Fantasy hockey is something I’ve been involved in since 2005; mostly in Yahoo! leagues. It helps add a different level of interest of fans and it is a good motivator to pay attention to other clubs and teams across the league as you manage your team. Here is a question for fantasy hockey people out there, do you typically draft a lot of players from your favorite club or don’t you? I know for myself, I often will avoid taking Wild players because in part I don’t think they’re that great for fantasy hockey.
I did a poll recently on Twitter, and 11% of the respondents said they’d pick Minnesota Wild players while 28% said they’d avoid them. 61% said they’d only pick a few Wild players. With almost 90% of the respondents saying they wouldn’t pick any or just a few it doesn’t indicate there seems to be a lot of value with the players who make up its roster. That can’t be good for the Wild who enter tonight’s game on a 3-game losing streak. Can Minnesota right the ship with a win against Montreal?
1st Period Thoughts: The Wild seemed to have a pretty simple directive to start the game, get pucks to the net. From the very first shift the Wild would generate a quality shot as Eric Staal fed the puck to Mikael Granlund off the rush who then wound up and blasted a slap shot up high that Antti Niemi knocked down and covered up. Minnesota’s next line of Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise and Nino Niederreiter made their presence felt right away as the combination combined for a tic-tac-toe play as Parise fed a pass out front to Niederreiter that he fired wide of the mark. Moments after that, Coyle had a good opportunity from in close that was fought off by Niemi as Minnesota seemed determined to get the first goal in this game. A few shifts later it was Parise setting up Coyle with a cross-ice saucer pass that Coyle pushed wide of the mark. Montreal would try to stem the tide with some offensive pressure of its own as their 4th line had their first shot on goal as Nicholas Deslaurier let go a shot that was dismissed by the leg pad of Devan Dubnyk. Minnesota would counter with another prime chance as Jason Zucker found time and space in the slot and he rang a shot off the crossbar and out. The game would slow down a bit over the next few minutes as both clubs were wary of making another big mistake in their own end. Montreal would come close to scoring first as Jonathan Drouin was stopped by the paddle of Dubnyk from in close. The Wild would break the stalemate as Jonas Brodin stepped into a slapper that was deflected by Niederreiter that snuck through Niemi 5-hole. 1-0 Wild. The Canadiens would try to push for the equalizer and a shot by Max Domi was knocked down by Dubnyk that the Wild barely were able to sweep away, but they’d move it out to Shea Weber who tee’d up a blast that was denied by Dubnyk. Minnesota would counter attack with a 3-on-2 the other way and it was Coyle trying to set up Niederreiter for a tap in but his attempt was steered away by Niemi. The Wild had to feel pretty good with how the 1st period went considering this club’s last few games. (knock on wood)
2nd Period Thoughts: Montreal would dominate play through the opening 9 minutes of the 2nd as the Wild struggled to deal with the Canadiens quickness. Fortunately for the Wild, Dubnyk was pretty sharp as he was seeing pucks through screens as he stopped a Jeff Petry point shot as it made it way through a maze of legs. A few minutes later a nice redirection by Drouin was stopped by Dubnyk who then stacked the pads to deny Drouin’s rebound bid. The Wild looked to be on the ropes as Montreal appeared to be building momentum with each shift. The Wild only had one quality chance through the opening 9 minutes as Mikael Granlund found Niederreiter for a breakaway who seemed to overhandle the puck and then run out of room before he could get off a good shot on goal and it was a fairly easy stop for Niemi. The Canadiens’ Shea Weber would cross check Parise in front of an official to give the Wild a power play. Weber and Parise would chirp at one another for the next 10-12 seconds after the call. On the man advantage would work the puck quickly before setting up Matthew Dumba for a one-timer that blazed by Niemi. 2-0 Wild. The Wild would give the Canadiens a power play as Eric Fehr was tagged with a tripping call. Minnesota would be aggressive on the penalty kill and a shot block at the point yielded a 2-on-1 the other way as Coyle would let Marcus Foligno drive to the net drawing the defense with him which allowed Coyle to cut to the middle of the ice where he lifted a backhander top shelf over Niemi. 3-0 Wild on the shorthanded tally. The Wild would kill off the rest of the penalty and then go right back on the attack. Granlund would feed Staal for a shot that he fanned on that Niemi stopped with his leg pad but Staal would follow up the shot and bury the rebound. 4-0 Wild. On the very next shift, Deslaurier would drop the gloves with Nick Seeler and it was not a great outing for the Wild defenseman who was mostly a punching bag for Deslaurier who was throwing bombs while Seeler’s face was on the receiving end of most of them before he managed to wrestle the Montreal forward to the ice. Clear win for Deslaurier. The Wild would receive another power play late as Andrew Shaw slashed the stick out of Zucker’s hand. Minnesota would make Montreal pay on the man advantage as Brodin sent a sharp angle shot on goal that Niemi tried to steer away but he’s put it on Zucker’s stick who alertly passed it back to the slot where Jared Spurgeon buried it. 5-0 Wild going into the 2nd intermission.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would earn another power play early in the 3rd and Dumba again found himself all alone and he’d wire another shot by Niemi. 6-0 Wild. With Minnesota comfortably in the lead, the Wild got a little loose in its own end and the Canadiens would bust the shutout as Jeff Petry’s point shot would thread the needle between Foligno’s legs and by Dubnyk. 6-1 game. Minnesota would go back to work and draw another penalty as Joel Eriksson Ek got tripped up by Michael Chaput. The Wild would again capitalize on the man advantage as Spurgeon found Parise with a stretch pass that sprung him for a breakaway. Parise would race in and made a little move before beating Niemi with a wrist shot. 7-1 Wild. Canadiens’ head coach Claude Julien would swap out Niemi for Carey Price to probably save him from further embarrassment. The Wild would then simply try to work puck deep and did what they could to prevent the game from getting too sloppy. The home crowd would give team a well-deserved ovation after a nice effort to end their 3-game skid.
Devan Dubnyk played well, making 28 saves in the victory. He made some nice saves at points in the game before Minnesota’s offense really started rolling. His stops on a few chances by Drouin really helped build the team’s confidence.
Offensively, the Wild really took full advantage of the power play where they scored 4 times on the man advantage. Charlie Coyle looked assertive and had a monster game centering Parise and Niederreiter who really led the way this evening. Coyle, in the midst of heavy trade talk certainly gave potential suitors a lot to consider with a strong performance where he had a shorthanded goal and a number of quality scoring chances in the first half of the game. The Staal, Zucker, Granlund line was also very good this evening.
This was a big win in buoying the confidence of a club who was feeling pretty shaky after ugly back-to-back losses in Alberta last week. The Wild now will have to enjoy the moment but then get ready to work as Florida comes to town on Thursday. If Minnesota wants to climb back up the ladder it now needs to go on a winning streak to make that possible.
~ The Wild roster was as follows tonight: Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nate Prosser and Matt Hendricks were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Zach Parise, 2nd Star Devan Dubnyk, 3rd Star Charlie Coyle
~ Attendance was 18,681 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 5, Grand Rapids 2
After a tough loss the night before to Chicago, where Iowa squandered a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 at the hands of the Wolves the Wild would have to regroup against Grand Rapids. The Wild would strike early as Justin Kloos buried a shot by Patrik Rybar from a nice feed by Colton Beck to put Iowa up 1-0. Iowa would add to its lead less than a minute later as Gerald Mayhew scored off the rush after a nice pass by Matt Read to make it 2-0. The Griffins would rally back and pepper C.J. Motte with shots and late in the 1st they’d get on the board as AHL-ringer Chris Terry scored to cut Iowa’s lead to 2-1 going into the 1st intermission. The 2nd period was a parade to the penalty box for Grand Rapids, but Iowa’s normally lethal power play couldn’t convert. Grand Rapids’ Matt Puempel would score his 11th of the season to tie the game up at 2-2 going into the 3rd period. The 3rd period would get pretty chippy as both clubs were making regular trips to the penalty box. Iowa would rally in the 3rd period as they’d strike 3 times, twice on the man advantage as Dmitry Sokolov scored twice and Luke Kunin would score his 8th of the season as the Wild rolled to a 5-2 victory. Motte was solid, with 22 saves in the victory.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian center kept up his over point-per-game pace as he had an assist and went a not so great 6-for-15 on his draws in Moncton’s 4-3 loss to Charlottetown on Friday. Khovanov has 19 goals, 42 points, 48 PIM’s and is a -2 in 31 games.
LW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the junior forward had a strong game on Friday as he tallied a goal and added two helpers in the Friars’ 6-0 rout of Merrimack on Friday. Duhaime has 6 goals, 13 points, 31 PIM’s and is a +9 in 16 games.
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ the former Lakeville North star is playing on the Gophers top defensive pairing along side Edina’s Ryan Zuhlsdorf and he had an assist in Minnesota’s 2-2 tie against Michigan. The next night he had two more assists in the Gophers 4-3 win. Sadek has a goal, 8 points, 20 PIM’s and is a -3 in 15 games.
LW – Jack McBain (Boston College, H-East) ~ the power forward lit the lamp to give Boston College a much-needed 3-2 win over UConn on Friday. McBain has 2 goals, 4 points, 21 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating through 11 games.
LW – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ the freshman forward had an assist in the Huskies’ 7-1 win over Nebraska-Omaha. Hentges has 5 goals, 8 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +10 in 14 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the Novi, Michigan-native had an assist and 6 shots on goal earning him 2nd star honors in Niagara’s 5-2 win over North Bay. Lodnia has 9 goals, 29 points, 16 PIM’s and is a +10 in 27 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario-native had a goal on 5 shots and went 10-for-21 on his draws in Saginaw’s 5-3 win over Erie. He had an assist and went 4-for-7 on his draws on Sunday in a 5-3 win over Mississauga. Giroux has 12 goals, 23 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +5 in 29 games.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Silvertips’ captain had an assist on 6 shots on goal in Everett’s 2-0 win over in-state rival Spokane on Sunday. Dewar has 23 goals, 43 points, 33 PIM’s and is a +11 in 29 games.