The Wild delighted its fans with a come-from-behind Black Friday 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. That gave the fans around the State of Hockey lots to feel good about, so with a few days off before tonight’s game against the Coyotes can the Wild re-focus and re-engage another bottom-feeding Arizona squad?
It is simple to be motivated when you know you’re playing one of the best teams like the Jets, but at times its tough to feel the same intensity when you are playing a lower calibre team. The Coyotes have given the Wild problems in the past and will look to ambush Minnesota. The Central race is super tight (just 7 points separating 1st place, Nashville, and 6th place Chicago, in the division) Can the Wild notch another two points with a win over the Desert Dogs?
1st Period Thoughts: Well you hope things are going to go well when a snake-bitten Charlie Coyle got a great scoring chance just seconds in, but faced a ready Antti Raanta. Minnesota would also get a power play opportunity early in the goings as well, but nothing would come of it. Of course, when you think things just might go the right way, you have to remember you’re a fan of a Minnesota sports team. Off of a face off in the Wild’s zone, Lawson Crouse got a one-time shot off of the puck drop and easily got the puck past Devan Dubnyk. This of course begs the question, what kind of response the Wild will show. Thankfully (or luckily), the response was a great pass by Mikko Koivu to Coyle for a quick goal of their own. So far, we don’t have to sit and wonder when the Wild will rally back. Of course it helps that the Wild are getting better at not just dumping the puck randomly, but instead picking their placement of the puck better. It makes for a much more efficient game and should cause far less fatigue as the clock ticks by. Eric Fehr and the fourth line would get the next best chance on goal, but Fehr would ultimately run out of room. I don’t know what it is about this version of the Wild’s fourth line, but this has been one of the better ones in recent history. They’re not flashy by any stretch of the imagination, but they work well together and play their role to the best of their ability. And it works. Now with Coyle on the board, Jason Zucker has been trying to get one of his own. He’s had a couple of good chances tonight, which generally means when given enough chances, he’ll find his way past the opposing goaltender. With just under four minutes remaining in the opening period, again the fourth line would attempt to get one past Raanta. While one shouldn’t expect a lot of scoring from the fourth line, it’s good to know that they never stop trying. As the period winds down, we should at least be grateful that the Coyotes are the worst team in the NHL when it comes to even-strength scoring. Hopefully that means that opening goal was simply an aberration rather than a new trend coming to Arizona. Although, the Coyotes almost got another of those aberrations as Dubnyk again looked shaky on a shot on goal he had no business looking shaky on, you know, the shot on goal from the blue line. Now that the first period is out of the way, they can focus on further shutting down the Coyotes and opening up offense of their own. Is that too much to ask for?
2nd Period Thoughts: Again, early in the period the Wild are looking for goals. It should come as no surprise that the early chance would come from Zucker. Minnesota would head back to the power play when Nick Cousins got called for tripping. What looked like a wide shot off the back glass by Matt Dumba would become the go-ahead goal by Zach Parise. The Wild don’t often get the goals off the back glass, so it was kind of fun to see. It used to be the modus operandi of the Detroit Red Wings at the old Joe Louis Arena, which makes me wonder if Little Caesar’s Arena has that same trait. Zucker is definitely looking to make some sort of impact. If he’s not scoring, he’s using his body knocking Kevin Connauton to the ice. Another player having a great night is Coyle. He made a great set up of Joel Ericksson Ek. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the middle period or that it’s a close game and the Wild have the lead, but near the mid-point of the period, the Coyotes were giving a demonstration on interference, yet no call. It also got Arizona it’s first shot on goal of the period. Dubnyk would keep it a 2-1 score. The Wild would take the faceoff and get it back into the offensive zone and get a great blueline shot turned into goal by Zucker. As he’d been trying all night, Zucker finally made things happen for himself and his team. Now it’s time for Nino Niederreiter to make his presence known, and truth of the matter his being on the fourth line just might be the best place for him. His combination of skill with size is a benefit for that line. As this period winds down, it’s definitely not a shooting gallery on Raanta, which is one thing I would like to see change in the third period. Especially with the end of the second period, the Coyotes only have a total of seven shots on goal. Even worse for Arizona, of those seven total shots only one of them happened in this period. Minnesota needs to continue to take Arizona out of this game.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well the Coyotes decided to make a goaltending change, with Adin Hill getting the start for the third period. This is the kind of mental game that can and does mess up Minnesota. First off, they have the habit of downplaying lesser competition. Then you throw in a back up goaltender, and the next thing you know, you make that guy look like the next coming of Martin Brodeur. Then when you’re having those kinds of thoughts, it looks like Josh Archibald makes it a one-goal game. Minnesota would challenge the goal for offsides. It will be a tight call and Bruce Boudreau never wins offsides calls. The goal would be determined to be a good goal, so Minnesota loses their time out and then off course earns their first penalty of the night. So you definitely begin to wonder if this where this team digs their own grave in this game. You begin to wonder what this team’s video coaches are looking at when they convince Boudreau to challenge a goal. And of course things continue to get worse for Minnesota as Arizona would tie up the game with a goal under Dubnyk’s pads by Michael Grabner. You have to wonder where the Wild of the first and second periods has gone, because they have disappeared. They’ve disappeared so much, that Archibald would get his second goal and third point of the game. Dubnyk has looked suspect tonight, so it makes you wonder how much longer he will remain in net. I know I would feel a lot better putting Alex Stalock in now. In fact, he should have been put in the game with Grabner’s goal. The facial expressions and body language of Dubnyk tells you all you need to know, yet Boudreau has made no move. And remember how I said the Wild needed to pepper the goal with shots? Well that hasn’t happened, as midway through this period, they have only one shot on goal. Since the Wild have tuned out for the third period, I feel like I should be able to as well. This is the kind of nonsense that I really hate from this team. You have a team like the Coyotes on the ropes and then you let up. When you do that, you do not deserve a point if you manage to get this game to overtime. And then instead of playing simple, solid hockey, everyone starts trying to play a fancy game. I’m not happy that Boudreau chose to pull Dubnyk for the extra skater. If he really wanted to turn things around, he should have yanked Dubnyk after the Grabner goal and gone with Stalock to try and turn things around. And then to add insult to injury, when you want to try even things up with the extra skater, the defenseman you put on the ice is Ryan Suter. His shot from the point is beyond weak. I don’t care that he’s one of the leading scorers for this team. If you want someone to blast the puck from the point, he’s not the player I want. When you refuse to play a complete 60 minutes of hockey, you deserve to lose. And that my friends, is what you got tonight.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Nino Niederreiter, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Nick Seeler and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Greg Pateryn and Matt Hendricks were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Josh Archibald; 2nd Star, Jared Spurgeon; 3rd Star, Lawson Crouse.
~ Attendance was 18,706 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 3, Manitoba 4 OT
Iowa would leave the short Thanksgiving break with another tough road test as they traveled north to play the Manitoba Moose in Winnipeg. C.J. Motte was called up from the Wild’s ECHL affiliate Allen Americans to get the start for the Wild while Kaapo Kahkonen was moonlighting with Minnesota. The Moose would strike first, late in the period as Logan Shaw found the twine behind Motte. Iowa would answer back just 50 seconds later as Mitch McLain buried his 4th goal of the season to make it 1-1 going into the 1st intermission. In a back-and-forth 2nd period, Iowa would take the lead as Luke Kunin scored his 5th goal of the season off a pretty pass by Mason Shaw. Manitoba would respond a little over a minute later as former East Grand Forks’ star Tucker Poolman blasted a shot from the point that beat Motte. Iowa would take back the lead just 1:10 later as Gerry Fitzgerald scored to give the Wild a 3-2 lead heading into the 2nd intermission. Iowa did its best to hold off the Moose in the 3rd but Emile Poirer would tie the game just inside of the 7-minute mark and the game would go to overtime. It wouldn’t be a long overtime as Mason Appleton buried the game winner off the rush to give the Moose a 4-3 win. Motte had 29 saves in the loss.
Iowa 2, Grand Rapids 3 OT
It was $1 hotdog night at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, and perhaps the team indulged a bit in the cheap food as they got off to a sluggish start against the Griffins. Grand Rapids dominated most of the play throughout most of the 1st period, drawing three Iowa Wild penalties in the process but Kaapo Kahkonen was rock solid stopping all 16 shots he faced. Iowa stayed patient and they would strike shorthanded as Gerald Mayhew intercepted a puck in his own end and made a quick play of the puck off the boards and turned on the jets to get behind the Griffins defense before beating Patrik Rybar with a backhander. 1-0 Wild on Mayhew’s 6th goal of the season. Iowa would again find itself under siege by the Griffins in the 2nd period as Axel Holmstrom tied the game just a few minutes in. Iowa again struggled to get much going outside of its zone as Grand Rapids appeared to attack in waves. The Wild seemed to be about to escape the period still tied, when Matt Ford lit the lamp with 1 second left in the period to give the Griffins a 2-1 advantage going into the 3rd. Iowa would rally in the 3rd period, outworking the Griffins and they’d tie the game as Cal O’Reilly netted his 5th goal of the season. Iowa would continue to apply pressure but just couldn’t get a puck behind Rybar and the game would go to overtime. In overtime, Brennan Menell would get tagged with a hooking call as he hauled down Filip Zadina a little past the 1-minute mark of overtime giving the Griffins a power play. This would prove to be a costly mistake as the Griffins patiently moved the puck around until they set up Filip Hronek for a one-timer that he blasted by Kahkonen giving Grand Rapids a 3-2 victory. Kahkonen had 34 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario native had a goal and went a dreadful 4-for-16 on his draws in Saginaw’s 3-2 shootout loss to Sudbury on Friday. On Sunday he followed it up with another goal on just 2 shots and went an improved 6-of-10 on his faceoffs in Saginaw’s 3-0 win over Owen Sound. Giroux has 11 goals, 20 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +7 in 24 games.
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ the former Lakeville North star had an assist in the Gophers 7-2 rout of Michigan State on Friday night. Sadek has a goal, 5 points, 20 PIM’s and is a -1 in 10 games.
D – Jacob Golden (London, OHL) ~ the Toronto-native plays on the Knights’ 3rd pairing so he doesn’t get a ton of opportunities but he made the most of them on Friday when he had two helpers and was a +4 in London’s 7-2 demolition of Owen Sound. Golden has a goal, 6 points, 2 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating through 20 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow) ~ the uber talented winger put on a show on Monday as he had a hat trick in CSKA’s 4-0 win over Slovan Bratislava. Kaprizov has 13 goals, 21 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +17 in 28 games.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Silvertips’ captain continues to deliver big points as he had two goals, including the game winner with less than a minute left in the game in Everett’s 2-1 win over Kelowna. He followed that up with an empty net goal and went 9-for-15 on his draws. Dewar has 21 goals, 35 points, 31 PIM’s and is a +5 in 23 games.