Yesterday, Derek and I were chatting about the standings. He said to me, “you know Arizona surpassed Minnesota in the standings, right.” Of course my response was “yes” followed by a “do you think I’m heartbroken by that fact?” Derek knowing me as well as he does, pretty much laughed and said “no.” In fact, I’m quite glad to be out of the playoff picture again. I’m sure there are fans out there who would say such beliefs are sacrilegious, or that I’m “not a real fan.” But to those people I say, I don’t care. I’m tired of this team backing into the playoffs and then get bounced in the first round. I would say if you’re a real fan, you too would be highly annoyed with that.
Playing the Dallas Stars is always a good way to force this team to face reality. And let’s face it, this team needs a healthy dose of reality. Hopefully a bit of that reality comes with Nick Seeler being back in the lineup instead of major disappointment, Anthony Bitetto. He is definitely an acquisition that had made absolutely no sense. He, Pontus Aberg, and Viktor Rask are what I like to call the “terrible trio. I wish we had traded for picks instead of players that are absolutely pointless. We’d be better off just calling up players from Iowa, and riding out the rest of this season. Instead we have to ride out the rest of the season with this ragtag bunch.
1st Period Thoughts: Oh that’s right, Ben Bishop is nearing breaking the Stars franchise record for shutout minutes record by Ed Belfour. Bishop before this game started is at 204 minutes without a goal, and Belfour’s record is 219 minutes. This is the kind of record I hate facing, because all too often, this team has a knack to continue the streak. It also doesn’t help when your team is five minutes into the game and has yet to tally a shot on goal. Tonight is also the kind of night, where there is absolutely no room for mistakes. Dallas doesn’t score a lot of goals themselves, but they don’t allow many goals scored. If Bishop and Anton Khudobin weren’t as light’s out as they’ve been this season (they have eight shutouts between them), I think we would see a much different record for the Stars. While Dallas doesn’t score much, the skaters know that their goaltenders have their backs and can dig them out if need be. The slow and steady pace has continued at the midway point of the period. The Stars were able to pin the Wild players in their zone for some extended time. Oh yeah, the Wild only have one shot on goal compared to Dallas’ seven. And for whatever bizarre reason, the Wild are the team that looks tired. I still don’t know how this is possible. They haven’t played a game since Monday. They didn’t have to travel after that game. Remember how the Wild were getting to the loose pucks in Tampa Bay? Well we haven’t seen that since. But like I said, the Terrible Trio haven’t exactly helped things. Not trading for draft picks or prospects is ultimately going to hurt this team in the long run. I mean we’ve changed General Managers over the years, but there are days where I feel like Doug Risebrough is still in charge, for the kinds of decisions that are made. Yep, and near the end of the period, Bishop has broken Belfour’s record, not that the Wild really made him have to work for it. You’re welcome Ben! Oh, and looking at Khudobin on the Stars bench (or whatever team he’s playing for) still chaps my hide to this day. While that deal was made by Chuck Fletcher, that one feels much like a Risebrough deal (go look up the “great” return we got on that one). Now Minnesota has certainly evened up the shots late in the period, but the shots they’re getting are less than spectacular. Watching the Wild in their own zone is sad. The lack of smart and lack of communication with each other is sad. I don’t want to jinx things too much, but so far Devan Dubnyk is having a decent game. Not perfect, but compared to some of the games he’s had this season, I’ll take this result for the opening period.
2nd Period Thoughts: Well in these early moments, I see a lot of skating back and forth, but nothing is really happening. In these first three minutes, we have only one shot on goal between the two teams, and I’ll let you guess who has it. Hint, it’s the team that used to call Minnesota home. The poor play, and numerous turnovers in their own zone lead to the first Stars goal. Radek Faksa would be credited with the goal, after a glaring turnover by Kevin Fiala. And to add insult to injury a second goal would come shortly after that first one, this time by Roope Hintz. It had to be reviewed, because initially it looked like Jared Spurgeon had cleared the crease, but after review it was beyond a shadow of a doubt. You have to love when tonight’s broadcast duo of Anthony LaPanta and Wes Walz talk about what response we’ll see. Well we didn’t see any kind of response after the first goal. We didn’t see any response after the second, because the Stars would score a third goal, this one by Joel L’Esperance. Oh, and it’s his first NHL goal. And you would think it would be Minnesota who would be pulling their goaltender, but you would be wrong. For some unknown reason, Bishop has left the ice for the Stars and Khudobin has taken over. If you want to know why fans and/or bloggers get really frustrated with their team, it’s games like these, and Wild fans have seen more than their fair share this season. It’s especially frustrating, because the Wild have absolutely stunk it up at home. When I think of the serious money that fans have dished out, to watch this, I would be absolutely pissed if I was one of them. The Wild would get the first power play of the game with Hintz getting called for hooking. Color me surprised that they actually scored on the goal, with Jason Zucker grabbing the rebound. Dubnyk is having to continue pulling out some big saves, as the Zucker goal only energized this team for a very short time. The Wild would take the next penalty, with Jonas Brodin being called for hooking. Not that the Wild have done much right tonight, but they did kill the penalty, so I guess that’s something. There would also be some brief moments of possession where the Wild would come close, most notably Zucker, but he would get pulled down and no call. Well the Wild would head to the locker room, down two goals. Another pathetic second period, where the team fails to show up. When will this team learn that they cannot afford to take ANY time off at this point in the season?
3rd Period Thoughts: Well I will say this has been a relatively fast-paced game. I’m certainly not going to complain about that, as I’m ready for this game to be over. You know who I really feel bad for on this team? Jordan Greenway. He works his butt off, but he’s stuck on a line with Rask and Aberg. I mean seriously, how do you expect him to succeed when he’s stuck with those two lumps. I know we had issues with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle, but honestly, we could work around those two lumps. And from time to time, they’d have a decent game here and there. We’re not getting that from Aberg and Rask. And yes, I realize we didn’t get either of those players in the Coyle trade, but sometimes you’re better off with the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. But hey, we have General Manager Paul Fenton talking these guys up. Sometimes I wonder if when he wakes up, he has a Stuart Smalley moment, where the character on Saturday Night Live played by Al Franken gives himself a daily pep talk and convince himself he’s doing just fine and these guys are great. It’s the only thing I can think of that explains how he views his team and the guys that he’s acquired. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.” And if anyone needs a daily pep talk, it’s head coach Bruce Boudreau. You watch him during a game, and there are so many times where you can almost read his mind, something to the effect of “I wanted to end my career on a high note, but the longer I’m here, the lower that note is going to be.” Another guy who works his butt off, and again doesn’t have much to show for it tonight is Marcus Foligno. He just works night in and night out, and I would like to see that attitude shared by more of his teammates. In the last few minutes of regulation, as one would expect, Dubnyk would be pulled for the extra attacker. I wish we would do that, especially in games where the team has done little to deserve to tie things up for at least one point. Minnesota definitely got some benefit of the doubt kind of calls in icing and offsides, and of course they did nothing with those gifts either. Then another gift of Tyler Seguin missing on a clear open net shot. The gifts would end with an empty net goal by Alexander Radulov. As the team left the ice with a losing score of 4-1, you could hear a few fans send out some boos. They were definitely deserved, and I don’t want to hear from you “you should never boo your team” kind of fans.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Jordan Greenway, Kevin Fiala, Victor Rask, Pontus Aberg, Luke Kunin, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Brad Hunt, Greg Pateryn.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Joel L’Esperance; 2nd Star, Roope Hintz; 3rd Star, Jason Zucker
~ Attendance was 18,919 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (32-18-7-5) 76pts 3rd in the Central
23.3% Power Play (3rd in the AHL)
83.5% Penalty Kill (7th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 13G 41 = 54pts
2. #20 Gerald Mayhew ~ 20G 25A = 45pts
3. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 22G 21A = 43pts
4. #27 Brennan Menell ~ 2G 31A = 33pts
5. #26 Matt Read ~ 15G 16A = 31pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 133 PIM’s
2. #37 Hunter Warner ~ 87 PIM’s
3. #21 Carson Soucy ~ 57 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (16-11-8) 2.73GAA .909%SP 5SO
2. #35 Andrew Hammond (15-7-1) 2.60GAA .917%SP 2SO
Iowa 4, San Antonio 1
Iowa is in its own tight race for the playoffs and points are precious in the ever competitive AHL Central Division. Iowa would find the back of the net first as Will Bitten followed up his own shot by burying the rebound behind Ville Husso giving the Wild a 1-0 lead after 1 period of play. The Rampage would answer back as Klim Kostin scored on a wrist shot that beat Andrew Hammond cleanly. Iowa responded just 30 seconds later as Cal O’Reilly buried a power play goal to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. The Wild would add to its lead early in the 3rd as Kyle Rau scored on the power play. The Rampage tried to rally but Andrew Hammond and the Wild’s defense was solid. Rau would add an empty net goal to seal a 4-1 victory for Iowa. Hammond had 25 saves in the win.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario-native buried two goals on 3 shots as Saginaw rolled to a 6-2 win over Sarnia on Tuesday night. Giroux has 29 goals, 49 points, 22 PIM’s and is a +29 in in 64 games.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Silvertips’ captain had an assist on 5 shots and went 18-for-35 on his draws in Everett’s 4-1 loss to arch rival Portland on Tuesday night. Dewar has 35 goals, 79 points, 60 PIM’s and is a +26 in 58 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the talented Russian had a goal on one shot in CSKA Moscow’s 4-1 win over Dynamo Moscow on Wednesday. Kaprizov has 2 goals, 6 points and is a +4 in 5 playoff games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the feisty Russian had an assist on 2 shots in Moncton’s 5-3 loss to Halifax on Wednesday. Khovanov has 24 goals, 71 points, 94 PIM’s and is +8 in 62 games.