After any game where the Minnesota Wild suffer a terrible (and perhaps predictable) late-game collapse and I see that KFAN has Wild Fanline on afterwards I feel sorry for Brandon Mileski and Pat Micheletti as they field calls from angry fans. And what I’ve learned is that it isn’t always losses that bring out the daggers from the Minnesota Wild fanbase. I once tuned in after a victory this season and because the Wild nearly frittered away the game late, fans were extremely critical of this team’s playoff chances and much to the dumbfounded hosts (which happened to be headed by Kevin Falness that night) they were astonished at the pessimism.
That pessimism certainly seems to be pretty well warranted now as the Wild squandered a 4-1 lead to lose 5-4 to New Jersey Devils who are in last place in the Metropolitan Division. Now the Wild face the St. Louis Blues, a team that Minnesota has played well against this season but in most of those games they had Mikko Koivu and Matt Dumba in their lineup. Can the Wild surprise everyone by earning a victory or will the free fall continue at least a little longer?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota seemed motivated to push the pace of play early. The Wild’s forecheck was active and they were forcing turnovers in the neutral zone to keep St. Louis pinned in its own end the first few minutes of the game. Alex Stalock would have to make the first big save of the game as he denied Brayden Schenn on a backhander from in close before the rebound was escorted away by Zach Parise. A high sticking call on Jordan Greenway when his stick caught the face of Oskar Sundqvist. It would be a costly penalty as Ryan O’Reilly won a battle for the puck along the wall and he’d feed a pass cross ice to a wide open Vladimir Tarasenko on the back door for an easy goal. 1-0 Blues to silence from the sellout crowd. The Wild’s energy and momentum seemed to be sapped for a few minutes after Tarasenko’s tally. Minnesota would try to strike off the rush as Luke Kunin set up Parise for a redirect that was fought off by Jordan Binnington. Thousand yard stares, apathetic silence from the crowd watching their team try to compose itself and refocus its effort as Kyle Rau blocked a shot and then took off on a partial breakaway but his slap shot was gloved by Binnington. The Blues were activating their defense to try to outnumber the Wild off the rush and they were creating open opportunities that kept things busy in the Wild zone. Minnesota would create a quality scoring chance of its own as Jared Spurgeon stepped up in the offensive zone and he worked a puck to Eric Fehr out front but he’d push a shot wide of the mark. The Blues answered back with a golden opportunity of their own as Schenn set up O’Reilly was wide open just inside the dots forcing a clutch save by Stalock. The Wild would take a penalty a little over the last minute of the period as Foligno apparently got a penalty for being in the face of Joel Edmundson. The Blues’ power play would again capitalize as great puck movement opened up time and space and it was Tarasenko setting up O’Reilly for a one-timer that Stalock had no chance on. 2-0 Blues. The period would end to a few boo’s but mostly frustrated fans not caring enough to aire their displeasure. It was a period of sloppy defensive zone coverage and mostly uninspired play. If Minnesota continues to play like this, they will lose this one by 4+ goals. The Wild were doing nothing to deprive Binnington’s vision at all.
2nd Period Thoughts: Vladimir Tarasenko would fall skates first into the boards awkwardly trying to battle Parise for a puck that left him laying on the ice. The Blues training staff would attend to their star scorer and he’d skate slowly back the St. Louis bench. Minnesota still appeared to be a bit gun shy early on in the period. The Wild would finally start to move their feet and Jason Zucker would chip and chase a puck into the Blues’ end and he’d force a turnover that was gathered up by Eric Staal who hammered a shot on goal that Binnington steered aside. St. Louis would respond with a chance of their own as Jaden Schwartz was denied by a sprawling effort by Stalock. Jordan Greenway would use his big frame and strength to power his way from behind the goal and out front for a wrap around that resulted in drawing a penalty on Alex Pietrangelo that gave the Wild its 1st power play of the game. It became painfully evident the Wild felt the power play was a time to relax as they lazily moved the puck up the ice and when the Blues would converge on the puck carrier Minnesota did nothing to support the play whatsoever. This started to irk the home crowd who was not pleased with the lack of urgency and you could hear some boo’s. The power play accomplished nothing and as the penalty expired the Blues would go back on the attack and create a 3-on-1 down where they sent the pass back to the high slot where Vince Dunn wired a shot by Stalock as Greg Pateryn didn’t really commit to defending anyone. 3-0 Blues. Down by three the Wild looked like they were out there for a morning skate as they glided around the ice oblivious to the fact half of the game was already behind them. The Wild would eventually set up Anthony Bitetto for a blast from above the right faceoff circle that he’d rip wide of the mark which set up the Blues for an odd man rush the other way. Brayden Schenn would make a move to the middle of the ice and the puck would go off Pateryn and by Stalock as the Wild defenseman crashed into Stalock in the Wild crease. 4-0 Blues. An absent-minded play of the puck by Stalock outside of the trapezoid would put the Wild back on the penalty kill. Moments into the Blues’ power play, they’d take a high sticking that drew blood (and thus a double minor) penalty giving St. Louise a two-man advantage. The Blues leisurely moved the puck around the zone setting up a few chances from in close that Stalock stopped. Minnesota would survive the 5-on-3, but they’d give the Blues another 5-on-3 shortly thereafter as Parise was called for hooking as he tried to work his way around Dunn for a shorthanded scoring chance. The Blues tried to work a tic-tac-toe play right off the start that just failed to connect. Then the Wild would get a little luck as Fehr made a nice hit in the corner on Tarasenko that knocked off the lid of the Blues’ sniper that drew a cheer from the ornery home crowd and then two shattered sticks by Pietrangelo that helped kill off more power play time. The Wild would get the big kill and they’d try to free up Parise who had just left the penalty box for a breakaway but it was just out of his reach. Minnesota would draw a power play late in the period as Robert Bortuzzo cross checked Parise before he could pounce on a rebound after a nice point shot by Nick Seeler. The Wild seemed content to burn 30 seconds of power play time just so they could rest a little before heading on in for the 2nd intermission. Another ugly period that could’ve been a lot worse. So far my 4+ goal prediction is holding up nicely as the crowd sends the Wild off to another chorus of boo’s.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild did little with the power play to start the period beyond a few desperate pucks thrown in the general direction of the goal that never made it there. The Blues were content to dump pucks deep in the Wild zone and then muck and grind and force the Wild to waste time and energy trying to retrieve it. When the Wild did get the puck in the zone, all they seemed to be able to generate were unscreened shots from the perimeter that were pretty easy saves for Binnington. The Blues were barely pushing themselves on their shifts as they gave their bottom 6 forwards more ice time in a game where they were comfortably in control. The Wild seemed to want to give the same message as they kept rolling 4 lines. A high sticking call on Jay Bouwmeester would give Minnesota a power play and the Wild to be a little more focused as they hoped to notch a pride goal to end Binnington’s shutout bid. A quick set up for Staal from the slot went right into the chest of the Blues goalie and then moments later Binnington would glove a shot from the wall by the Thunder Bay, Ontario-native. The Blues’ penalty kill wasn’t overly aggressive, but they had good puck support and did a nice job of challenging the zone entry and sweeping away any loose pucks. The Wild would again be stymied on the man advantage. Minnesota continued to search for at least a goal and a long outlet pass sprung Kunin for a breakaway but his 5-hole bid was stopped by Binnington. Another Blues penalty gave the Wild another chance with the man advantage. The Wild did not have a lot of puck or player movement with the man advantage and beyond a few perimeter shots they did nothing with the power play. Perhaps sending a message to his team, Boudreau deployed his younger players in the final few minutes, even on the power play while many of the veterans had to wait their turn. St. Louis kept throwing pucks the length of the ice and time would steadily evaporate from the final few minutes of the game as the Blues rolled to an easy 4-0 victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Jordan Greenway, Kyle Rau, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Luke Kunin, Eric Fehr, Brad Hunt, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Anthony Bitetto, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Matt Hendricks and Victor Rask were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Ryan O’Reilly, 2nd Star Vladimir Tarasenko, 3rd Star Jordan Binnington
~ Attendance was 19,102 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ Crease and Assist: A Legally Compliant Hockey Blog would like to congratulate to Mike “Doc” Emrick on his 1,000th national broadcast in his call of this game.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 4, Rockford 5 SO
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Ivan Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian earned 2nd star honors as he had a goal and an assist and went 10-for-15 on his draws in Moncton’s 8-1 win over Saint John. Khovanov has 23 goals, 61 points, 78 PIM’s and is +6 in 51 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario-native had an assist in Saginaw’s 6-1 win over Owen Sound on Friday night. The Spirit’s captain added another helper on Saturday but in a 6-1 loss to Oshawa. Giroux has 23 goals, 41 points, 20 PIM’s and is a +24 in 54 games.
D – Jack Sadek (Minnesota, Big 10) ~ the senior blueliner had a goal in Minnesota’s 4-3 win over Ohio State. On Saturday he followed it up with an assist as the Gophers swept the Buckeyes in another 4-3 victory. Sadek has 4 goals, 15 points, 32 PIM’s and is a -9 in 30 games.
LW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the junior winger is having a decent season and that continued on Friday as he chipped in a goal and an assist on 3 shots in the Friars’ 6-1 win against UMass-Lowell. Duhaime has 8 goals, 25 points, 49 PIM’s and is a +15 in 31 games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the former Lakeville South Star continues to shine for the Bulldogs as had a goal in Minnesota-Duluth’s 5-2 win over Denver. Swaney has 12 goals, 20 points, no PIM’s and is a +11 in 25 games.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the center’s torrid scoring pace is showing signs of slowing a bit as he had an assist on 10 shots and he went 18-for-35 on his draws in the Silvertips’ 4-1 loss to Seattle on Saturday. Dewar has 34 goals, 73 points, 56 PIM’s and is a +22 in 52 games.
Minnesota High School Hockey Report:
The section playoffs are finished for Girls hockey in Class A and Class AA. Check out the quarterfinal matchups below.
Class A – starts Wednesday
#2 Breck vs. Fergus Falls, 11 a.m.
#3 Mound-Westonka/Watertown-Mayer/SW Christian vs. Mankato East/Loyola, 1 p.m.
#1 Warroad vs. St. Paul United, 6 p.m.
#4 Proctor/Hermantown vs. #5 Rochester Lourdes, 8 p.m.
Class AA – starts Thursday
#2 Andover vs. Farmington, 11 a.m.
#3 Brainerd vs. White Bear Lake, 1 p.m.
#1 Edina vs. East Ridge, 6 p.m.
#4 Maple Grove vs. #5 Minnetonka, 8 p.m.
Oh and since it is that time of year, check out this video by some players from Burnsville High School and their Flow-To booth in thisvideo produced by GameOn! Minnesota.