Leftovers, the post-Thanksgiving bounty that some look forward to almost as much as the holiday itself. Yet at a certain point, depending on how much was left from the event you might get a little tired of it. Let’s face it, day #3 or #4 turkey sandwich often is far less satisfying than a day #1 turkey sandwich because you’re picking through the lesser of what is left. In a way I’m sure Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau felt the same way watching his team throw away a 3-goal lead in the 3rd period against Ottawa on Thanksgiving eve. While Minnesota re-grouped after a goaltending change and won the game 6-4 it was the kind of mental collapse that drives coaches’ crazy. Especially since its becoming a bit of a disturbing trend the last 3 games.
Hopefully the Minnesota Wild players didn’t gorge themselves too much with Thanksgiving food and are feeling their carb overload fatigue as the Winnipeg Jets come to town. So for those of you smart enough to avoid the pushing, shoving and consumer-driven insanity of Black Friday, can the Wild give its fans a holiday gift with a big win over the Jets?
1st Period Thoughts: In many ways, the Wild actually played pretty well. The Wild did a reasonable job of shutting down the Jets’ top line of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers. Minnesota denied time and space and kept them to the perimeter. The Wild also counter attacked fairly well and generated some prime chances; the best one being a breakaway chance off a 2-on-1 set up by a nice saucer feed by Mikael Granlund to Jason Zucker. Unfortunately, Zucker didn’t have a lot of time to make much of a move and Connor Hellebuyck was able to make the big save. I thought Joel Eriksson Ek looked engaged and was supporting the puck well. The Wild’s defense; especially the pairing of Matthew Dumba and Jonas Brodin was impressive in their ability to weather the Jets’ forecheck and then break out of the zone fairly cleanly either with a well timed reverse of the puck or a crisp outlet pass. At times I felt Minnesota was trying to be a bit too cute with the puck in the offensive zone instead of just taking what the Jets were giving them. The Jets would score late in the period as Tyler Myers‘ slap shot from the point was partially deflected by Eric Fehr that forced Alex Stalock to make a leg pad save that yielded a nice rebound for Patrik Laine to pounce on. 1-0 Jets. Tough to get too mad at Stalock who made some great saves after some tremendous passing by the Jets. He also got a little help from the post as well. Ryan Suter looks like he’s struggling to move and his anticipation of the play appears to be a bit off as well. The Wild need to simplify their game offensively. Minnesota did do a great job shutting down the Jets on their lone power play of the period; some great reads by Nick Seeler to intercept pucks and clear the zone.
2nd Period Thoughts: This period was more of a test of frustration for the Minnesota Wild, especially on the power play. The Wild didn’t do anything with three power plays the Jets gave them. Minnesota made a mid-ling Jets penalty kill look like the best in the league as they had a hard time getting set up in the zone and then the puck movement was slow, methodical and predictable which made it fairly simple for Winnipeg to get sticks and bodies into shooting lanes. When the Wild did finally set someone up for a great shooting opportunity they either blasted it off the post or one of their own players helped deflect the puck away from the goal as was the case on a Jared Spurgeon gimme that struck Zach Parise‘s leg instead of the back of the net. After 3 straight Jets penalties you knew the pendulum was going to swing the other way and the Wild were going to be finding themselves a man down and sure enough slashing penalties to J.T. Brown and Marcus Foligno gave Winnipeg a chance to extend their lead. Ehlers would score late in the period on the power play to give the Jets a 2-0 advantage. Stalock had been pretty impressive to this point, but Ehlers’ goal was pretty soft as it beat him 5-hole from a fairly long distance. Ryan Suter is a waste of time on the man advantage. He doesn’t have the jump to make the plays to hold the zone and his shot is too weak to scare anyone so teams give him 20 feet or more knowing all too well he’s not going to pull the trigger. The Wild have to be feeling like this game is slipping away from them as they simply haven’t tested Hellebuyck much at all. Charlie Coyle looks content to be another passenger playing in a Top 6 role. The Wild’s most energetic and arguably effective line has been the Foligno-Eriksson Ek-Greenway line. Even the Wild’s 4th line has shown more focus than the top 6 has, which seems to be gun shy and worried about getting hit by the Jets’ physical blueliners than making plays.
3rd Period Thoughts: The 3rd period had a little bit of everything for the Wild, a little frustration, plenty of chippy play and of course the goals that would give the team an improbable victory. It all got started with the Wild’s 4th line. Nino Niederreiter would skate into the Jets zone and unleash a heavy wrist shot that beat Hellebuyck wide and the anxious sellout crowd had something to cheer about. 2-1 Jets. The snipe seemed to get the Wild’s legs going and Niederreiter appeared to have cleared a huge mental hurdle. The 4th line continued to be a source of pesky play with Nino leading the way and they’d connect a few minutes later as Niederreiter won a battle for the puck along the wall and carried it below the goal line before feeding it out front to Eric Fehr who seemed to have lifted the stick of Adam Lowry beating Hellebuyck top shelf. 2-2 game. The chippy play really started to boil over. Whether it was Jason Zucker getting into it would Jacob Trouba or minutes after that, it was J.T. Brown leveling Andrew Copp with a huge hit near the Jets bench that saw his face smash against the glass. The Jets training staff would help him off the ice and to the locker room for repairs.
Shortly thereafter an elbow by Lowry to Eriksson Ek caused Nick Seeler to step up to defend his teammate near the Jets’ bench. Lowry would shove Seeler into the Jets bench and a fracas ensued as Greenway tried to help Seeler who disappeared among a flurry of bodies. The officials were able to break up the scrum before it turned into a full-on brawl but considering it appeared the officials were going to call Lowry for his initial elbow the resulting penalties greatly disappointed the home crowd and Wild as well. Lowry would get a double-minor for roughing while Seeler and Greenway got roughing calls of their own more or less evening the score. No call was made on the initial elbow which started the whole situation to begin with. Boudreau was outraged and the crowd rained down boo’s at the officials. On the very next shift Ryan Suter was getting into his own battle with Nikolaj Ehlers. Both were taking turns cross checking one another and it looked like they were going to both end up in the penalty box. Yet as the puck went to the corner where Suter chased it down, Ehlers went for a high hit which got Suter’s arms up as tried to side step the check and it knocked off Ehlers’ helmet giving the Wild defenseman a penalty. This drew even more boo’s from an already ornery home crowd as the Jets were about to go on the power play. Minnesota’s penalty kill would again stand tall; thanks in part due to the faceoff prowess of Fehr and the ability of Wild defenders to strip Jets’ players of the puck and clear the zone efficiently. The Wild would get the big kill and Suter would rejoin the play as Minnesota was on a counter attack making it a 3-on-2. Minnesota moved into the Jets zone and after an initial shot on goal by Matthew Dumba, Hellebuyck knocked the puck down but a crashing Eric Staal buried it to give the Wild a 3-2 lead. Hellebuyck wasn’t happy, but he never had control of the puck. The Jets would pull their goaltender but Minnesota’s defense again stood tall and Zach Parise would seal it with an empty netter giving the Wild a 4-2 victory.
Alex Stalock was excellent, making 26 saves in the victory and while he provided a few tense moments with some of his decisions to play the puck he made some outstanding stops to keep the Wild in the game. He probably wants the Ehler’s goal back, but beyond that its pretty tough to be the least bit critical of his game. The Wild penalty kill did surrender one goal, but they also kept the Jets and especially Laine at bey. I thought Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba and Jared Spurgeon were outstanding tonight.
Offensively, the Wild need to give a few beers to the 3rd and 4th lines. I felt the bottom 6 were the lines that provided a consistent source of energy and offensive chances when the top 2 lines seemed unable to do much of anything. Nino Niederreiter’s goal really was the catalyst that got this team playing with some urgency and the fact they also buried the game tying goal demonstrates how they led the way tonight. I thought the Foligno-Eriksson Ek-Greenway line did a great job at causing havoc and Foligno is really starting to impress me.
This was a huge 4-point swing for the Wild who now gain a little space between themselves and the Jets in the Central Division standings. Minnesota needs more wins like that against quality opponents and any win over a divisional foe is big. I liked how the team stood up for itself and yet at the same time didn’t get too carried away where they stopped playing hockey and was overly worried about matching the Jets hit for hit. Now the team can rest for a few days and get ready for the Arizona Coyotes next week Tuesday. Life is good!
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Eric Fehr, Nino Niederreiter, J.T. Brown, Ryan Stuer, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn. Kaapo Kahkonen backed up Alex Stalock. Devan Dubnyk, Nate Prosser and Matt Hendricks were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were:
~ Attendance was 19,116 as Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (11-4-2) 24pts 2nd in the AHL Central
29.2% Power Play (2nd in the AHL)
85.9% Penalty Kill (3rd in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 4G 15A = 19pts
2. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 7G 7A = 14pts
3. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 3G 10A = 13pts
4. #7 Sam Anas ~ 3G 8A = 11pts
5. #10 Gerry Fitzgerald ~ 6G 3A = 9pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 34 PIM’s
2. #37 Hunter Warner ~ 27 PIM’s
3. #26 Matt Read ~ 20 PIM’s
1. #35 Andrew Hammond (7-3-1) 2.96GAA .911%SP
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (4-1-1) .98GAA .966%SP 3SO
Recent Score: Iowa 2, Milwaukee 3 SO
Like their parent club, Iowa also had a game on Thanksgiving eve against division rival Milwaukee. Iowa would get out to a good start as alternate captain Mike Liambas redirected a shot from the point by Hunter Warner that beat Troy Grosenick to make it 1-0 Wild. All good things come to an end, and after nearly 220 minutes of play without surrendering a goal, Kaapo Kahkonen gave up one to Tanner Jeannot tying the game at 1-1. Iowa was really struggling to stay out of the penalty box and those penalties would catch up to them late in the period as Matt Donovan‘s blast from the point on the man advantage make it 2-1 Milwaukee going into the 1st intermission. Iowa would tie the game back up in the 2nd on a power play of their own as Cal O’Reilly buried the biscuit after a nice set up by Sam Anas. Iowa pushed hard for the go ahead goal and through the rest of the 2nd and 3rd period they couldn’t get another puck behind Grosenick and the game would go to overtime. In overtime, both clubs were playing tight defensively and only managed a few token shots apiece and the game would go to a shootout. Grosenick was a perfect 3-for-3 in stonewalling Iowa shooters while Kahkonen went 2-for-3, as Justin Kirkland‘s goal would prove to be the game winner. Kahkonen had 31 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ still playing on CSKA Moscow’s 4th line, he had an assist in their 5-0 win against Ak Bars Kazan last week Tuesday. Svetlakov has 2 goals, 5 points, 17 PIM’s and is a +7 in 20 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the super skilled Russian had an assist in CSKA Moscow’s 2-1 win over Neftkhimik on Saturday. Kaprizov has 10 goals, 18 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +22 in 26 games.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Silvertips captain had an assist and 7 shots on goal and went 8-for-24 on his draws in Everett’s 3-2 overtime loss to in-state rival Spokane on Sunday night. Dewar has 18 goals, 32 points, 27 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating in 20 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ The top pick in 2017 had two helpers in Niagara’s 4-3 loss to Oshawa on Sunday evening which earned him 3rd star honors. Lodnia has 7 goals, 23 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +4 in 22 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Spirit’s captain had a goal and went 5-of-8 on his draws in Saginaw’s 4-3 overtime win over North Bay on Thanksgiving. Giroux has 9 goals, 18 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +6 in 22 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian has been on fire lately and he had a goal and two helpers on Tuesday in the Wildcat’s 6-3 win over Quebec. Khovanov has 15 goals, 32 points, 38 PIM’s and is a +6 in 24 games.