So far out of the All Star break its been slow going for the Minnesota Wild as they have earned just 1 out of a possible 4 points. The team squandered a chance at a victory with a lazy penalty late in the game that resulted in a 4-3 loss in overtime. Needless to say, Wild fans are probably a bit on edge these days as they watch their team struggle. The scary part, its only going to get tougher as Minnesota has a tough weak of road trips out east starting with tonight’s game in Buffalo.
The Sabres have strangely been linked to the Wild when it finds it near a precipice of sorts. In the past the team turned a win against the Sabres to reverse their struggles. But those were against terrible Buffalo teams, that isn’t the case anymore as the Sabres are young, talented and maturing towards being a playoff team. Can the Wild earn a big road win in Buffalo?
1st Period Thoughts: One thing about playing Buffalo, is getting re-introduced to Jason Pominville. Back in the day, he and Thomas Vanek were my go-tos in fantasy hockey. But of course, both of them were much younger and bigger offensive threats. Both Minnesota and Buffalo have changed over the years, yet some things seem to never change. The Wild would take the first penalty of the game with Matt Hendricks getting called for holding. There are nights when I wonder if this team knows how to clear the puck during the penalty kill. Hopefully tonight is not one of those nights. At the very least they were able to clear early in the penalty kill and then able to keep sticks in the passing zones and the Sabres to the perimeter, of course until the second portion of the power play. The opening goal would come from Evan Rodrigues. It felt like Devan Dubnyk was out of position as he was trying to get an eye on the puck with the screen in front of him. Of course it’s not unusual that Minnesota has to regularly dig themselves out of a scoring hole. Of course not getting your shot on goal until seven minutes in, isn’t exactly a recipe for success. With the inclusion of Kyle Rau to the Wild lineup tonight, we get to see if his speeds helps any. It certainly couldn’t hurt matters. The best shift would come at just over 10 minutes in, however Jason Zucker would fall down thus breaking up any momentum. Thankfully Eric Staal was able to get a decent shot on goal, but Linus Ullmark was up to the task. Again, I have to say I’m disappointed that the Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Charlie Coyle has been reunited. I’m sure they like it, because it’s comfortable like your favorite pair of broken-in jeans, but they’re sloppy looking because they are broken in, and probably have some frayed edges and maybe some stains. Tonight is definitely feeling like it’s going to be the night of not moving their skates. And of course the passing feels off as well tonight, but that’s been a bit of an issue beyond just tonight. The best scoring chance would come from Marcus Foligno just under six minutes remaining in the period. At the very least, the Wild have closed the shooting gap, but of course the only gap that matters is the score. One thing I noticed after a great shift by Jordan Greenway late in the period is that during the commercial break, he grabbed the iPad from one of the coaches. He continues to try and improve his game, which is great to see. Most likely he was checking to see just how close he got to getting one past Ullmark. The Wild would get their first power play in the last minute and a half of the period, with Sam Reinhart getting tagged for hooking. Of course the Wild struggle to put much together, part of it due to looking for the pretty pass, which of course makes it much harder to maintain possession. It also allowed Jack Eichel to get a short-handed scoring chance. Thankfully, the period would end with the Wild being down just 1-0.
2nd Period Thoughts: Coming back for the last 30 or seconds of the power play, the Sabres had no issues killing it. However, Parise would draw the next penalty with Rasmus Dahlin getting called for hooking. It would be nice if they could find a why to get and maintain possession. With the new faces, we’re definitely seeing some new faces on the power play. I’ll admit, I’m shocked to see Greenway on the power play, but it’s nice to see. But with Mikko Koivu not on the bench and Eric Fehr out with illness, head coach Bruce Boudreau is definitely having to be creative in his lines, especially on the power play. It would be an easy penalty for the Sabres to kill. On a decent bit of pressure after the penalty was killed, the Wild would generate some chances. Of course after Ullmark froze the puck, Zucker found himself on the ice thanks to former teammate, Marco Scandella. I’ll be honest, that was the first time I even noticed Scandella in this game. And of course if you talk to Sabres fans, they aren’t exactly pleased with his game. This is really feeling like a boring game, as neither team is really able to do much. I mean you’ll get moments where bits of excitement happen, but it’s hard to focus on the game as a fan. And then of course Zucker and Mikael Granlund are buzzing around making things happen, which sets up Jared Spurgeon perfectly for the Wild’s first goal of the night. The excitement of that moment would be short lived, as C.J. Smith would score next with Dubnyk more focused on a loose stick coming towards him than on the puck. The Wild would definitely apply pressure after Smith’s goal, which with this team is a positive. However the problem is this. While Buffalo is an improved team, we’re making the Sabres look far better than they are. The next Wild player heading to the penalty box would be Jonas Brodin for slashing. That penalty would become deadly, with Dahlin making this now a 3-1 game. And just when you think you wish this was the third period and we could just get out of this game, Spurgeon gets his second goal of the night with a great wrap around. Minnesota would continue to challenge and would tie up the game with just under three minutes remaining in the period. Luke Kunin would get the initial shot but it would hit the pipe and land in the blue paint. Coyle would pounce on the loose puck and make it 3-3. Now we just need to figure out if they can keep the score tied or get a go-ahead themselves, as the Wild don’t fare well when they go into the third period on the losing side. With the final seconds of the period, the Sabres would make a last moment push. Buffalo was better at getting to the loose pucks, but at least Minnesota didn’t give up another goal.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well during the intermission, Koivu has been ruled out for the rest of the game. Honestly, the Wild have actually played better without him. Funny how we the fans know and notice this, but the front office does not. Yes, with him and Fehr out, the lines are definitely not what we’re used to, but I would say the creativity has only been a boon. Just when you think this is going to be a mild-mannered period, Foligno decides to add some physicality to the game. One of his targets was Jeff Skinner who later then when Foligno was trying to leave the ice, Skinner shot the puck at him as he was leaving the ice. Either he was trying to send some physicality back or to draw a too many men penalty on the Wild. Again the Wild would get some decent zone time, but then lose the puck. The Wild got a tired Sabres line who should have been looking for line changes but instead they maintain possession after a boneheaded poor clearing attempt by Parise. This failure to clear the zone turned into a somewhat easy goal by Reinhart. Minnesota almost went down another goal (this time a shot by Casey Mittelstadt), after another fiasco in the neutral zone. With this period officially in the second half, I can’t really say I’m finding much to be excited about. The second period was one of the better second periods this season, but then it has gone back Buffalo’s way, and I’m not seeing a lot of desperation to get things done. It’s almost as if they were hoping that ties were again a thing in the NHL. Or if they could at least get one point out of this game. Minnesota would head to the power play with just under five minutes remaining in regulation after Tage Thompson was called for holding. The Wild need to figure out a way to turn their power play around. As much as I’m not missing Koivu in this game, with his absence, I don’t think the power play units even know what to do without him. Buffalo of course had no issues killing this penalty. Of course with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Dubnyk would get pulled for the extra attacker. Just when I thought there was no way this would be successful, but Parise was able to keep poking and jamming at the puck to get it past Ullmark. In the last minute of play, Greenway got a couple of good scoring chance, and in fact the Wild were able to keep the puck primarily in the Buffalo zone, which was nice to see near the end.
Overtime Thoughts: Color me surprised, but Brodin and Spurgeon were the starting defensemen on the overtime. I’m so used to Ryan Suter hogging all the time and in the end messing things up. Of course after a minute, Suter would get his chance on the ice. Parise did have a great scoring chance, and thankfully Suter got off the ice at the end of his shift. But instead, he was slow to get back on the ice, so Zucker and Granlund had no support after a great give away by the Sabres. I just don’t get Suter and why this team loves him. And he was lucky he wasn’t called for interference late in the overtime. With about 15 seconds left in overtime, Dubnyk thought he had the puck in his glove, but instead it was at his feet in the blue paint. Once he realized his mistake, he dropped to the ice and kept the puck in front of the goal line.
Shootout: Eichel (BUF) – no goal, off the post; Rask (MIN) – no goal, lost puck; Mittelstadt (BUF) – no goal, wide; Zucker (MIN) – no goal, through Ullmark’s legs; Reinhart (BUF) – goal, off blocker and rolls into goal; Parise (MIN) – no goal, backhand over goal.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Victor Rask, Jordan Greenway, Charlie Coyle, Marcus Foligno, Anthony Bitetto, , Luke Kunin, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Greg Pateryn, Nick Seeler and Brad Hunt. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Eric Fehr and were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Sam Reinhart; 2nd Star, Jared Spurgeon; 3rd Star, Jack Eichel
~ Attendance was 16,847 at KeyBank Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 1, San Diego 4
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Pas, Manitoba had an absolutely monster game on Saturday as he had 4 goals, 2 helpers on 8 shots and went 11-for-23 on his draws in Everett’s 7-2 win over in-state rival Seattle. Dewar has 35 goals, 70 points, 56 PIM’s and is a +21 in 47 games.
LW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the junior forward had an assist in the Friars’ 1-1 tie to Vermont on Saturday. Duhaime has 6 goals, 22 points, 49 PIM’s and is a +15 in 28 games.
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ the senior defenseman had an assist in Minnesota’s 4-3 win over Michigan. Sadek has 3 goals, 12 points, 30 PIM’s and is a -10 in 27 games.
D – Filip Johansson (Leksands IF, Allsvenskan) ~ the Wild’s top pick from 2018 NHL Entry draft had a goal and an assist in Leksand’s 4-2 win over IK Pantern on Friday. Johannson has a goal, 3 points, 26 PIM’s and is a -12 in 40 games.
LW – Jack McBain (Boston College, H-East) ~ the freshman has been heating up offensively as of late and he had his biggest goal of his college career with a game winning tally to beat arch-rival Harvard as part of the Beanpot Tournament. McBain has 6 goals, 11 points, 29 PIM’s and is a +3 in 22 games.