It is civil war as Minnesota Wild fans seem to be polarized into camps that loved what the team did at the trade deadline and those who did not. Most would agree that changes had to be made and moves were going to be necessary but the return (or the lack of it) has fans fighting on Twitter, comment sections and message boards. Honestly, its great theater to watch if this discussion wasn’t so terribly serious.
On the flip side, the Winnipeg Jets were seen as ‘winners’ of the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline according to ESPN. They didn’t give up any bluechip prospects and still managed to improve their depth. Will the Wild appear more motivated or less motivated against the Jets tonight?
1st Period Thoughts: Well in the opening seconds, the Wild looked like they were going to get a goal from Jason Zucker, but it went off the crossbar. I’m not going to argue with this team getting two shots on goal in 30 seconds. This is a team that often struggles with shots on goal. Of course Winnipeg would get its own early shots, with a mess of bodies in front of Devan Dubnyk, somehow the puck managed to stay out of the net. Of course after the early jump, Minnesota would struggle with getting the puck out of their zone. It looks like we’re going to have a wandering Dubnyk tonight. At one point, there were four Wild skaters in the zone and only one Jets skater. Instead of letting his teammates fetch the puck, Dubnyk felt some misplaced need to get the puck. Combine that with little flow by the Wild, this could end up being a long night. It also feels like we’re not seeing the speed and jump that we’ve seen in some of our recent games. But then, we rarely see speed when playing Winnipeg. I think has much to do with the Wild playing like cautiously trying to avoid injury against a more physical team. And one would also point out that Eric Staal isn’t looking any faster. Dubnyk continues to play the puck when he doesn’t, meaning when we have numbers in our zone. I wish he would let his skaters do their job. The Wild would take the first penalty, with Greg Pateryn getting called for high sticking. For a team like Winnipeg with one of the best power plays in the league, we should count our luck stars that it was a single penalty instead of a double minor. The Wild would have issues with clearing the puck deep into the Winnipeg zone. And to add insult to injury, Dubnyk gave up another soft goal. He wasn’t being screened by anyone, and Mark Scheifele got the puck through the 5-hole. It doesn’t help that the Wild would head almost immediately back on the penalty kill, after Nick Seeler got called for hooking. After his multi-game scratch, this is not how you want to make your return to the lineup. At least this time the penalty was much more successful. If you watch the Wild’s broadcast on a regular basis, you will know that the failure of the penalty kill is due to the loss of Mikko Koivu. Sure, keep telling yourself if it makes you feel better. I have a feeling our penalty would keep sinking with him in the lineup as well. I would also like to make this observation. From his very first game in a Wild sweater, Ryan Donato showed he came to play. We’re not getting the same reaction from Kevin Fiala. Of course as I type that, Fiala did have a nice show of creativity, but it hasn’t been consistent nor did it result in much. Considering what became of this period, I’m just glad that Minnesota ended up only being down by one in this fast moving period.
2nd Period Thoughts: Again, the Wild came out strong in the opening seconds by the Zucker-Staal-Jordan Greenway line. It seems they’re catching the Jets out of position. Hopefully this line (or really any line) can find a way to get Connor Hellebuyck to bite. The Wild will get occasional chances, and you think “hey, this is where the Wild score.” The line that continues to take chances is the Zucker-Staal-Greenway line. The other lines seem a bit missing in action tonight. This is a team that can’t afford to have anyone take a night off. Of course it also doesn’t help when the officials are quick with the whistle tonight. The Wild’s third line would take chances of their own, but just when you think they’re going to make something happen, a Winnipeg skater takes them to the ice or up against the boards. However, I need to take a pause here. Honestly, the Wild aren’t playing that badly. The problem though is that they’re not generating enough chances of their own nor spending enough time in the offensive zone to generate those chances. Interesting story told about the return of Matt Hendricks to the Jets organization after his time in Minnesota. Players along with head coach Paul Maurice talking about the importance of having a guy like Hendricks to be a leader with a smile on his face, even though he’s not going to be a star or rack up tons of ice time. Oh, you mean like Nate Prosser who Paul Fenton shunted down to Iowa in favor of Anthony Bitetto who has yet to bring anything to the Wild. I would much rather have the steady presence of Prosser in the locker room and on the bench. And of course tonight, Bitetto is scratched, so he’s especially not bringing anything tonight. The Wild would get their first power play just past the midway point of the game, when Patrik Laine was called for hooking. Now is Minnesota’s time to not waste time. Of course keeping Ryan Suter on the ice is not exactly a receipe for success. Pontus Aberg would head to the bench in some pain, but at least he’s just on the bench and not down the tunnel. When you think this was going to be another wasted power play, Brad Hunt would last it past Hellebuyck perfectly for the tied game. Yet, hold in your excitement, as Dubnyk would give up another goal after Ben Chiarot took the initial shot but possibly went off Laine for the goal. It would have been nice if the Wild could have found a goaltending solution at the trade deadline instead of shipping Granlund to Nashville for little return. Also, it’s yet to be seen if Kaapo Kahkonen is the answer for this team either when it comes to goaltending. I couldn’t even venture a guess when we’ll even see him as a backup as Alex Stalock is under contract until the end of the 2021-22 season and Dubnyk is under contract until the end 2020-21 season. With that much tied up in goaltending, I worry that Kahkonen could end up being the Wild’s latest version of Anton Khudobin. And while we’re speaking of players with double-Ks as their initials, I also worry about the people who have placed a lot of stock in Kiril Kaprizov. I don’t trust Russian players until they come to North America and put their time in, even if that means time in the American hockey League. Just remember that the Vegas Golden Nights had their own Russian players issues with Vadim Shipachyov as well. There are still pieces to this team that need to be fixed. And until they are, we’re going to have to deal with games like tonight’s, being so close yet so far away. Also, be glad that the Wild are just down one goal heading into the second intermission.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well the third period isn’t starting as upbeat as the first two periods did. Early, Greenway would get tagged for interference. Early in the power play, the Wild would keep the Jets to the perimeter and able to clear the puck. They would also get a great short handed chance by Eric Fehr. Minnesota would continue to keep Winnipeg to the edges and kill the penalty. You have to give Donato some major props. Not only will he motor with the puck, but he will stick with the puck even when he has an opposing player all over him. He as the ability to protect the puck, and hopefully when his teammates realize how talented he is at protecting the puck, they’ll be ready to take the puck when he feeds it to them. That kind of communication needs to happen sooner rather than later. We did see a decent burst of speed from J.T. Brown on a one on one into the zone, unfortunately he was unable to fool Hellbuyck when the shot did come. It would have helped if he had someone with him to dish the puck to, or at least be ready for a possible rebound. Since his return from Iowa, Brown has certainly played much better. Or at least with a great sense of determination. Honestly, this hasn’t been a horrible game. If this team manages to hold on to the eighth spot in the Western Conference, Winnipeg would be that first round opponent. The Wild so far have held their own tonight, but let’s face it, the playoffs are a completely different season altogether. It should also be pointed out, that Minnesota’s fourth line is getting a significant shift near the end of regulation and they kept it in the offensive zone for considerable time. That tells you that head coach Bruce Boudreau trusts that line and is recognizing their hard work tonight. With just over three minutes remaining in regulation, the Wild will head to the power play, after Tyler Myers was called for cross-checking against Zucker. For some unknown reason, Suter got another extended shift of the power play, which of course did nothing. Finally, he got off the ice in favor of Hunt which also allowed Dubnyk to get off the ice for the extra skater/two man advantage. That would bode well, and Zucker would tally the tying goal. Now, if Dubnyk can avoid giving up another easy goal. Just when you though you were going to be happy to head to overtime, hard work by the third line would end up be the go ahead goal by Joel Eriksson Ek. The goal would be reviewed and be determined to be a good goal. Then after it was determined to be a goal (after a quick review), Winnipeg would call for a review for goaltender interference. The puck had never been gloved by Hellebuyck, so this should stand as a good goal. After the second review, the officials again determined that it was a good goal. Hellebuyck would immediately be pulled for the center ice faceoff. With just 39 seconds remaining, Zach Parise would get called for tripping. The Jets will keep Hellebuyck on the bench, so now they will have a 6-on-4 advantage just like the Wild did. Fehr would win that important faceoff in the Wild zone and send the puck down the ice. The Wild players would keep the Jets tied up and to the edge. This was enough to earn the Wild the regulation win, and boy does that feel good.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Pontus Aberg, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Ryan Donato, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Greg Pateryn, Brad Hunt and Nick Seeler. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Anthony Bitetto was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Devan Dubnyk; 2nd Star, Ben Chiarot; 3rd Star, Ryan Donato
~ Attendance was 15,321 at MTS Centre.
~ Kevin Fiala wore #22 joining Nino Niederreiter, Stacy Roest, Dominic Moore and Cal Clutterbuck in having worn the number.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the winger had 2 helpers on 4 shots in Niagara’s 9-0 rout of Owen Sound on Sunday. Lodnia has 14 goals, 36 points, 18 PIM’s and is a +17 in 32 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Spirit’s captain had a goal on 3 shots and went 5-for-16 on his draws in Saginaw’s 5-4 overtime win on Sunday. Giroux has 25 goals, 43 points, 20 PIM’s and is a +26 in 58 games.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the 4th liner had a goal on 5 shots and went 7-for-9 on his draws in CSKA Moscow’s 4-0 win over Vityaz Moscow in the first game of the KHL playoffs.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the winger had a lone assist on 5 shots in CSKA Moscow’s 4-0 rout of Vityaz Moscow to open the playoffs.