Everyone needs a break sometime, whether its 10-15 minutes during your workday or something longer like a weekend. It helps a person recharge and possibly improve their physical condition. The Minnesota Wild know this All Star Break is coming. The question is will they coast towards it, or will they play this game like it might be their last?
Colorado is in the same boat, but with a younger squad that perhaps doesn’t need the break as much as Minnesota. Will that make them more motivated to play or will their minds be on a beach somewhere sunny and warm instead of on the game in hand? Can Minnesota go into the All Star break with another victory in hand?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota had good tempo and speed to start the game as they were looking to put Colorado on its heels early. In a way the Wild were almost a little too excited as they were missing a bit on their first passes out of the zone. The Avalanche came close a few times as J.T. Compher took off and got a step on Greg Pateryn but he couldn’t do much with the puck and Devan Dubnyk was able to steer it wide to fairly loud “Duub” chant. The Wild struggled to sustain pressure in Colorado’s zone and they would counter attack as Brad Hunt would lose a puck battle to Matt Calvert who sent a pass out front to Carl Soderberg for a goal. The Wild would answer right back as good puck pursuit would force a turnover in the Avalanche zone and the puck was swept up by Charlie Coyle who sent a pass towards the goal that Eric Staal swept by Philipp Grubauer. 1-1 game. The game was back and forth, with both clubs waiting to attack in transition on any turnover near the bluelines. Jason Zucker would get a breakaway but his shot would be snagged by Grubauer. Colorado would then have a terrific opportunity of its own as the Avalanche came moving in a 2-on-1 and Colin Wilson’s shot was stopped by Dubnyk and the Wild managed to sweep the puck out of danger but not before their goalie had to make another save from in close. Minnesota would give Colorado the first power play of the game as Pateryn hooked down Mikko Rantanen. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a good job of making the cross-ice pass difficult as Mikko Koivu and Marcus Foligno used their reach well to force Colorado to the perimeter. Unfortunately the Avalanche would score from the perimeter as Tyson Barrie let go of a wrist shot from the point that rang off the post and in. 2-1 Colorado. I don’t think Dubnyk ever saw that shot. The Wild appeared to be a bit winded at this point in the game and Colorado really started to press the attack and Minnesota had a heckuva time just working the puck out of their end of the ice. Minnesota would stay patient and their top line would cause some havoc as Zucker made deflected a shot out of the air that Grubauer had to fight off. The Wild continued to attack as Ryan Suter found Jared Spurgeon with a pass and he’d rip a shot by the Avalanche goalie. 2-2 game. The goal seemed to give the Wild a jolt of energy as they continued to attack and a rebound off a Pateryn shot went onto the stick of Mikael Granlund out front but his backhand shot was absorbed by Grubauer. The fast and furious pace was to be expected of two teams who know they have a long layoff ahead.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Avalanche would try to attack early and came dangerously close to cashing in early as Soderberg nearly set up Wilson for what looked like a lot of open net only to have it swept away at the last minute. Colorado continued to attack and Gabriel Bourque rang a shot off the post that went parallel to the goal line and stayed out. Minnesota would counter attack with a good shift from the Staal, Coyle, Jordan Greenway line as Coyle had a chance from in close but Grubauer was able to hold on. As one would expect with a rivalry there were little scrums after the whistle. Minnesota would get its first power play as Alex Kerfoot went to the box for hooking. The Wild were holding the zone and trying to work shots in close and their hustle would force a tripping call on Ian Cole giving Minnesota two-man advantage. Minnesota would capitalize on the two-man advantage as Calvert lost his stick which allowed Granlund to make a beauty of a diagonal pass to Staal who buried it for his 2nd goal of the night. 3-2 Wild. The Wild still had a lot of power play time left, but couldn’t convert as Hunt had his first shot on goal as a member of the Wild as he missed high and wide of the mark. As the penalty expired the Avalanche would go on the counter attack and Suter would would get caught for holding up Sheldon Dries drawing a Wild penalty in the process. The Wild penalty killers did not attack the Colorado point men that much and Minnesota stayed patient in the middle of the ice forcing the Avalanche to settle for attempts from the perimeter. Minnesota would get the big kill and you could sense a sigh of relief from the Wild bench. The Wild would then try to go on the attack and would get a golden opportunity to extend their lead as Greenway was high sticked by Barrie that drew blood and gave Minnesota a 4-minute power play. Minnesota’s power play never really got much going beyond a few shots from the perimeter that never really made it on goal; and most of the time the Wild were struggling just to get set up in the offensive zone. They’d come up empty on the power play, but the Wild would have to weather an Avalanche counter attack and Nick Seeler had 2-3 giant shot blocks and Marcus Foligno had another big block to keep Colorado at bey. Minnesota would counter with the Victor Rask, Pontus Aberg, Zach Parise line and who were pesky and forechecking with selfless abandon and the pressure allowed the Wild to bottle up Colorado in its own end. As Parise had the puck down low, he’d be helped by Staal and it was Parise who found Coyle with a pass from beneath the goal line that he buried to give the Wild a 4-2 lead going into the 2nd intermission. Excellent period for the Wild where they were winning the small battles ad paying the physical price when necessary.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Avalanche would try to press the attack to open the 3rd period which was no surprise to the Wild who were ready with the Koivu, Granlund, Zucker line to shut them down. Colorado was being extra aggressive, finishing their checks and trying to charge the net whenever they could. Minnesota would try to answer that physical intensity as Pateryn leveled Cole with a nice open ice hit. The Wild was looking to counter attack against Colorado’s pressure and they nearly cashed in as a long pass found Zucker in a 3-on-1, but the official would be impeded by the official to have a free lane and instead had to dish it off to Koivu for a shot rather than taking the chance himself. Aberg would get a few chances to shoot as the Wild again transitioned after Minnesota outmanuevered an attempt by Colorado to aggressively forecheck but Grubauer was able to make the save. The chippy play continued as Nathan MacKinnon went after Joel Eriksson Ek and the’d wrestle a bit before Gabriel Landeskog didn’t appreciate the Wild forward defending himself and a small scrum would ensue. No penalties were called. But on the next faceoff, MacKinnon would get called for a faceoff violation for playing the puck with his hand on the draw. On the power play, Hunt tried a diagonal pass to Parise who was wide open on the back side that just failed to connect. With the Wild power play flagging a bit, the Avalanche would take another foolish penalty as Patrik Nemeth fired a puck up into the netting on the far side of the rink for a delay of game call that gave Minnesota a 5-on-3. Minnesota would again capitalize on the 2-man advantage as Suter stepped into a slap shot that blazed by Grubauer. 5-2 Wild. The Wild still had over a minute of power play time left and they moved the puck very well and kept causing chaos in the Colorado end but were not able to add to its lead. Minnesota was content to work pucks deep and force the Avalanche to spend time defending at least a little and bringing the puck up the full length of the ice. The Wild were sitting back in a 1-2-2 trap and it was generating turnovers as they tried to enter the Minnesota zone and the time just began to melt away. Minnesota was tired of just defending and their big line of Coyle, Greenway and Staal would go on the attack and Greenway set up Coyle for a chance that was steered aside by Grubauer. The token pressure did not allow Colorado to pull Grubauer and even when they had an offensive zone chance they kept him between the pipes. The thousands of Wild fans in attendance gave the Wild an ovation in the closing seconds as Minnesota rolled to a 5-2 victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Victor Rask, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Pontus Aberg, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Charlie Coyle, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Brad Hunt, Nick Seeler and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. J.T. Brown, Matt Hendricks and Nate Prosser were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Eric Staal, 2nd Star Ryan Suter, 3rd Star Carl Soderberg
~ Attendance was 17,310 at Pepsi Center.
~ Brad Hunt wore #77 joining Tom Gilbert and Lubomir Sekeras in having worn the number.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 4, Rockford 1
The Iowa Wild would strike early as Hunter Warner scored his first goal of the season on a point shot just barely 2 minutes into the game. Iowa’s fast start continued as Kyle Rau tapped home a shot on the power play to give the Wild a commanding 2-0 lead going into the 1st intermission. The Ice Hogs would finally solve Kaapo Kahkonen in the 2nd period as Terry Broadhurst scored. That was the first time in 4 games that Rockford scored on the Finnish goaltender. Iowa would score again on the power play as Rau scored his 2nd goal of the game. Will Bitten would cap it off with an empty net goal to give the Wild a 4-1 victory. Kahkonen has 18 saves in the win. Sam Anas had 3 assists while Gerald Mayhew and Cal O’Reilly had two helpers each.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the skilled Russian had an assist and 2 PIM’s in CSKA’s 2-1 loss to Yaroslavl Lokimotiv on Tuesday. Kaprizov has 20 goals, 33 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +27 in 47 games.
High School Hockey Report:
Let’s Play Hockey released their latest rankings for Class A & Class AA. There has been some movement since I posted them last week. Here is their rankings as of January 23rd, 2019.
#4 South St. Paul
#5 Proctor / Hermantown
#6 Thief River Falls
#8 Rochester Lourdes
#9 East Grand Forks
#10 Duluth Marshall
#3 Forest Lake
#5 Brainerd / Little Falls
#6 Eden Prairie
#10 Maple Grove
#2 St. Cloud Cathedral
#3 East Grand Forks
#4 Thief River Falls
#9 Sartell-St. Stephen
#5 Maple Grove
#6 White Bear Lake
#7 St. Thomas Academy
#8 Eden Prairie
#10 Benilde-St. Margaret’s