It is a felony to yell ‘fire’ in a movie theater, but its bizarre to see how fellow Wild fans react to the word ‘firesale.’ A lethargic effort on Thursday did nothing but fan the flames of a potential Wild firesale as Head Coach Bruce Boudreau could barely muster anything positive to say about the club’s latest game other than pointing out the gap between the Wild and those chasing them has all but disappeared. Meanwhile fans are fearing the whole team, coach included could end up as casualties in any potential roster culling.
Another team embracing what looks to be another rough season are New Jersey who like the Wild, made the playoffs a season ago. Now they look to be sellers going into the trading deadline already having shipped out Brian Boyle to Nashville for a 2nd round pick. Can the Wild stop the free fall and preventing adding more fuel to the firesale rumors?
1st Period Thoughts: With Mikael Granlund playing top line center along side Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle the line had good speed and a shoot-first mentality that was very evident as Granlund’s shot missed wide but caromed right out front just to the side of Corey Schneider. The pace was fast and both clubs were quick to move north-south with the puck and taking any chance to send shots on goal. New Jersey was trying to work shots in close and their 4th line nearly cashed in on a rebound given up by Devan Dubnyk but former Wild draftee Kurtis Gabriel didn’t get much on the shot. The game would slow down a bit, but the Devils kept attacking through the neutral zone with speed and Brett Seney skated into the Wild zone and he’d go top shelf, glove side on Dubnyk. 1-0 Devils. In the shifts after New Jersey’s goal, the Wild seemed to be a bit timid as the Devils started to ramp up the pace. You could see it in the little races for loose pucks and the way New Jersey was finishing its checks while the Wild were deciding whether or not they really wanted to compete. After a few minutes of listless hockey, the Wild’s 4th line would battle back and they’d send a puck on goal that Schneider couldn’t cover up and Minnesota crashed the net and battled for the biscuit as Marcus Foligno swept up the puck and moved around from behind the goal and he managed to lift a backhander just underneath the crossbar. 1-1 game. Luke Kunin and Joel Eriksson Ek also deserves credit on being pesky around the crease. The goal seemed to light a small fire and the top line would swarm around the Devils goal for a good chance by Granlund that Schneider just managed to hang onto. Minnesota would give New Jersey a power play late in the period as Nick Seeler got tangled up with Jesper Bratt behind the Wild goal. Minnesota’s penalty killers got off to an ok start as Eriksson Ek would intercept a pass and clear the zone. The Devils got the Wild to chase a bit and they’d find Pavel Zacha wide open on the back side but his shot would miss high and wide of the goal and Minnesota had to feel lucky to be tied going into the 1st intermission. An ok period, but some lines are battling harder while others are mostly missing in action. That has to change if the Wild want to win this game.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Devils would take an early penalty as Blake Coleman was called for holding. Minnesota did little with the man advantage as they moved the puck along the perimeter in slow, predictable movements that made it fairly easy for the New Jersey penalty kill to handle. The Wild didn’t even failed to even attempt a shot on goal with the man advantage as Minnesota’s passing was often off target or to the skates. The Devils would go on the attack after the kill and Kyle Palmieri caused some trouble near the Wild crease but Foligno was able to win the battle and was able to carry the puck out of danger. Minnesota would draw another power play as Ben Lovejoy found his way into the box. The penalty would prove costly for New Jersey as the Wild won the initial faceoff and Ryan Suter flung a wrist shot from the point that was redirected by Parise and by Schneider. 2-1 Wild. On the next faceoff, Gabriel would ask Foligno for a fight and the Wild winger would oblige and the two dropped the gloves. Foligno didn’t seem to want to throw many punches while Gabriel was looking to fire haymakers and thus the former Wild draftee was in control of most of the fight as the crowd boo’d while Foligno just tried to hang on. Clear win for Gabriel as he shoot his head in mild frustration over Foligno’s passive approach as he headed to the penalty box. Minnesota would nearly cash in as a pass by Zucker found Eric Staal with an open net but he couldn’t gather the puck to tuck it in. The Devils would counter with a little pass that broke Nico Hischier free for a breakaway but he was stonewalled by Dubnyk. Minnesota would find themselves on the penalty kill as Jordan Greenway for tripping. The Wild were very aggressive in challenging the Devils’ zone entries and this made it difficult for New Jersey to get settled and get much going with the man advantage and Minnesota got a big kill. Minnesota tried to go back on the attack and Jason Zucker had a great opportunity as he tried to dangle a puck back out front but Staal again couldn’t close the distance on a puck with nothing but an open net staring back at him. The Wild would continue to apply pressure and they’d crash the net and be rewarded as a shot from the point by Jonas Brodin that Schneider stopped and Eriksson Ek buried the rebound. 3-1 Wild. Foligno had a secondary assist on the play which gave him the ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’ for the game. Minnesota continued to swarm all over the Devils’ zone and the Wild had to feel good about themselves as they carried a 2-goal lead into the 2nd intermission.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would again draw an early penalty as Palmieri hooked Anthony Bitetto to give the Wild another power play. On the man advantage, the Wild were stopped from in close when Granlund’s bid was dismissed by Schneider. Minnesota continued to crash the net as Granlund fired an initial shot and Zucker pushed a shot just wide of the mark. The Wild would come up empty, but it helped Minnesota assert some quality offensive pressure to start the period. New Jersey would go right on the attack and they would cut Minnesota’s lead to one, as Jesper Bratt who received a pass from Damon Severson and he’d dangle a shot around Dubnyk. 3-2 game. The game started to get a bit chippy as Hischier felt into Dubnyk and then the Wild goalie answered back with a cross-check of his own. Minnesota was trying to catch the Devils’ being too aggressive and the 4th line would strike again as a turnover in the neutral zone resulted in Kunin outworking Lovejoy for the puck near the wall and he’d rip a shot by Schneider. 4-2 Wild. Kind of a soft goal, but the Wild wasn’t complaining. The frustration started to build as the Devils were looking to scrap after the whistle. The Wild would then start to outwork and outbattle the Devils for loose pucks and New Jersey seemed to start to get a bit banged up in the process. Minnesota was content to play defense and deny time and space on the ice and precious minutes evaporated off the clock that the Devils could ill-afford to waste. The Devils would pull Schneider with an extra attacker with about 2:30 left in the game and Minnesota almost sealed it early as Brodin’s empty net bid just missed wide for an icing call. The Wild kept New Jersey to the perimeter as they set up point shots looking for a friendly deflection. Minnesota would never really let New Jersey get close as they’d roll to a 4-2 victory.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Kyle Rau, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Victor Rask, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, 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 Marcus Foligno, 2nd Star Jesper Bratt, 3rd Star Zach Parise
~ Attendance was 16,783 at Prudential Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 5, San Antonio 4 OT
Iowa has had its share of struggles against the San Antonio Rampage this season, so it knew this game was going to be a challenge. The Rampage surged out of the gate, making Kaapo Kahkonen‘s life busy between the pipes. He did stemmed the early storm and the Wild would counter with a shorthanded goal as Colton Beck scored to give Iowa a 1-0 lead. Iowa seemed to be on the verge of taking that lead into the intermission when Trevor Smith jammed in a shot by Kahkonen to make it 1-1 at the end of the 1st period. Iowa probably felt it was deja vu as Kahkonen gave up a bit of a soft goal when Adam Musil blasted a shot from the point that beat the Finnish goalie. 2-1 Rampage. The Rampage would add to its lead just 21 seconds later as Nikko Mikkola scored off the rush after a nice pass from former St. Cloud Cathedral star Austin Poganski to make it 3-1 and I am sure Wild head coach Tim Army was wondering if the wheels were about to fall off. Iowa would rally back and it was Michael Kapla sending a pass towards the goal that deflected off Matt Read and by Jared Coreau cutting the lead to 3-2. The Rampage would then answer right back at the tail end of a Wild power play and Samuel Blais left the box and he’d be found with a long pass and he fire once that Kahkonen stopped but he’d score on the rebound. 4-2 Rampage. Iowa would score again as Matt Read jammed a shot just inside the post and Coreau. The Wild would later tie the game as Gerald Mayhew redirected a point shot from Matt Bartkowski that blew by Coreau tying the game at 4-4 going into the 3rd period. The 3rd period was more of a defensive struggle as both clubs were wary of giving up a foolish turnover or odd-man chance and the game would go to overtime. In overtime, the Wild seemed to have the extra energy and were dominating the play but just couldn’t seem to get an opening. That would change as Blais was called for hooking putting the Wild on the power play. Iowa would make it count as Louie Belpedio worked the point as he let go a heavy shot that missed wide off the boards but the puck caromed out front where Dmitry Sokolov pounced on to fire a shot by Coreau to give the Wild a 5-4 victory. Kahkonen had 19 saves in the win; while Belpedio had 3 helpers, newcomer Kapla had two apples of his own and Read led the way with 2 goals and a helper.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario-native had a goal and went 4-of-9 on his draws in Saginaw’s 4-1 win over Windsor on Thursday night. Giroux has 20 goals, 34 points, 18 PIM’s and is a +16 in 50 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian has cooled off in recent weeks as he had a lone assist and went 4-for-12 on his draws in Moncton’s 4-0 win over Cape Breton on Friday. He has 21 goals, 56 points, 74 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating in 48 games.
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ the senior defenseman had an assist in Minnesota’s embarrassing 7-2 loss to Penn State. Sadek has 3 goals, 13 points, 30 PIM’s and is a -10 in 28 games.