway is feeling more comfortable and using his size to make his presence known. Other players making their presence known would be Ryan Murphy. I know many of us were probably pulling our hair out when Jared Spurgeon got injured, wondering how we were going to replace his minutes and skill set. Well I would say with both Murphy and Nick Seeler have definitely stepped up and done their jobs admirably. With the steady presence of Suter and Nate Prosser on the blue line combined with the younger guys in Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin, Murphy and Seeler have had few growing pains. When Spurgeon returns, you have to wonder who sits. With the blueline under control, now we need to wonder what is going on with the forwards. With just under six minutes remaining in the second period, the Wild only have eight shots. And it certainly doesn’t help matters when you end up taking foolish, retaliatory penalties, with Daniel Winnik getting called for elbowing. It was a better demonstration of a penalty kill, with the Wild calmly clearing the puck. It looked like the Wild were going to even things up with Viktor Arvidson getting called for goaltender interference. But Dubnyk being Dubnyk would get called for embellishment. And then it gets worse with Mikko Koivu getting called for hooking. Now one gets to wonder why Kevin Fiala didn’t get called for embellishment himself. The Wilf first killed the 2-man advantage and then continued by killing off Koivu’s penalty as well. This team needs to figure out who they are. It’s time for a gut check during the second intermission, and then to put words into action on the ice during the third period.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well Bruce Boudreau is testing out new line combinations in an attempts to get things going. Of course we never know how long these combos will last, and for the most part they’re rarely effective. At least the in-game line changes are rarely effective. Some times I wonder if our broadcasters are really watching the game. They just (mildly) called out Matt Cullen for mishandling the puck. Well it’s difficult to handle the puck when Zucker passes it into your skates. Seriously, let’s put the blame where it actually belongs. And the passing tonight has been suspect at best. Dubnyk had to come up big with a save off his the top of his leg pad. While Zucker’s earlier pass to Cullen was bad, I am liking this newer line of Zucker, Cullen, and Greenway. It’s a nice combo of size and speed. I’d like to point out that the Zach Parise, Koivu, and Granlund line has not been broken up. Although I would say I’m glad to not see Koivu farmed out to another line, as he would just bring it down. Watching that particular line, one has to wonder if Granlund is playing hurt. Ask yourself, when’s the last time you really saw him hustle to the puck or to the net? I know I can’t really think of the last time that happened. Okay, I’m laughing at the continuing boos of Suter. Every Nashville fan should be glad they don’t have him on their roster. We saved them having to spend the big bucks and long contract that he would have demanded if he stayed. Trust me Predators fans, you’re much, much better off. But back to the game. Again, the 4th line has heart and is willing to go to the brutal areas right in front of Rinne. With all the hard work they’ve been doing in the past few weeks, it’s sad that they haven’t been rewarded more. In a rare mistake by Rinne he got caught behind the net with a strange bounce off the back boards. Staal came streaking in and was just that close to evening up the score, but a Predators skater was able to poke it away at just the right moment. Well I was just about ready to write the eulogy for this game, but then the tides have turned. Staal got the puck on his stick, maneuvered around Predators players, and gets his 40th goal of the season. This now makes Staal the second player in Wild history to score 40 goals in a season, joining the ranks of Marian Gaborik. At this point, I just want either team to quickly score their second goal of the night. I don’t have it in me for overtime or a shootout. At the very least, with the Predators sitting on top of the Western Conference, I don’t mind giving away a point for overtime. The Wild do need both points however. The officiating in this game however has been bad on both sides of the ice. Like a friend of ours said on Twitter, the officials are so bad they don’t know who they owe makeup calls to anymore. And off to overtime we go.
Overtime Thoughts: Just what the Wild need, is overtime. For the Wild, overtime hockey is probably worse than the power play, and that’s saying something. Okay, all you need to know is Ryan Ellis appeared to score. The Wild would challenge the goal because of a possibility of the initial entry into the zone could be offsides. It would get waived off for being offsides as Kyle Turris initially was offsides. If overtime hockey proves one thing, is that we really do miss Spurgeon. With his absence, Dumba and Suter get way too much ice time during the overtime. Spurgeon is much better skilled at being an overtime defenseman. I would much rather have Murphy on the ice for the overtime. Suter is too slow for overtime. And now we have to tempt fate with the shootout.
Shootout Summary: The Wild would shoot first and they’d put out Nino Niederreiter first and he seemed to make a half-hearted attempt before being easily dismissed by Rinne. The Predators first shooter was Kyle Turris who went wide right and he’d rifle a wrist shot by Dubnyk. 1-0 Predators. Minnesota’s next shooter was Zach Parise who took a slow Patrick Kane-esque approach where he tried a few lame deke moves before being denied by Rinne’s blocker. This meant Ryan Ellis could win the game for the Predators and the smooth skating defenseman moved in and sent a shot upstairs that Dubnyk got just enough of to send it over the cage. The Wild’s next shooter was Mikko Koivu who moved a little to the left and tried beating Rinne with a wrist shot that he missed wide and the Predators would win 2-1.
Tonight’s game really illustrates the areas where the Wild continue to fall short. They can’t score on the power play to save their lives. They can’t win a game in overtime. And goaltending is suspect if the game goes to the shootout. At least with the upcoming playoffs, we don’t have to worry about the last issue. However, it’s the other two that are extremely concerning. If Minnesota can’t figure those two issues out soon, it’s going to be another short post-season.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jason Zucker, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Nino Niederreiter, Daniel Winnik, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Nick Seeler, and Nate Prosser. Devan Dubnyk got the start with Alex Stalock serving as backup. Gustav Olofsson and Tyler Ennis were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Kyle Turris, 2nd Star Roman Josi, 3rd Star Ryan Hartman
~ Attendance was 17,424 at Bridgestone Arena.
~ Jordan Greenway wore #18 joining Cam Stewart, Mattias Weinhandl, Adam Hall, Colton Gillies, Jake Dowell, Ryan Carter, Richard Park and Cal O’Reilly in having worn the number for the Wild.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ the Wild signed the big winger to a 3-year, entry level contract not even 24-hours after the power forward junior season concluded after a solid 1 goal, 1 assist (3 shots on goal) effort in the Terriers’ 6-3 loss to Michigan in the Northeast Regional on Sunday. Greenway finishes the season with 13 goals, 35 points, 52 PIM’s and is a +9 in 36 games.
D – Nick Boka (Michigan, Big 10) ~ the stay at home defenseman waited for a big moment to bury his lone goal of the season but it was an insurance goal to help the Wolverines secure a trip to the Frozen Four in their 6-3 win over Boston University this weekend. Boka has a goal, 7 points, 56 PIM’s and is a +16 in 38 games.