Turnovers Prove Costly in Wild's 2-1 Loss to Pittsburgh

Turnovers Prove Costly in Wild's 2-1 Loss to Pittsburgh

NHL

Turnovers Prove Costly in Wild's 2-1 Loss to Pittsburgh

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Forged in Fire is a popular show on the History Channel.  Just in case you’re not familiar with it, the competitors get 3 hours to forge a specific type of blade out of various pieces of metal.  it tests a person’s blademaking skills, stamina and their ability to adapt to unforeseen issues.  It is kind of the same way when your team loses an important player due to injury, how fast they adapt to try to cope with that loss often determines if your club suddenly goes into a losing streak or they able to stand their ground.

This is the challenge for the Minnesota Wild as they go to Pittsburgh (aka Steeltown) as they try to prove they can win without Matthew Dumba in the line up.  Their first game without Dumba didn’t go so well in a 4-0 loss to San Jose, but will they demonstrate this veteran club can improvise and adapt against the Penguins?

1st Period Thoughts:  The Wild certainly tried to play the part of being a motivated road opponent as they worked hard for the first goal of the game.  They had a number of decent scoring chances on Casey DeSmith early.  Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal were stopped on a few point-blank range chances.  The Penguins would counter attack and nearly cash in as Devan Dubnyk fought off the puck on a few occasions.  Minnesota would finally get the first goal as Jordan Greenway wound up and wired a shot by DeSmith to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.  It was his 6th goal of the season on a pretty top shelf snipe.  Unfortunately, the Wild seemed to want to return the favor and give a goal back to the Penguins just as fast.  A weak tripping call gave Pittsburgh’s power play a chance, but Minnesota did a decent job of keeping the Penguins to the perimeter and they got the big kill with some clutch clears of the zone by Marcus Foligno.  Unfortunately, this is where Dubnyk tried to be helpful.  When I say try to be helpful, I mean it in the way a little kid sometimes tries to help their family by ‘cooking’ in the kitchen but only serves to turn it into a giant mess.  Or the kid ‘trying to help’ mom out by mopping the floor by putting the mop in the toilet first as you can watch in the commercial below.  Dubnyk would leave his crease to play a puck behind the goal and apparently thinking he had Ryan Suter down low in his zone to help him, he would attempt a no-look backhand pass that went right to Jake Guentzel who wasted little time passing it out front to Bryan Rust for an empty net tally.  1-1 game.  It wasn’t some bobbling of the puck, it was a needless high-risk, low-reward play to give a confident Penguins squad a freebie of a goal.  Nino Niederreiter got a little pass for a partial breakaway but his chance was denied by DeSmith.  The Wild would try to go back to work to tie the game, but Penguins were a bit more motivated by their goal and time and space on the ice was tougher to come by.  The Penguins would nearly get the go ahead goal themselves as Juuso Riikola wired a shot from the point that was partially deflected that Dubnyk got a piece of as it hit the left post and stayed out.  Minnesota would dodge a bullet but the Penguins kept swarming in the Wild end where the Wild had to feel a bit lucky to be tied at 1-1.  Some may have felt the Wild had more quality scoring chances and while that may be true, Minnesota knows it has to at least double the amount of chances Pittsburgh has in order to have any chance at all.

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Fox Sports Net North broadcast fell over themselves to talk about all of the high danger chances the Wild created in the period.  It was true in the fact the team created a number of odd-man opportunities including a 3-on-1 and a 2-on-1 but the results were all the same.  Nothing.  And in many cases, not only did they fail to convert the opportunity they often failed to even register a shot on goal or fanned on the shot and missing well wide of the mark.  DeSmith didn’t have to be outstanding; the Wild missed for him.  Granlund from in close with an empty net to look at; missed.  Staal set up in the slot for a chance?  Fanned on the shot and shuffleboarded it 10 feet wide of the net.  The Wild did dominate most of the play, and did manage to keep Pittsburgh hemmed in its own end but ultimately couldn’t finish.  You would like to see some frustration on the bench, but it was mostly 1,000-yard stares and apathy.  Even on the power play, the Wild moved the puck pretty well to set up Jason Zucker for a few big shots but DeSmith was able to keep the puck out.  Pittsburgh didn’t exit the zone all that often but they at least were putting shots on goal, forcing Dubnyk to make saves and despite all the time spent in the Pittsburgh end the Wild were outshot 10-11 in the period.  Maybe I’m being too pessimistic but I’m not all that hopeful going into the 3rd period.

3rd Period Thoughts:  In the 3rd period the Wild did all they could to throw this game away until they finally managed to do so.  Initially it started with penalties as coincidental roughing penalties to Pittsburgh’s Jack Johnson and Zucker made the ice a bit more open 4-on-4 and then Jonas Brodin took a hooking penalty giving the Penguins a 4-on-3 power play.  On the man advantage the Wild did a decent job of getting sticks into passing and shooting lanes and they’d get the big kill.  Yet Minnesota seemed destined to throw this game away as another bad turnover, this time on a weak pass by Greg Pateryn was swept up by Guentzel who worked it out front to Rust who buried it by Dubnyk.  2-1 Penguins.  Minnesota just didn’t have the energy or the speed to create much of anything offensively and the Wild wasted lots of time skating into the zone and then frittering the puck away with poor passes.  Even with the man advantage late, the Wild could not seem to take or pass cleanly or get the puck to settle so they could send a few shots on goal and that meant DeSmith went mostly untested in the 3rd period.  Sure, the official scorer said the Wild registered 14 shots on goal, but many were low quality shots that did little to test him and the Penguins cruised to a 2-1 victory.

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Luke Kunin, Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund, Jordan Greenway, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, Eric Fehr, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Greg Pateryn, Nick Seeler and Nate Prosser.  Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Matt Hendricks and J.T. Brown were the scratches.

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Bryan Rust, 2nd Star Jake Guentzel, 3rd Star Casey DeSmith

~ Attendance was 18,435 at PPG Center.

Minnesota High School Hockey Report:

Let’s Play Hockey has released their latest rankings for both Boys and Girls in Class A & AA.  It was another eventful week, with upsets that caused some movement in the rankings.  This would indicate we have lot of sections where the competition should be wide open as seeding will likely be pretty difficult.  Here are their rankings as of December 19th, 2018.

Girls Hockey

Class A

#1 Warroad

#2 Breck

#3 Proctor / Hermantown

#4 Mound Westonka

#5 South St. Paul

#6 Rochester Lourdes

#7 Thief River Falls

#8 Mahtomedi

#9 Duluth Marshall

#10 East Grand Forks

Class AA

#1 Edina

#2 Blake

#3 Wayzata

#4 Forest Lake

#5 Andover

#6 Maple Grove

#7 Eden Prairie

#8 Grand Rapids / Greenway

#9 Roseau

#10 Brainerd / Little Falls

Boys Hockey

Class A

#1 St. Cloud Cathedral

#2 Hermantown

#3 Mahtomedi

#4 East Grand Forks

#5 Alexandria

#6 Thief River Falls

#7 Sartell-St. Stephen

#8 Duluth Denfeld

#9 Greenway

#10 Orono

Class AA

#1 Minnetonka

#2 Andover

#3 Edina

#4 Duluth East

#5 St. Thomas Acdemy

#6 Maple Grove

#7 Wayzata

#8 Eden Prairie

#9 White Bear Lake

#10 Hill-Murray

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