There is a certain point when you get sick and tired of addressing the same problems whether its at work or in life in general. I think the Minnesota Wild are getting closer to this point, especially after their 5-4 overtime loss to Buffalo on Tuesday. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was fairly short with his answers, which is no surprise as it seems the last two months he’s been asked the same things about virtually every loss. Why was the team so sluggish at the start of the game? What do you think you must do in order to get this team to close out games? It gets annoying to be asked that question 2-3 times let alone 10-12 times.
Minnesota returns to St. Paul to take on an Edmonton Oilers squad that has been equally inconsistent and frustrating to their respective fanbase. Both Boudreau and Oilers’ bench boss Ken Hitchcock have been through struggles like these but both know their club really needs the points. Which team will come out on top?
1st Period Thoughts: The Wild had reasonable jump to start the game and they even were able to set up a good chance down low as Zach Parise found Mikael Granlund out front for a quick shot that Cam Talbot knocked down and then Parise tried to follow it up but the puck would be swept away. Edmonton would take the early lead as Darnell Nurse who skated in with time and space just wound up and blasted a shot by Devan Dubnyk. No screen, no deflection, it just beat him (a very soft goal) cleanly to a near silent Xcel Energy Center. 1-0 Oilers. Minnesota would find themselves a man down after Ryan Suter was given an interference call for a mild check he gave to Ty Rattie. The Wild’s penalty kill did a decent job of keeping the Oilers to the perimeter and pressuring the puck carrier. Minnesota would get the kill and go back on the attack and the Eric Staal, Jordan Greenway, Mikael Granlund line caused some havoc as Greenway was able to pull the trigger 2-3 times on the shift. Cam Talbot was really struggling to corral loose pucks but the Wild were unable to pounce on those opportunities. The Wild would continue to try to send pucks on goal and then crash the net, but were unable to win the battles near the crease but if they continue they’ll surely be rewarded. The Oilers were being consistently pinned in their own end as the Wild kept swarming but Edmonton was getting sticks on shots and keeping most of them away from Talbot as the anxious home crowd looked on. The Oilers would try to crash the net themselves and with a collection of bodies like Tobias Reider lying in the Wild crease, the puck would be escorted out of the zone by Eric Fehr. A few minutes later Connor McDavid would race into the Wild zone, dangle a bit before feeding a pass out to Matt Benning who hammered a shot on goal that Dubnyk knocked down and covered up. The Wild continued to try to work pucks in close and crash and hope to jam one in but Talbot was able to sprawl and stop Staal. Minnesota would try to activate its defense as Nick Seeler ventured deep into the Edmonton zone and he’d feed a pass out front to Granlund who got off a quick shot that Talbot gloved. The Wild would trail by one going into the 2nd period. It wasn’t a bad period, but a soft goal was the difference so far.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would have a quality scoring chance to start the period as Luke Kunin found Joel Eriksson Ek in the slot but he’d drive a shot high and wide of the goal. The game would open up a bit as Granlund tried to feed Parise off the rush that failed to connect and the Oilers would counter attack setting up Oscar Klefbom with an open shot off the rush that he rifled high and wide. Minnesota tried to answer back and looked like they’d have a prime chance with a 3-on-2, but Charlie Coyle‘s pass towards Parise was deflected off target by an Oilers’ defender. Moments after that the Wild’s 4th line had another good opportunity as Eric Fehr sent a backhander on goal that Talbot knocked down and the Wild tried to crash the net but the Oilers’ goalie managed to cover it up. The missed opportunity would come back to bit the Wild as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins skated in and found Rattie in the slot for an easy goal. 2-0 Oilers. With a nearly silent arena, the Wild just seemed to be struggling to keep up with the pace the Oilers were able to generate. Minnesota’s ‘4th line’ of Eriksson Ek, Kunin and Marcus Foligno did a nice job of causing some havoc near the Oilers’ crease but at the critical moment they couldn’t get a stick on a loose puck or beat Talbot with a shot from the slot but they did manage to draw a penalty in the effort. On the power play the Wild struggled to get comfortable in the offensive zone as they spent most of the time chasing and battling for pucks along the wall and in the corner. Minnesota never was able to really get close to generating anything resembling a shot on the man advantage to the annoyance of the apathetic and bored home crowd. The Oilers were content to just skate into the Wild zone, work the puck to the corners and force Minnesota to waste time and energy trying to get the puck back. The Wild looked like they were at an early season scrimmage, going through the motions even as they set up Parise for an in-close chance during the last minute of the period. The Oilers quickly countered and Rattie’s shot was just steered wide by Dubnyk and the Wild would trail by two going into the 2nd intermission to an apathetic chorus of boo’s. Pretty bleak (and extremely quiet) around Xcel Energy Center, not a lot of fire from this club right now.
3rd Period Thoughts: The 3rd period would get out to a slightly better start as an early goal would awaken the catatonic crowd as Jason Zucker found Eriksson Ek in the slot for a quick shot that beat Tallbot. 2-1 Oilers but the goal gave the home crowd a reason to pay attention. A scary moment would happen a few shifts later, as Zucker and Kris Russell as they were chasing a puck that had the Oilers’ defenseman helicoptering off the goal cage and into the boards head first. The play drew the ire of Oilers’ and Zucker would get an interference penalty on the play. The penalty would prove costly as Edmonton would strike on the power play as Alex Chiasson set up Leon Draisaitl for a quick shot from the slot that Dubnyk had no chance on. 3-1 Oilers to a chorus of boo’s from Wild fans who were still annoyed by the penalty call. On the next shift, Zack Kassian leveled Parise for no call at least 2 seconds after he passed it down the ice even though there were two officials looking at the play. Moments after that, the Wild would exhibit a bit of snarl as Russell was blown up by a hit by Coyle that drew the ire of Darnell Nurse who crosschecked the Minnesota forward to give the Wild a power play. Minnesota would struggle to get set up in the zone and a few boo’s rained down from the home fans. The chippy play would continue and a long outlet pass would compel Dubnyk to go way out of his crease but as he swept the puck away Granlund felt compelled to trip up Draisaitl who probably would’ve fired a shot on the open net. The Oilers were content to just kill time working the puck around the perimeter as the Wild tired themselves out chasing the puck. Minnesota would try to activate its defense and apply some pressure but Edmonton kept moving their feet and contesting the Wild’s attempts to send pucks to the middle of the ice. In a fitting conclusion, the Wild finally were able to set a player up in the slot as Granlund was stopped cold by Talbot. The Oilers then immediately went down the ice and Kassian buried the empty netter to seal a 4-1 victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Kyle Rau, Victor Rask, Eric Fehr, Joel Eriksson Ek, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Greg Pateryn, Anthony Bitetto and Nick Seeler. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Matt Hendricks and Brad Hunt were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Leon Draisaitl, 2nd Star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 3rd Star Joel Eriksson Ek
~ Attendance was 18,904 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (25-16-4-3) 57pts 2nd in the Central
20.8% Power Play (9th in the AHL)
83.4% Penalty Kill (6th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 8G 29A = 37pts
2. #20 Gerald Mayhew ~ 15G 18A = 33pts
3. #26 Matt Read ~ 11G 13A = 24pts
4. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 4G 20A = 24pts
5. #7 Sam Anas ~ 8G 14A = 22pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 77 PIM’s
2. #37 Hunter Warner ~ 63 PIM’s
3. #21 Carson Soucy ~ 51 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (13-9-4) 2.51GAA .914%SP 5SO
2. #35 Andrew Hammond (11-7-1) 2.74GAA .912%SP 1SO
Iowa 4, San Jose 2
With the late call up of Joel Eriksson Ek, the Iowa Wild’s depth would be tested as they finished off their California road trip in San Jose. Iowa would exhibit good energy to start the game and they went to work peppering Josef Korenar with shots. Iowa would strike first as Dmitry Sokolov found Louie Belpedio with a pass and the former Miami Redhawks’ star rifled a shot home on the power play to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. Iowa would add to its lead in the 2nd period as Gerald Mayhew continues to chip in the points as he buried a pass from Will Bitten. The Wild would add to its lead a minute later as Colton Beck pounced on a rebound to make it 3-0 Iowa. The Barracuda would finally solve Kaapo Kahkonen as Matt Fonteyne lit the lamp to make it 3-1 Wild going into the 2nd intermission. Iowa would weather the storm in the 3rd period but Kahkonen was sharp. San Jose would score late in the 3rd on a goal by Nicholas DeSimone to make it a 1-goal game. Iowa would stand tall and Mayhew added an empty net goal a minute later and the Wild would roll to a 4-2 victory. Kahkonen had 24 saves in the win. Matt Read and newcomer Michael Kapla had two helpers on the night.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ the Terrebonne, Quebec-native had an assist on 2 shots in Cape Breton’s 3-2 shootout loss to Drummondville on Wednesday night. Boudrias has 18 goals, 39 points, 23 PIM’s and is a +13 in 45 games.