The Minnesota Wild surprised many by earning a shutout road win in Tampa Bay last evening. A sense of urgency and confidence seems to be surrounding this team. Maybe Wild General Manger Paul Fenton knew what was needed to get this team to start playing the right way or he could be just lucky; or maybe a little of both. Either way, Wild fans have enjoyed the more youthful and speedy lineup and the results seem to coincide with that shift.
Now they get to face a similar opponent in the Florida Panthers who embraced a youth movement a few years ago and are still finding themselves mired in mediocrity. They have youth and speed throughout their lineup and can light the lamp but they also see the lamp lighting up in their end of the ice all too often. Can the Wild give an encore performance against Florida?
1st Period Thoughts: Well it appears that head coach Bruce Boudreau is going with the hot hand and is starting Devan Dubnyk tonight after his shutout last night. I’m not sure I’m fully on board with that decision. And that decision would be put to the test in just over a minute, with a goal by Jonathan Huberdeau. So far, right now it looks like all of the energy belongs to Florida, but of course you can’t tell by the crowd reaction. Or rather the lack thereof. And where we decided to start Dubnyk, Florida perhaps wisely have chosen to start their backup Samuel Montembeault and give Roberto Luongo the night off. Gosh, I can’t tell you how distracting the relative lack of arena noise is. It feels more like this is a practice than a game. I mean I’m sure Florida players like the winter weather, but it has to be a bit mentally draining to have to play in such a silent arena for a minimum of 42 games a season. Let’s just say I only watch Florida when the Wild are playing them or perhaps we choose to scout an upcoming opponent, but I’m curious if there are any opponents that generate larger crowds. Although I suppose if they do, the influx of fans are wearing the other team’s jersey. The decision to start Dubnyk would again be questionable, as it appears that Aaron Ekblad has scored, but Boudreau would challenge the goal for a possible offsides. Considering how this usually goes, we’ll probably find ourselves down 2 goals and be on the penalty kill. Imagine my surprise. The goal would be determined to be offsides. Now, it is absolutely time for Minnesota to wake up, because they’ve been asleep at the wheel pretty much from the opening face off. Although, I have to say that the Wild’s third and fourth lines seem rather awake and have been trying to make things happen. The first power play would go to Minnesota after Rile Sheehan was called for holding on Jonas Brodin. This would be another classic Wild power play where the first minute is pretty much wasted and allowed two shorthanded chances by the Panthers. The best chance would come in the final seconds of the man advantage by Eric Staal but of course it would come up empty. So you get a Florida goal waived off and a power play shortly thereafter, but never got anything going. To add insult to injury, Mackenzie Weegar would make it 2-0 off of Ryan Suter’s backside. And it is now time to pull Dubnyk, as with about a minute and half remaining in the period, Weegar would get his second of the night. I mean how do we go from probably the best game of the season last night to this s**t-show tonight? If Alex Stalock isn’t in goal to start the second, I honestly give up.
2nd Period Thoughts: And many people’s wishes are coming true, as Stalock will finish out the rest of this game. Whether or not this improves anything, I highly doubt. Right away, the Panthers brought pressure to the Minnesota zone. While neither team has looked good, Florida has simply looked less bad. The first Wild penalty would go to Joel Eriksson Ek for tripping. He had such a great game last night (like many players), so this is nothing more than a lazy penalty. And things would get worse with Eric Fehr getting called for high sticking. The Panthers will have a 5-on-3 power play for 1 minute and 36 seconds. Surprisingly, Marcus Foligno made a great break away shorthanded chance, but it would go off the crossbar. The fourth goal would go to Mike Hoffman pretty much right after Foligno’s shorthanded chance. This would still leave the Panthers with more than a minute of power play time. Imagine my dismay when I look up at the television and see that there’s still fifteen minutes remaining in this period. Seriously, this game can’t get over soon enough. And even worse than seeing the flock with that much time left, but it’s four Florida goals on 11 measly shots. Ryan Donato would draw a slashing call on Ekblad. Considering how the first Wild power play went, I’m not expecting much from this one. Yep, it’s more of the same, and this time Stalock almost scored on himself. Imagine my shock that Jonas Brodin got a shot on goal with the puck going off of Florida’s Josh Brown. That goal by Brodin managed to generate a bit of pressure by the Wild. This pressure was created by an extended amount of time in the offensive zone, however like the power play, it felt like they were unable to make much of it. A questionable bit of officiating would come late in the period. Matt Read took a stick to the face. One referee put his arm in the air, so Stalock made his way to the bench, however the other referee waived it off. Thankfully there was a stoppage in play (thanks to referee Francis Charron realizing what’s going on and blew his whistle) to prevent any more goals with an empty net. The bleeding would continue with a goal by Mike Mattheson. Imagine my surprise when just seconds after the Panther’s fifth goal of the night, that Foligno would get one past Montembeault. Again, it’s the third and fourth lines making anything happen tonight. With just 44 seconds remaining in the period, Nick Seeler would get called for tripping. It looked like Aleksander Barkov scored right at the buzzer, but it would be reviewed and determined to go in the net after time expired. I’m just glad that not only did it not go in, but there’s only 20 minutes remaining in this one.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well it seems we got some tough love, tough truth from Foligno during the intermission. In his interview with Kevin Gorg of Fox Sports North, he said that half the team wasn’t moving or trying to win the battles. And it’s the absolute truth. That truth and hard work by Foligno’s line, got them starting the period. Of course, they’re on the penalty kill, so it’s not unusual to see Foligno and Fehr on the ice during the penalty kill. It will be interesting if there are any kind of locker room ramifications from Foligno’s comments. It’s probably a good thing that Wild captain Mikko Koivu is on injured reserve, because you know he’d be pouting that a fourth liner dared to question his play. Minnesota would get the next power play after Keith Yandle was called for tripping. Again, there is a lack of focus on the power play and they would again struggle to make anything happen. The Wild would eventually get some great chances near the end of the power play, but pucks would go wide. The Panthers would again kill another Wild power play even with the great chances by Jared Spurgeon and Zach Parise. It looked like Minnesota would head back to the power play after Seeler was taken down by a Vincent Trocheck hook, but the officials would take Seeler for embellishment as well. So now we have wide open ice with a 4-on-4. Matheson would get his second goal (and fourth goal tonight by Florida defensemen) on a wrap around. There’s still over eight minutes remaining in regulation, and oh how I wish that wasn’t the case. Listening to the excuses by Wild television duo of Anthony LaPanta and Mike Greenlay always makes me wonder if they’re watching the same game as I am. They seriously made a comment that the Wild haven’t been able to solve one particular line (sorry I missed which names were involved), to which my sarcastic response was “this team hasn’t been able to figure out anything tonight.” Mind you, I didn’t use the word “anything” when I said it aloud. With just under two minutes remaining, I’m wishing there was a white towel that could simply be thrown on the ice. This has been one of the hardest games to watch in a long time. A closing scuffle between Foligno and Josh Brown would do nothing, but again it’s Foligno doing just about everything in this game while many players do little to nothing. I get that you played last night, but so did Florida. They also had to travel from Boston when you only traveled from Tampa Bay. No excuse for this pathetic showing.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Zach Parise, Luke Kunin, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Pontus Aberg, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Donato, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Brad Hunt, Greg Pateryn . Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Aleksander Barkov; 2nd Star, Jonathan Huberdeau; 3rd Star, Sam Montembeault
~ Attendance was 12,388 at BB&T Center.
Minnesota High School Hockey Report: (Spoiler Alert)
The Tourney got off to a fast start with the Class A quarterfinals on Wednesday and then Class AA’s opening round was equally thrilling. Here is a run quick down on the games from yesterday.
#2 Blaine 4-2 def. White Bear Lake ~ Blaine looked poised and under control throughout most of the game as they rolled to 4-2 victory on the strength of two goals from Cole Hansen (who also had a helper) and Carsen Richels‘ goal and an assist. The Bengals’ Joe Daniger looked solid, making 26 saves. The Bears’ Sam Newpower had a goal and an assist and goaltender Evan Foss battled hard in making 26 saves in the loss.
#3 Eden Prairie 3-2 3OT def. Lakeville South ~ Eden Prairie jumped ahead to 2-0 lead on goals from Drew Holt and Clayton Schultz. Lakeville South would battle back and get goals in the 2nd and 3rd from Griffin Ludtke and Jack Novak and the game would go to overtime. Then 2 overtimes, then 3 overtimes as the Eagles couldn’t solve Cougars’ goaltender Henry Welsch. Despite a few close opportunities for the Cougars it was Eden Prairie that would notch the game winner as Jack Jensen ripped a shot from the slot that beat Welsch giving the Eagles a 3-2 victory. Welsch had 63 saves in the loss.
#1 Edina 4-2 def. Moorhead ~ The Hornets took control early as Jett Jungels scored just 53 seconds into the game. Mason Nevers would add another to give Edina 2-0 lead going into the 1st intermission. Moorhead would strike early in the second as Cullen Gess wired a shot by Louden Hogg. But Edina would score late in the period as Liam Malmquist scored on a rebound to make it 3-1 going into the 3rd. Nolan Westra would give the Spuds some hope late in the 3rd period as his goal cut the Hornets’ lead to one, but Edina would bury the empty netter to seal 4-2 victory.
#4 St. Thomas Academy 3-1 def. #5 Duluth East ~ The Cadets would strike first as Ryan O’Neill let go of a laser that Brody Rabold couldn’t stop. The Greyhounds would answer back in the 2nd period as Charlie Erickson scored from in close on Muzzy Donohue and it appeared Duluth East had a momentum advantage going into the 3rd period. In the 3rd period, Muzzy Donhue was outstanding, stopping the Greyhounds as they tried to crash the net repeatedly. The Cadets were patient and while they only had a few scoring chances they made the most of them as O’Neill hammered home a shot from the slot that Rabold had no chance on to give St. Thomas Academy the lead with a little over 7 minutes left. Duluth East would pull Rabold for an extra attacker but before he could even make it to the bench, McLain Beaudette poked a puck away a pass and the puck slid into the empty cage to seal a 3-1 victory. Donohue had 28 saves in the win.
Class A Consolation Bracket
North Branch 5-2 def. Minnesota River ~ The Vikings move onto the Consolation final after using a 3-goal 2nd period to power by the Bulldogs. Justin Sachs and Tucker Sachs both had a goal and an assist apiece while Jake Turek turned away 36 shots for the victory. Charlie Weick had a goal and an assist, and goaltender Andrew Regner had 21 saves in the loss.
#5 Delano 2-1 def. New Ulm ~ The Tigers and Eagles would each strike once in the opening stanza to make a game of it as Delano’s Adam Brown found the back of the net and New Ulm’s Kyle Taur scored. But it was Hogan Williams that would score in the 2nd and the Tigers’ netminder Aaron Kruse would do what he could to make sure it was the game winner as Delano advances to the consolation championship. New Ulm’s Jack Raymond had 20 saves in the loss.