Remember the last round of the fight between Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa from Rocky IV? Remember what they said as they touched gloves just prior to the bell? “To the end,” which is kind of appropriate as the Minnesota Wild go into the last game of the 2018-19 season. Like those fighters, the team is clearly more than a little beat up (just ask Zach Parise who is out of the lineup with a sprained MCL and a broken foot which apparently he played on for weeks) and has some soul searching to do no matter if they can pull off a win tonight or not.
I will spare you “people can change” speech from that movie, but won’t that more or less be the big story going into the offseason for the Minnesota Wild? To see if they can make the right changes to bring it back to the playoffs. Or are the deluding themselves with a still aging core of 30+ year old players and simply delaying the inevitable and necessary rebuild? I’m going with the latter. But in the here and now they have one last game to play and even though it won’t change a thing between the two clubs; one of whom is going to the playoffs while the other will probably hit the golf course soon. Can the Wild get one last win or will it add another loss to its disappointing finish? To the end…
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota had good speed to start the game as Ryan Donato made a nice pass towards Nico Sturm that failed to connect but the Wild kept hustling and Kevin Fiala ripped a shot on goal that Ben Bishop steered aside. The Stars would counter attack with some speed of their own as Roope Hintz got a step or two on Anthony Bitetto who then worked a pass out front towards Tyler Pitlick who was denied by a diving save by Alex Stalock. The Wild would follow it up with the Donato’ line who skated the puck into the Dallas end before being rubbed off by a Dallas defender and Fiala would pick up the loose puck and he’d try to bury a wrap around chance but couldn’t get it by Bishop as Minnesota kept swarming in the offensive zone. The Stars would go back on the attack as they noticed Bitetto was on the ice and Dallas would swarm forcing turnovers in the process and Jason Dickinson‘s shot was stopped by the outstretched leg of Stalock before he pounced to cover it up. Minnesota’s best line clearly was the Donato line as Sturm would race into the Dallas zone and he’d feed a puck over to Fiala for a shot that Bishop managed to block to the corner but the line’s hustle drew a slash from Alexander Radulov giving the Wild its first power play of the game. On the power play the Wild didn’t seem to have a lot of cohesion or any discernible strategy beyond bad passes and poor decisions. Near the end of the power play, Jonas Brodin would cough up the puck near the Dallas blueline and Mattias Janmark raced after the biscuit as the Wild blueliner tried slowing him down earning an interference call. Janmark sped by Hunt for a chance that was steered away by Stalock. Dallas’ power play did not look disorganized and Stalock found himself busy as Tyler Seguin was denied on another athletic stop by the Wild goalie. Minnesota’s penalty killers had good puck support and they get the big kill. A few minutes later Stalock had to make a big save on a shot by Blake Comeau and Minnesota was probably fortunate to still be knotted at 0-0 going into the 2nd period. The Donato line looked good, the rest looked ok at best.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Stars would go right on the attack from the drop of the puck and Jamie Benn was denied right near the goal line as Stalock stopped the initial shot and then was bailed out by Ryan Suter as Benn looked to bury the rebound. Suter would then take his time skating back to the bench which resulted in a ‘too many men’ penalty on the Wild. The Stars’ power play went back to work and Minnesota’s penalty killer scrambled about their own zone but after an early save by Stalock the Wild were able to keep Dallas mostly to the perimeter and they have another successful kill. The Stars were moving fast and keeping the game at an up-tempo pace and the Wild struggled to make a simple pass connect. The Wild zone resembled a shooting gallery as Taylor Fedun and the Stars kept firing shots on goal as Stalock made the save and rolled over onto his side on the ice as Nick Seeler and Radek Faksa would get into a scrum after the whistle. Both players would get sent to the box for roughing. The Wild would nearly get lucky on the next shift as Bishop got caught out of his crease playing the puck and he’d fumble it away to Victor Rask who didn’t seem to know what to do with it and he couldn’t manage to work it out front to take advantage of an empty net. As soon as Seeler and Faksa left the box, they’d drop the gloves and fight and it was a spirited scrap. Seeler got his arm free early and was landing a few hooks but Faksa would rally back and wrestle the Wild defensemen to the ice and then throw a few late punches while he was down. Seeler wasn’t happy about the extra punches and neither was the Wild bench who wanted an extra penalty on Faksa but they wouldn’t get it. As both players sat in the box for fighting, the Stars went back on the attack as Bitetto looked like a very slow lost puppy as Dallas again peppered Stalock with shots, who made a bunch of fine saves before covering it up for a whistle. The Wild were unable to get just about anything going offensively as the Stars appeared to be a step or two quicker than the Wild to just about every loose puck. Dallas continued to attack and Miro Heiskanen would pinch down low but Stalock was able to get a shoulder or an arm to steer pucks wide or above the goal to keep the Wild in the game when they had no reason to be. Fiala would turn on the jets for a nice scoring chances but didn’t get much on the shot. Minnesota would manage to strike first as Greg Pateryn stepped into a slapper that seemed to deflect off the stick of Hintz and by Bishop. 1-0 Wild to a stunned sellout crowd after their team had dominated the whole game. Dallas would challenge the play saying it was offsides and it would appear Jason Zucker was offsides so this goal would not stand, still 0-0 going into the 3rd period.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would take a tripping penalty a few minutes into the 3rd as Pateryn’s stick got into Jason Dickinson’s legs. The Stars had a good chance early on the man advantage as John Klingberg‘s point shot went on goal and Benn’s rebound chance missed just wide. Dallas kept applying pressure as Radulov made a nice cross-ice pass to Seguin for a one-timer that beat Stalock. 1-0 Stars. Minnesota didn’t seem to have much push back after the goal. The ‘kid line’ of Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin and Joel Eriksson Ek would go to work and work the puck deep and then out front where Greenway’s shot was held onto by Bishop. The Wild didn’t seem to have the legs to chase down pucks and put Dallas on their heels at all. Dallas would score a few minutes later as Seguin scored on a backhander from near the top of the crease as Eric Fehr failed to clear the zone. 2-0 Dallas. The Wild had to give just about all they had left just to generate a shot from the point that was an easy save for an unscreened Ben Bishop. Minnesota seemed to want to rally, but I’m not sure they had the energy to really make it happen. The Stars would add another as Stalock denied Hintz’s power move as he walked by Suter, but he was unable to stop Pitlick’s rebound bid. Minnesota would challenge the play saying it was goaltender interference but the replay didn’t look like Hintz really made any significant contact with Stalock to disqualify this goal in my opinion. The officials ruled there was no goaltender interference on the play and the goal would stand. 3-0 Stars. Fehr would try to skate in and take a shot but Bishop dismissed that with a blocker save. Fiala would draw a hooking call on Fedun giving Minnesota a late power play. On the power play, the Wild spent most of it just chasing the puck around the ice as the Stars penalty kill kept clearing the zone with ease. After the power play, the Wild tried to keep attacking as they were in search for a ‘pride goal’ as a pinching Suter let go of a shot that was gloved by Bishop. A shift after that, Jordan Greenway worked a puck from behind the Stars goal and out front but Fehr whiffed on the puck and Minnesota would be shutout for the 11th time this season.
And that’s it. The Wild’s season comes to an end after having failed to score a goal in the 124 minutes in 49 seconds of the year. Being shut out 11 times is the most times the Wild have been blanked since their inaugural season. Does that sound like a roster that only needed a ‘tweak’?
Want more to feel ornery about Minnesota fans? The Iowa Wild, who are having their best season since we moved our AHL affiliate there has lost their last 8 games and now looks like it might miss the playoffs. Ouch. The lack of offense was painfully obvious in the 2nd half of the season and there doesn’t seem to be much immediate relief on the horizon either.
This organization has some serious issues. A paltry home record, and a disturbing lack of fire and ‘want to’ in important games suggest there is a significant culture problem with in this group of players whose leadership group is still together even after all of those trades. But let’s face it, this season is better off dead and over with.
I’d like to thank all of our readers and followers on Twitter and especially those over at HockeyForums.net this season and we will start to shift our focus to the draft and offseason in the next few weeks. Need to vent, let us know on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist and in the comment section below.
So, just to make it up to you who tortured themselves trying to we’ll actually show you the Rocky vs. Ivan Drago fight just because. Enjoy and see you around.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Donato, Nico Sturm, Victor Rask, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, Nick Seeler, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Brad Hunt, Greg Pateryn and Anthony Bitetto. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Zach Parise, J.T. Brown, Pontus Aberg and Mat Robson were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Tyler Seguin, 2nd Star Alex Stalock, 3rd Star Ben Bishop
~ The attendance was 18,532 at American Airlines Arena.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the 4th line center had an assist in CSKA Moscow’s 3-0 win over SKA St. Petersburg on Friday and taking a 3-2 series lead. Svetlakov has a goal, 6 points, 6 PIM’s and a +6 in 12 playoff games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the 8th rated prospect in the Hockey News’ Top 100 had an assist in CSKA Moscow’s 3-0 win over SKA St. Petersburg. Kaprizov has 3 goals, 11 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +2 in 13 playoff games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the skilled right shot winger had 3 assists on 7 shots as Niagara prevailed 3-2 over Oshawa and taking a 1-0 series lead. Lodnia has a goal, 8 points, 6 PIM’s and is a +2 in 6 playoff games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario-native had an empty net goal and went 4-for-7 on his draws as the Spirit earned a 4-1 win over Sault Ste. Marie and taking a 1-0 series lead. Giroux has 5 goals, 6 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +4 in 5 playoff games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian had a goal and went 3-for-12 on his draws in Moncton’s 5-3 loss to Halifax. The Wildcats’ trail 1-0 in the series. Khovanov has 4 goals, 8 points, 14 PIM’s and is -4 in 8 playoff games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ the power forward had a goal on 5 shots in Cape Breton’s 3-1 loss to Rimouski. The Screaming Eagles trail 1-0 in the series. Boudrias has 2 goals, 6 points, and is a -1 in 7 playoff games.