Last season the Las Vegas Golden Knights appeared to be a club that was way ahead of schedule. So far, the Vancouver Canucks seem to be running with that ‘surprise team’ mantle with young-ish roster that is gelling at the right time. It isn’t quite the giant opening run that Vegas had, but if you knew the Canucks would be sitting in 2nd place in the Pacific a few weeks into the season you should start a fortune telling business.
Minnesota starts a 7-game road swing in Vancouver, carrying a 5-game winning streak in its pocket. The Wild made their home games count to climb out of the division cellar, now the question is whether they can keep on winning on the road. That has usually been problematic in the past, but this is the first big road swing. Can the Wild keep their winning ways going against the Canucks?
1st Period Thoughts: The Wild started out somewhat sluggish which is nothing too abnormal. The Canucks were looking to keep the game at a high tempo; especially their line of Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat and Tim Schaller who were buzzing all over the Wild zone. Minnesota struggled with the line’s speed and hustle and Markus Granlund was especially pesky as he worked he forced a bad turnover in the offensive zone by Nino Niederreiter for a close in chance that Devan Dubnyk denied. A few minutes later this line would break the stalemate after swarming in the Wild zone, it was Horvat feeding a pass over to Granlund who elevated a quick shot that beat Dubnyk. 1-0 Vancouver. Minnesota would answer right back just a little under 40 seconds later as Jared Spurgeon‘s point shot would reach Jacob Markstrom who couldn’t corral it which allowed Jordan Greenway to hammer away at the puck before lifting a shot into the back of the net. 1-1 game. It was an authoritative 1st NHL regular season goal for Greenway and at this point you hoped it would spark the rest of the club to wake up. Nope. The Wild continued to be a half-step slow in most of the races for loose pucks and thus ended up spending a disturbing amount of time chasing Vancouver around the Minnesota zone. The Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Niedereiter line was easily hemmed into its own end. Minnesota would try to raise its physical game to slow the Canucks down but the Wild didn’t appear to have a lot of energy or synergy. The Wild would draw a penalty in the closing seconds of the game as Ryan Suter found Staal with a long outlet pass that sprung him for a near breakaway before he was hauled down by Erik Gudbranson just before he could pull the trigger and time expired. The officials would meet to discuss whether to award him with a penalty shot, but they chose to give Gudbranson no penalty at all. Its another underachieving slow start for the Wild. If Devan Dubnyk wasn’t as good as he was, the Wild could be down 3-1 or 4-1 at this point.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period is normally where the Wild start getting their feet moving and playing with some cohesion. Instead it was like going to work and someone cooked fish in the microwave in the employee lounge. Blech. The Wild would get lucky by receiving a 4-minute power play thanks to a high stick by Markus Granlund to Nino Niederreiter who seemed to have a tiny cut that made it a double-minor. On the power play the Wild went back to their tremendously predictable strategy of trying to set up a Matthew Dumba one-timer. The Canucks were just waiting on the set up and when they weren’t working bodies into the shooting lane, Markstrom was more than ready to make the save. With little to show for the man advantage, Eric Staal would kill the rest of it off when he slashed Troy Stecher‘s stick out his hand negating the last 45 seconds of power play time. The Canucks seemed emboldened by the successful kill and they’d strike twice in a 1:36 as Jake Virtanen would skate into the Wild zone and he’d unleash a wrist shot that beat Dubnyk from the high slot. 2-1 Canucks. The broadcast lobbied that Virtanen released the shot in such a way to use Suter as a screen, but it still came from a long distance. In my opinion that’s a soft goal. The pain wouldn’t stop there as some lazy back checking left Elias Pettersson all alone and he was set up for a one-timer that he blasted by Dubnyk. 3-1 Canucks. Minnesota would try to rally back with a few quality shifts. Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu and Nick Seeler swarmed into the Vancouver zone and they created a few quality scoring chances. The Wild would cut the Canucks lead back to one on a late power play as Ryan Suter flung a wrist shot from the point that utilized a few screens to light the lamp behind Markstrom. Minnesota seemed to have some momentum going for it, but a bad turnover in his own end by Ryan Suter was compounded by a lazy penalty to give the Canucks the man advantage to start the 3rd period. I think you can smell that bad fish smell, right?
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would kill off the Canucks power play to open the period, and they’d try to go on the attack with a strong cycling game. But despite lots of possession in the offensive zone it wasn’t yielding much beyond a few shots from the point by Jared Spurgeon or Jonas Brodin that were easy enough for Markstrom to dismiss. No one on the Wild seemed to really want to linger in close around the net, and it was lots of perimeter play that Vancouver was content to let Minnesota waste time and energy on. Vancouver was waiting for a mistake to take advantage of and they’d get just that when Dumba’s shot from the point was blocked by Elias Pettersson and the youngster went racing after the blocked shot and Brock Boeser would push a pass up to the rookie phenom and he was off for a breakaway. Confidently, Pettersson moved in on Dubnyk lifted a shot by the Wild goalie like he wasn’t there. 4-2 Canucks. The Wild plenty of power plays to work with to get back into the game, but the same predictable strategy of setting up shots from the point as opposed to anything in close made Minnesota easy to defend. No one on the power play appeared to want to make Markstrom’s job difficult by setting a screen. Minnesota would pull Dubnyk for an extra attacker but it wasn’t meant to be as Vancouver’s Ben Hutton sealed the deal with an empty-netter, 5-2.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Matt Read, Jordan Greenway, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. J.T. Brown and Nate Prosser were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were:
~ Attendance was at Rogers Place.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (5-2-0) 10pts 3rd in the Central
37% Power Play (1st in the AHL)
80.6% Penalty Kill (17th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #19 Luke Kunin ~ 3G 4A = 7pts
2. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 2G 5A = 7pts
3. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 1G 6A = 7pts
4. #36 Colton Beck ~ 3G 3A = 6pts
5. #25 Justin Kloos ~ 3G 3A = 6pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 11 PIM’s
2. #44 Matt Bartkowski ~ 8 PIM’s
3. #24 Ryan Murphy ~ 8 PIM’s
1. #35 Andrew Hammond (5-1-0) 2.64GAA .915%SP
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (0-1-0) 3.13GAA .893%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 6, Colorado 1
After a dramatic 6-5 overtime win over Colorado the two clubs met again on Saturday night. Iowa would again give the home fans a lot to cheer and feel good about as they blew out the Eagles. Just over a minute into the game, Jordan Greenway would score his first American Hockey League goal. Colorado would tie it up a few minutes later as Sheldon Dries snuck a shot through Andrew Hammond. Iowa would take the lead back as Greenway buried his 2nd goal of the game to give the Wild 2-1 lead going into the 1st intermission. Iowa would continue to dominate in the 2nd as Louie Belpedio scores his first AHL goal on a blast from the point and then a few minutes later Iowa would light the lamp on the power play as Cal O’Reilly scored. 4-1 Iowa. Then a few minutes later, Jordan Greenway would complete his hat trick after following up his own shot and then burying the rebound to make it 5-1 Wild going into the 2nd intermission. The Eagles would swap goaltenders in the 3rd, sending out Spencer Martin to replace Pavel Francouz. It didn’t matter as Iowa stayed in control and Justin Kloos would add an exclamation point with a goal mid-way through the 3rd to cap off a 6-1 victory. Hammond had 18 saves in the victory. Luke Kunin had 3 helpers and O’Reilly had two assists to go with his goal.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Silvertips’ captain made his presence felt after being suspended by netting two goals (one power play tally, one shorthanded) as well as chipping in two helpers earning 1st Star honors in Everett’s 4-1 win over Swift Current. Dewar has 10 goals, 19 points, 21 PIM’s, and is -1 in 11 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the Novi, Michigan-native had an assist and 8 shots on goal in Niagara’s 3-2 shootout win over Saginaw on Saturday night. Lodnia has 5 goals, 15 points, 8 PIM’s and is a -1 in 14 games.