If you’ve spent any time on a sports team during your junior high and high school years you understand the bonding that takes place on the road trips. Certainly part of it happens through the shared misery / challenge of practice and games but its the time on the road where you are compelled to spend time together as a group. The Wild are on their second road trip of the season and spending time together and if they didn’t know each other that much prior to the start of the season they’ve learned a lot about each other right now.
No doubt the Toronto Maple Leafs are feeling some pressure, but the pressure of being great not just simply being good. For a franchise that feels constantly hounded by the ghosts of 1967, the last time the Maple Leafs won a Stanley Cup. They feel this is their window and their best opportunity to win it all in the last 20 years. Needless to say the Wild are not even close to as talented as Toronto is. Can the Wild compete against the high powered Maple Leafs’ attack?
1st Period Thoughts: One thing we noticed just before the puck dropped, was a very, very hungry Gerald Mayhew on the bench. That’s the kind of thing you want to see early. What you don’t want to see is lazy team defense on the ice which then leads to Ryan Suter taking a slashing penalty within the first minute of play. While the Maple Leafs are a bit of a high flying team when it comes to offense, they’re just a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to the power play. Minnesota would successfully kill the early penalty. One big difference from yesterday’s game, is that it looks like it’s going to be much harder for the Wild get get shots on goal. It would take about five minutes in for Minnesota to register their first shot on goal, coming from Mayhew. Yep, he’s hungry and Kevin Fiala is going to need to step up, especially if Mayhew comes out as strong as his hunger would indicate. Five and a half minutes in, and the Wild opened the scoring with a great skating and passing shift by Ryan Hartman helped open things up for Luke Kunin to score. Scary moment came with Alex Kerfoot skated into Devan Dubnyk, who was slow to return to his feet. He’s back up, but it may be early yet to know how that hit will effect him the long run tonight. After the initial push by the Maple Leafs and the Wild’s goal, neither team has been able to tally a shot on goal. Honestly, the second half of this period has been rather dull. With about five minutes remaining in the period, it felt like neither team was really able to get anything organized. Bad clears and bad passes by both teams. What I’d like to see before the end of the period would be some more shots on goal by Minnesota. Considering how things are going, I don’t see that happening. One of the issues causing this is the inability tonight to win the draws, especially in the defensive zone. With less than two minutes remaining, Minnesota would get their first power play when Morgan Rielly was called for holding. Near the end of the period, Mikko Koivu would get kicked out of the face off and Victor Rask took the draw. Not only did he take the draw, but he won the draw. Perhaps Rask needed an off-season and training camp with this team to figure out how to play Minnesota hockey. Well, I guess a power play helps you get much needed shots on goal. Hopefully when they return from intermission, with the remaining time on the power play, they can figure out how to make one of those shots on goal count.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Leafs were able to easily kill the remaining bits of the Wild power play, but I wasn’t really expecting anything different. Well we have some interesting officiating in this game. First off, we have linesmen who are missing clear offsides and then the officials clearly missed a too many men call due to a messy line change. With stuff like that, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprised that John Tavares was able to tie this game up early. Also, the Maple Leafs forwards are far more willing to act as a screen in front of Dubnyk where the Wild’s forwards continually fail to do the same in front of Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. I don’t know what it is about the second period and the Minnesota Wild. It’s almost like they refuse to play for that particular segment of the game or if they wore themselves out during the first period. What I do know, is that it’s getting beyond old. But that’s what you get when you have one of the older and slower teams in the league, a team that can’t play a full 60 minutes of hockey. It also has you taking penalties, this time Jared Spurgeon getting called for tripping. That penalty would prove costly, as Mitch Marner was able to trickle a goal past Dubnyk. In fact, that goal is on Dubnyk for failing to close down to prevent the puck from trickling past him. Just when you thought the Wild had a chance with a break away by Ryan Donato, Hartman would get called for holding on Jake Muzzin. Again, that penalty would be costly, as Andreas Johnsson would get the puck past Dubnyk after it bounced off of the back glass. The Wild players seemed to think that it was off of the back netting, thankfully Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t waste a goal challenge. I’m trying to decide if we’d be better off putting in Alex Stalock at this point because Dubnyk is not looking good, but then the rest of the team isn’t looking good either. The poor showing would continue. The Wild would get some time in the offensive zone, but Jonas Brodin would break his stick. That unfortunate break would lead to a rush by the Maple Leafs which would become an Auston Matthews goal. While Dubnyk made the initial stop, Matthews would keep at it and get the goal. Now with a three-goal deficit, we still have to ask how much longer Dubnyk will remain in goal. Kunin almost got one of those goals back, but Toronto got the benefit of a quick whistle when Andersen didn’t have the puck covered up. Marcus Foligno also got a nice, but slow, break away. While it was easily blocked aside by Andersen, I’ll at take that kind of effort by a role player like Foligno unlike that sad attempts at nothing by certain salary cap hogs.
3rd Period Thoughts: The question that needs to be asked, why are Mayhew and Rask seeing so little ice time tonight? Especially in the case of Mayhew. Why bring him up if he’s going to barely get five minutes of ice time? What has Eric Staal done tonight (or any night this season) that justifies his numerous minutes of ice time? I’d rather see a young guy who really wants to play get more time, than watching our slowpokes do absolutely nothing. And then there are players like Jason Zucker who once again finds himself stuck on a line with a couple of lead weights. Again, I have worked harder to be able to watch this season’s games due to the dispute between Dish Network and the Fox Sports Regional Sports Networks than certain segments of this team have this season. It makes it hard to watch. I can’t tell you how tempted I am to pack this game up for the night and go to bed. Minnesota would finally get another power play, after Kerfoot was called for hooking. Sadly though, we had all of our slow players (with the exception of Matt Dumba) on the ice to open the power play. You know things are bad when Foligno of all players looks like one of your faster players. Truly, that should never be the case. Minnesota would get a late chance on the power play after Kerfoot was called for interference. It would be nice to see some different people on the power play, but alas, we have the same slow people in Staal, Parise, and Donato on the ice. Donato would get a nice blast from the blue line, but Andersen made a great glove save. But again, Donato had no one screening the goaltender. Just as I’m officially tuned out on this game, Mayhew got the chance, got the rebound on his stick, and made it count. Nothing like getting a goal in your NHL debut. Again proof that for much of the game, we had the wrong people on the ice.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Gerald Mayhew, Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask, Ryan Hartman, Joel Eriksson Ek, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Carson Soucy and Brad Hunt. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Kevin Fiala and Nick Seeler were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Morgan Rielly; 2nd Star, Mitch Marner; 3rd Star, Frederik Andersen
~ Attendance was 19,149 at Scotiabank Arena.
~ Crease And Assist: A Legally Compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family of former North Stars forward Danny Grant on the news of his passing. Grant was one of the North Star’s first notable talents on the team and according to former North Stars’ teammate Lou Nanne, Danny had one of the most accurate shots in the franchise’s history.
Thanks to @VintageMNHockey for letting us use the photo of Danny Grant being interviewed by WCCO.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (3-0-1) 7pts 2nd in the AHL Central
18.2% Power Play (11th in the AHL)
95.2% Penalty Kill (7th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 3G 1A = 4pts
2. #14 Will Bitten ~ 2G 1A = 3pts
3. #7 Sam Anas ~ 0G 3A = 3pts
4. #25 J.T. Brown ~ 1G 1A = 2pts
5. #22 Brandon Duhaime ~ 1G 1A = 2pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #47 Louie Belpedio ~ 6 PIM’s
2. #6 Mitch McLain ~ 6 PIM’s
3. #22 Brandon Duhaime ~ 5 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (3-0-0) 2.61GAA .890%SP
2. #60 Mat Robson (0-0-1) .92GAA .970%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 1, Texas 2 SO
Iowa is trying to pick up where they left off from a season ago, as they qualified for the playoffs for this first time since arriving in Des Moines. They have a solid cast of veterans providing leadership including team alternate captains Mike Liambas, Colton Beck and Matt Bartkowski as well as newcomer Gabriel Dumont who has been an early pacesetter for the Wild offense. Kyle Rau, Sam Anas and J.T. Brown help round out Iowa’s attack. Head Coach Tim Army continues to get his team to work hard each night which makes the Wild miserable to play against. Will Bitten is starting to find more offense to go along with his high-energy game. Defensively the Wild have lots of returning experience in vets like Bartkowski, Brennan Menell, Hunter Warner and Louie Belpedio. The hard working, responsible blue collar style makes them one of the more stingy teams defensively in the American Hockey League. Between the pipes, Kaapo Kahkonen is off to a strong start and Mat Robson played very well in his debut on Saturday. Lots to be excited about in Iowa once again.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the skilled Russian had two goals on 6 shots in CSKA’s 2-0 win over HC Sochi on Sunday. Kaprizov has 12 goals, 21 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +12 in 17 games.