One thing about the late-night west coast NHL games, I used to handle them better when I was younger. 9:30PM against San Jose on Tuesday night? No problem. 9:30PM against Los Angeles, not so much. I tried to take a pre-game nap but the nap felt too good to stop and I decided to sleep instead of watching the Wild vs. Kings game. I apologize to any of our readers hoping to see a post-gamer from me in that regard. That was not a problem tonight as I was free to caffeine binge my way to staying up to watch the Ducks play the Wild and the incredibly ‘early’ time of 9:00PM CST.
The Wild surprised me with a road win over Los Angeles. The Ducks are in a tight race in the Pacific Division and Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau has had his share of troubles against his former squad. Can the Wild finish its 3-game California road swing with a win in Anaheim?
1st Period Thoughts: The Wild were moving well to start the game, and this would create a golden opportunity early as Joel Eriksson Ek made a nice pass from along the wall to Jordan Greenway who dangled around John Gibson and managed to get it just over the goal line. The play was reviewed, but the puck clearly crossed the goal line completely and the Wild found themselves up 1-0 less than 2 minutes into the game. The Wild were doing a good job of creating pressure with all of its lines; even the 4th line of Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno and J.T. Brown who gave Anaheim fits on the forecheck. The Wild’s hustle would draw a penalty as Patrick Eaves was tagged with a 4-minute double minor for high sticking. Minnesota’s power play moved the puck efficiently with crisp passes, setting up a variety of quality scoring chances from in close and out near the faceoff circles. The Wild spent most of the 4-minute power play in the Ducks’ zone but still came up empty. It was a good effort and the Wild generated good offensive pressure by taking shots from a variety of spots on the ice and give John Gibson a lot of credit for squaring up to Wild shooters effective. Marcus Foligno would end up dropping the gloves with Luke Schenn, and Foligno did a reasonable job of staying in control before landing a few good right hooks before the officials moved in to break it up. I think Foligno gets the win. After the fight, the Ducks seemed to move their feet a little better and Anheim started to generate some offensive chances of their own. Alex Stalock was strong, holding the post with lots of traffic near his crease. Minnesota would counter attack with some pressure of their own and Eric Staal was denied on a few point-blank range opportunities. Minnesota continued to cause havoc in the Ducks’ end by setting up screens and taking shots from the point that appeared to be irritating Gibson who knocked Eriksson Ek down after he made a save on a point shot. The Ducks’ Nick Ritchie would take a penalty late in the period as he hauled down Matthew Dumba. For as good as the Wild looked in their 4-minute power play this one was a trainwreck. Lazy passes, no synergy and the Ducks were able to generate more offensively while being shorthanded than the Wild were with the man advantage. In the closing seconds of the period, Greg Pateryn took a hit before feeding Foligno with a pass who made a nice move to get by a Ducks’ defender before unleashing a backhander that was stopped by Gibson. Minnesota had to feel pretty good about that first period, out shooting Anaheim 19-5.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota had god energy to start the 2nd. Moving their feet well and evading the Ducks’ attempt to forecheck with poise and confidence. For as aggressive as Anaheim was on the forecheck, they were tremendously passive in their own end and the Wild took full advantage of it as Mikael Granlund was given time and space behind the Ducks’ goal and he’d feed a pass out front to Jason Zucker for a quick shot that lit the lamp. 2-0 Wild. A few minutes later, the same line would strike again on an eerily similar play as the Ducks allowed Zucker to just stay behind the Anaheim net and Zucker fed a pass out front to Granlund for a quick shot that he buried behind Gibson. 3-0 Wild. Minnesota seemed to be a step ahead of the Ducks in nearly every facet of the game. Dumba would take a penalty behind the Wild goal, but this did little to stop the Wild’s focused effort. The Wild did a great job on the penalty kill, applying timely pressure and forcing the Ducks to the perimeter and giving Stalock a good view of the puck. Minnesota continued to outbattle and outwork the Ducks and they continued to pepper Gibson with shots; many from in close. Alex Stalock tried to play the puck behind the goal and his pass was intercepted by Ryan Getzlaf who sent a quick shot towards the open goal that was deflected aside by an alert Jason Zucker. After the gaffe, the Wild went right back to the attack and Zucker got a partial breakaway but his backhander was fought off by Gibson. As Zucker skated by he sent the puck back towards the goal and it nearly went off Gibson and in. Minnesota would take another penalty, and the Ducks would take advantage on the power play as Pontus Aberg got a backdoor pass and he’d roof a shot over a sprawling Stalock. 3-1 Wild. The goal would put a little more jump in the Ducks’ skates but the Wild played diligent defense in the closing minutes and take their 2-goal lead into the 2nd intermission.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild were a bit more passive in the 3rd, content to defend their 2-goal lead. The plan was pretty simple, work pucks deep and try to keep Anaheim pinned in its own end. If the Ducks did break out they were flying into the offensive zone and taking any opportunity to shoot the puck that presented itself. Minnesota was also looking for chances to counter attack and at times were able to catch the Ducks’ pinching in the Wild end. One such a counter attack, had Jonas Brodin flying into the Ducks’ zone and he let go a heavy wrist snap off the rush that beat Gibson cleanly. 4-1 Wild. The Wild goal took the wind out of the sails of the home crowd who were hoping for a rally and it seemed to take the energy out of the Ducks’ skates as well. Anaheim was clearly frustrated as Gibson put Fehr in a headlock after a whistle that drew the ire of both clubs. Gibson’s headlock resulted in an interference penalty giving Minnesota power play. Minnesota’s power play didn’t score, but they passed the puck well and created a few quality scoring chances including a nice one for Nino Niederreiter that was denied by the leg pad of Gibson. As the penalty expired the Wild nearly cashed in as Nino set up Koivu for a gimme of a goal that was denied by a whistle as Ryan Kesler knocked the net off its moorings just before Koivu buried the shot. The Wild argued that Kesler knocked the net off its moorings intentionally which the replay appeared to confirm but the officials were insistent Zach Parise was one who forced Kesler into the cage. The Wild would add another goal late as the Staal-Granlund-Zucker line continued to outwork the Ducks as Zucker’s initial shot was stopped and then Granlund buried the rebound. 5-1 Wild. The Wild coasted the final few minutes for the victory.
Alex Stalock had 19 saves in the win. He didn’t have to be extraordinary as Minnesota controlled the pace of play for most of the game. The Wild’s defense did a great job at forcing the Ducks to the perimeter and never really allowing Anaheim to sustain any offensive pressure.
Offensively, Minnesota did a terrific job of winning the small races for the puck and working their way in close on John Gibson. The Eric Staal, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund line took full advantage of the time and space the Ducks gave them as they scored 3 out of the 5 Wild goals. The power play didn’t find the back of the net, but they did an excellent job of moving the puck quickly and generating a wide variety of shooting opportunities that kept the Ducks’ penalty kill guessing.
This was another great effort by the Wild to earn back-to-back wins as the team seems to be playing with poise and confidence. The team will face a revenge-minded Blues team on Sunday afternoon but they will enter that game playing some of their best hockey of the season which certainly makes me feel bullish on this team’s chances to finish off the road trip with another victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Jordan Greenway, Charlie Coyle, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Matt Hendricks, Nate Prosser and Matt Read were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mikael Granlund, 2nd Star Jason Zucker, 3rd Star Pontus Aberg
~ Attendance was 16,464 at Honda Center.
~ ~ Crease and Assist: A Legally Compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog would like to send our most sincere condolences to the family of Wild founder / former owner Bob Naegele Jr. who passed away from cancer Wednesday night. His passion for the game is what inspired him to head up an ownership group to bring the NHL back to Minnesota and the city of St. Paul. A hockey player himself at Minnetonka High School and Dartmouth College, he loved the game and was instrumental in setting the cultural tone of this franchise that still carries to this day.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (8-3-1) 17pts 2nd in the Central
31% Power Play (1st in the AHL)
84.6% Penalty Kill (10th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 3G 11A = 14pts
2. #20 Mason Shaw ~ 3G 7A = 10pts
3. #16 Eric Martinsson = 0G 9A = 9pts
4. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 4G 4A = 8pts
5. #10 Gerry Fitzgerald ~ 4G 3A = 7pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 17 PIM’s
2. #8 Louie Belpedio ~ 15 PIM’s
3. #44 Matt Bartkowski ~ 10 PIM’s
1. #35 Andrew Hammond (6-2-1) 2.84GAA .914%SP
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (2-1-0) 1.32GAA .953%SP 1SO
Iowa 4, Bakersfield 5 OT
In front of 12,457 school kids in Des Moines on a late Thursday morning the Iowa Wild would hope to work school-time magic again after defeating Rockford in a school-day game in Rockford on Wednesday. Iowa would give the kids something to cheer about just 5 minutes in as Mitch McLain buried his 2nd goal of the season to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. Bakersfield would answer right back as Tyler Benson lit the lamp just 46 seconds later. Iowa would take back the lead a few minutes later on the power play as Sam Anas buried a rebound after an Eric Martinsson point shot. 2-1 Iowa. The Condors would answer quickly, this time about 30 seconds later as Cameron Hebig found the twine behind Andrew Hammond tying it up at 2-2 going into the 1st intermission. Bakersfield would score just 14 seconds into the 2nd, as William Lagesson buried a pass from Cooper Marody. The Condors would add to their lead about 7 minutes later as Patrick Russell scored and despite a furious effort Iowa trailed by two, 4-2 going into the 2nd intermission. Iowa would battle back in the 3rd, on two quick goals 30 seconds apart by Mason Shaw and Gerald Mayhew. The game would go to overtime and Marody would net the game winner by Hammond, 5-4 Bakersfield. Hammond had 36 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Jack McBain (Boston College, H-East) ~ the freshman registered his first collegiate point, an assist and 2 shots on goal in the Eagles’ 4-1 win over Vermont.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian continued his strong start to the season with an assist in Moncton’s 5-4 loss to Charlottetown. Khovanov has 10 goals, 23 points, 30 PIM’s and is +1 in 19 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Gatineau, QMJHL) ~ the Terrebonne, Quebec-native had a goal and an assist and 3 shots on goal in Gatineau’s 6-4 win over the Saint John Seadogs on Wednesday night. Boudrias has 12 goals, 25 points, 15 PIM’s and is a +3 in 21 games.