Win one, lose one is not really a good strategy for progress at anytime, let alone near the end of a season when you’re in a tight race for the last wildcard spot like the Minnesota Wild are. Losing on Saturday to Carolina was painful, but the road isn’t getting any easier as the Predators come to St. Paul at a time when the Wild can’t seem to win at home. Yet its a game they simply must have if they want any chance to make the playoffs.
I will admit, I’m not the most hopeful about Minnesota’s chances. I wasn’t all that bullish on this team even before the season started. Yet, the Wild still have a shot as other teams competing for that spot also have their own share of stumbles. Can Minnesota regroup and win one on home ice for a change or will it be another nail in the 2018-19 season coffin?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota would generate the first scoring chance of the period as Ryan Donato was able to get a little room and he’d fire a shot on goal that Juuse Saros steered aside. The Predators would go on the attack as the Victor Rask line was soft on pucks making it easy for Nashville to control the offensive zone and Roman Josi set up Nick Bonino in the slot for a backhander that Devan Dubnyk held onto. Craig Smith would trip up Luke Kunin to give Minnesota a power play. Minnesota was very lethargic on the man advantage and an errant pass turned into a 3-on-2 the other way with little hustle on the back check and without any pressure Ryan Johansen skated into the slot and wired a shot by Dubnyk. 1-0 Nashville on the shorthanded tally. The Wild didn’t do much with the rest of the power play beyond one attempted solo rush by Donato that was blocked and never went on goal. Tempers or perhaps frustration by the Wild would boil over as a flurry near the net turned into a scrum and Jordan Greenway would drop the gloves with Brian Boyle. The two large men were wary of letting go of the jersey for fear of being tagged with a barrage of bombs, but only a few hooks were thrown by either fighter to no great effect and both would sit for fighting. I’ll call it a draw. Johansen and Kunin would also get put in the box for roughing. The sellout crowd was silent or just grumbling quietly to their neighbors as they watched Minnesota mostly chase the puck around the ice. The chippy play continued to manifest itself as Ryan Ellis gave Marcus Foligno a shove which caused J.T. Brown to shove Ellis for good measure. Jared Spurgeon would get tagged for tripping up Viktor Arvidsson as both players chased after a puck moving to the corner giving Nashville a chance to extend its lead. Nashville’s power play was pretty ugly and they came dangerously close to giving up a shorthanded tally of their own as Josi inexplicably passed a puck to Eric Fehr who was in the high slot but his shot would miss wide of the mark. After the successful kill the Wild tried to go on the attack and a cute little outlet play gave the Wild a 2-on-1 between Donato and Kunin. Kunin would skate in look to pass but with that option accounted for he let go of a shot that rang off the post and out. A trip by Greg Pateryn gave the Predators another power play, but Minnesota did a decent job of pressuring the puck carrier and they’d kill the penalty and had to feel lucky to be trailing only 1-0 to Nashville. The Predators looked as though they were mostly on cruise control since they scored the goal.
2nd Period Thoughts: With the arena almost silent, the Wild would try to go back on the attack with the Victor Rask, Marcus Foligno and Pontus Aberg line as Foligno tried to will a goal with some tough plays in and around the net but Saros was able to come up with the save. Minnesota’s lower lines were getting most of the time early which is perhaps a message being sent by the Wild head coach. Brad Hunt would send a shot from the point on goal that was redirected by Brown that was steered away by Saros. Donato would motor his way into the offensive zone where he let go of a heavy shot that Saros knocked down as Minnesota was moving its feet well and generating shots, albeit mostly from the perimeter. A few minutes later the Wild would have a few quality opportunities up close as Saros denied Greenway twice from point-blank range and then Donato on slap shot from the slot. The Predators didn’t have many shots on goal as Dubnyk denied Calle Jarnkrok from the slot. Minnesota was draw a power play as P.K. Subban hauled down Jason Zucker behind the Predators goal. You could hardly tell it was a Wild power play as Minnesota wasted the first half of it just trying to get set up in the offensive zone. Minnesota would send out the young guys on the man advantage and they nearly cashed in as Donato set up Aberg for a quick shot that was blocked away by Saros. Another power play chance would come up empty. The Wild was trying to turn every possession into offense, but it seemed like a lot of solo efforts as Donato let go another big shot that was directed just up and over the goal. The period ended to apathy from the home crowd who have grown used to being disappointed.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Predators seemed determined to get the insurance goal early as Rem Pitlick set up Mikael Granlund for a quick shot from in close that was stopped by Dubnyk. The Wild would try to counter and pass from beneath the goal line by Foligno went out front to Rask who crashed the net and it appeared the puck may be close to the goal line until the officials finally blew the whistle. The play would be reviewed and it was ruled ‘no goal’ which makes sense to me. The Predators would go back on the attack and Arvidsson nearly connected on a wrap around bid that was denied by Dubnyk’s leg pad. Colton Sissons would skate into the zone and he’d feed a pass to a pinching Josi who sent a shot on goal that Dubnyk was able to block away. Boyle would trip up Nick Seeler to give the Wild a power play. Minnesota’s power play again had great difficulty getting set up in the offensive zone and this time the fans would let their team know they were unhappy with their poor execution as a few boo’s rained down. Even when they were in the offensive zone, they continued to opt for high risk, low reward plays and only until the power play was over did they finally generate a shot on goal when Jonas Brodin took the initiative and sent one on goal that was gloved by Saros. The Wild’s 3rd line had a strong shift as Rask tried to make a power move but in the process Foligno held up Josi for a penalty and the Predators’ Rem Pitlick earned his first NHL penalty when he sent a puck up into the stands for a delay of game call to make it 4-on-4 for the next two minutes. The Wild continued to attack and Hunt had a few nice looks that forced Saros to make a few saves but Minnesota just couldn’t win the battle for the rebound. Then towards the end of 4-on-4 play, Filip Forsberg appeared to have tackled Kunin to no call but Dubnyk thought they were going to call a penalty so he left the ice for an extra attacker on the ‘delayed penalty’ which didn’t exist. So for a few seconds, Dubnyk squabbled with the official who tried to say there is no penalty so he came off the bench and skated towards the crease giving the Wild a ‘too many men’ penalty in the process. On the Predators’ power play, Nashville was very relaxed, simply hoping to avoid a disastrous mistake and kill some time off the clock. Minnesota would get the kill and they’d go back on the attack and the Wild would miss on another wide-open chance as Kunin pounced on a failed clearly attempt but he’d miss high and wide. The Wild were hustling and working hard but they didn’t have many quality chances to show for their effort. A dump in by the Wild with about 2 minutes left would take a strange bounce off the glass and end up on top of the Predators goal. Minnesota would pull Dubnyk for an extra attacker with about 2 minutes left and they had a few chances as Donato rang a shot off the post and then Staal was denied by Saros. A little later it was Donato sending a puck near the crease but Staal couldn’t win the battle for the puck before it was swept out of danger. Minnesota’s last chance bid a one-timer by Spurgeon missed just wide as Saros lost track of the shot thanks to a passing screen by Staal and the Wild fell 1-0.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Matt Read, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Luke Kunin, Ryan Donato, Pontus Aberg, Jordan Greenway, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Victor Rask, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Brad Hunt, Greg Pateryn and Nick Seeler. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Anthony Bitetto were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Juuse Saros, 2nd Star Devan Dubnyk, 3rd Star Ryan Johansen
~ Attendance was 18,883 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 3, Stockton 4
Stockton would jump out to an early lead as John McCarron scored just a little over 2 minutes in on Kaapo Kahkonen to give the Heat a 1-0 advantage. Iowa would answer back just a few minutes later as Will Bitten lit the lamp for the 10th time this season on a nice play off the rush on a pass from Gerald Mayhew. 1-1 game. Iowa would then take the lead as Dmitry Sokolov rifled a shot by Jon Gillies to make it 2-1 Wild. Stockton would score late in the period as McCarron found the back of the net tying the game at 2-2 going into the 1st intermission. In the 2nd period, Iowa would take back the lead as Kyle Rau buried his 25th goal of the season off the rush making it 3-2 Wild going into the 3rd. Iowa would pepper Gillies with quality chances in the 3rd period, but was unable to extend their lead and the Heat would rally back. First on a goal from Rob Hamilton and again Iowa seemed to be dominating the play and looking like the team with more energy late in the game. A strange carom of the puck off the glass set up Curtis Lazar for a breakaway chance and he beat Kahkonen cleanly with 57 seconds left in regulation. Iowa tried one last push to get the equalizer but despite a post and few close chances couldn’t make it happen and they fell 4-3. Kahkonen had 41 saves in the loss. Mayhew and Cal O’Reilly both had two helpers.
College Hockey Report:
Crease And Assist: A Legally Compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog would like to congratulate this year’s champions, NCAA Tournament participants and award winners.
Division III Women’s Hockey Championship: Plattsburgh University Cardinals def. Hamline Pipers 4-0.
Division III Men’s Hockey Championship: University of Wisconsin–Steven’s Point Pointers def. Norwich University Cadets 3-2 OT.
Division I Women’s Hockey Championship: University of Wisconsin Badgers def. Minnesota Golden Gophers 2-0.
2019 Patty Kazmaier Award Winner: F, Loren Gabel, Clarkson University
NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament Brackets
Northeast Regional – Worcester, MA (Starts Friday)
#1 UMass vs. #4 Harvard – 2PM CST
#2 Clarkson vs. #3 Notre Dame – 5:30PM CST
Midwest Regional – Allentown, PA (Starts Saturday)
#1 Minnesota-Duluth vs. #4 Bowling Green State – 3PM CST
#2 Quinnipiac vs. #3 Arizona State – 6:30PM CST
East Regional – Providence, RI (Starts Saturday)
#1 Minnesota State vs. #4 Providence – Noon CST
#2 Northeastern vs. #3 Cornell – 3:30PM CST
West Regional – Fargo, ND (Starts Friday)
#1 St. Cloud State vs. #4 American International – 6:30PM CST
#2 Denver vs. #3 Ohio State – 3:00PM CST
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian had a goal, 6 PIM’s and went 8-for-12 on his draws in Moncton’s 5-2 win over Baie-Comeau on Saturday.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario-native had two goals and went 4-for-8 on his draws as earned 1st star honors in Saginaw’s 5-1 win over Sarnia on Saturday night. Giroux has 2 goals, 3 points, +1 in 2 playoff games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the sophomore forward scored the game winning goal in Minnesota-Duluth’s 3-2 double overtime win over St. Cloud State to win the NCHC Championship. He also had 7 shots in the game. The former Lakeville South Star has 15 goals, 24 points, no PIM’s and is a +17 in 36 games.