When the former Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher signed on for the same gig in Philadelphia it made some fans chuckle or give a Cheshire grin. While I do not believe there is a lot of disdain for the former Wild GM as much as there is for his successor, many still recognize a lot of the organizations issues / challenges started with decisions Fletcher made. As he took over from St. Paul-native Paul Holmgren he seemed to bring over a lot of Wild re-treads in former Assistant GM Brent Flahr, former Head Coach Mike Yeo to be on the bench as an assistant coach and former players Chris Stewart and Nate Prosser.
The Flyers are in 5th in a very tough Metropolitan Division and are somewhere between good and above average. Sound familiar? The Minnesota Wild find themselves in a similar position after winning in a high scoring affair against the Edmonton Oilers. Can the Wild earn another home victory against Philadelphia?
1st Period Thoughts: The Flyers would waste little time in taking the game to the Minnesota Wild as James van Riemsdyk would race in off a 2-on-1 and he’d beat Alex Stalock short side on the first shot of the game. 1-0 Flyers. The Flyers were winning many of the small races for the puck and the Wild seemed to be chasing the game literally and figuratively through the first 5 minutes of the game. Minnesota would find its grove after a little while as the Wild moved the puck well from high to low and back out to the point for a big shot by Matt Dumba that was redirected just wide by Zach Parise. Moments after that it was Ryan Donato with a great chance that Carter Hart struggled to keep out. Undaunted, the Wild kept up the pressure as Donato stole a puck just inside the Flyers’ blueline and he’d move in let go of a shot that Hart knocked down and the puck was gathered up by Kevin Fiala who tried a wrap around that was tipped just underneath the crossbar by Parise. 1-1 game.
Definitely Parise's goal on the Fiala wraparound pic.twitter.com/3ecCso8hh5— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 15, 2019
The Wild kept attacking and they’d add another as Eric Staal who had camped out near the Flyers crease was able to backhand a puck by Hart to give Minnesota the lead. 2-1 Wild.
The Flyers tried to go back on the attack, but Minnesota was moving better and giving Philadelphia little in terms of time and space. The Wild would counter attack a bit and Minnesota was taking every chance they had to shoot the puck and continue to test Hart. Jordan Greenway made his presence felt as he outmuscled the Flyers on multiple occasions on one shift to work the puck deep to help set up a chance from the point by Jonas Brodin. The Wild’s forecheck kept causing the Flyers trouble and Donato had the puck all alone in close and he’d attempt a between the legs shot but fanned on the puck in the attempt.
Ryan Donato just went for the between-the-legs shot. pic.twitter.com/588PVaZHjL— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 15, 2019
The Flyers would try to get their cycling game going, but Minnesota would counter attack with so many Philadelphia players trapped deep in the Wild zone but Parise just missed a pass from Fiala for what would’ve been a great scoring chance off the rush. Victor Rask would be high sticked by Tyler Pitlick giving the Wild a power play late in the period. Minnesota didn’t do much with the power play as they struggled to get set up in the offensive zone. Beyond a shot from Brad Hunt they didn’t do much with the man advantage but they were able to hold their 2-1 lead going into the 1st intermission.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild had 18 seconds of power play time that carried over from the 1st period. Minnesota did nothing with the final moments of power play time. The Flyers would try to go on the attack but Minnesota was moving its feet well and using their sticks to disrupt the attack and force Philadelphia to spend most of their time near the boards and away from the middle of the ice. Minnesota was not doing anything offensively and while the Wild were playing fairly responsible in their own zone, you could sense the level of anxiety building the more time the Wild spent on their side of the ice. The top line would make something happen as Fiala tipped a puck by a Flyers’ defender to chase it down in the Flyers’ zone and this ultimately resulted in a few scoring chances as Donato’s shot hit the side of the goal and then Fiala had a chance from the slot that had Hart sprawling to keep it out. Yet the pressure drew a hooking penalty on Shayne Gostisbehere giving the Wild its 2nd power play of the game. Minnesota again did little with the man advantage as they were a bit too cute with the puck which meant the Wild spent lots of time just chasing the puck around the Flyers end. Minnesota’s GEEK line would cause some trouble with their hustle as they worked a puck near the Flyers crease that had Hart flopping in the paint to try to keep the puck out and unfortunately the Wild were not able to jam it home. The Wild kept applying pressure and the ZZ Top line would cash in as Jason Zucker would feed a puck back to Dumba for a backhander that Hart kicked out and as the rebound appeared to be going to Staal, it was Zucker that sent it back on goal. Hart made another save and this time it was Staal sending a shot on goal that just seemed to have the inertia to trickle over the goal line. 3-1 Wild. Minnesota continued to outplay the Flyers as Donato would drive to the net and draw a tripping penalty on Matt Niskanen in the process. The Wild’s power play continued to be a comedy of errors and while they spent more time in the Flyers’ zone, they were unable to turn possession into shots and scoring chances. Philadelphia would attack after the killed Wild penalty and draw one of their own as Brennan Menell‘s stick got into the skates of Jakub Voracek. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a nice job of forcing the Flyers to settle for shots from the perimeter and sweeping away dangerous pucks near the Wild crease. Near the end of the Flyers power play, Joel Farabee would take exception to a hit by Marcus Foligno and he’d drop the gloves with the Wild’s toughest player. While Farabee’s boldness could be admired, he was in way over his head against an experienced fighter like Foligno who quickly took control as he started to take over the fight with a series of jabs. It was clear Farabee was about to be mauled as Foligno let up and the officials moved in before it got any worse.
A clear cut with for Foligno, which still drew the ire of Flyers’ head coach Alain Vigneault who was probably already unhappy over the fact his team was being dominated in most facets of the game. The period would end with the Wild holding a 3-1 advantage.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild were sitting back in a 1-2-2 from the start of the period, waiting to catch the Flyers in transition. Philadelphia would get off a quick shot from the slot by Chris Stewart that was denied by Stalock who hadn’t seen too many shots up until this point of the game. The pace of play was pretty relaxed as the Wild were quick to retreat to help defend in their own end of the ice. The Flyers top line nearly cashed in as a point shot by Gostisbehere created a rebound and van Riemsdyk tried to backhand the rebound but Stalock punched it away with his skate just in time. Fiala would take a tripping call giving the Flyers an important power play somewhat early-ish in the period. Minnesota did a good job of pouncing on the Flyers’ puck carriers and forcing turnovers and negating the power play as van Riemsdyk tripped up Ryan Suter. With the ice a bit more open 4-on-4 and after an attempt to skate the puck in deep by Carson Soucy he turned it over and Kevin Hayes raced into the Wild end where he gunned a shot on goal that was steered aside by Stalock. Minnesota would go on an abbreviated power play but couldn’t set up a real high quality scoring chance despite some good puck movement. The Flyers would really start to ramp up their intensity as they adjusted their lines in search of some spark as Stalock found himself much busier than he was the first two periods of the game. Chris Stewart would get tangled up with Fiala, but no punches were thrown as much as Stewart had him in kind of a head lock after chopping at him with his stick earlier in the shift. The former Wild winger would end up with 2 minutes for slashing and Minnesota with another chance to extend their lead. Minnesota won the initial faceoff as they tried setting up Dumba for a one-timer that missed wide. The Wild would have a few more opportunities as Brad Hunt was able to unleash his slap shot, the last of which was gloved by Hart. Later with that same personnel group, the Wild were able to create numbers off the rush and it was Hunt setting up Donato for a chance that went just up and over the Flyers’ goal. The Wild came up empty on the power play, but they at least sustained some offensive pressure. The Flyers would try to cut into the Wild lead by activating their defense and they came close to cashing in but Minnesota was playing good team defense to poke away dangerous pucks. Fiala would get a holding penalty giving the Flyers a late chance to make this a game. Minnesota’s penalty kill was assertive with its puck pressure and the Flyers were never really able to get too comfortable. Ivan Provorov would shatter his stick, the 2nd time in the period as he tried to blast a shot form the point. The Flyers would pull Hart for an extra attacker and it was Soucy picking up a puck behind the goal after a nice hustle play by Brodin and he’d send it the length of the ice for an empty net goal. 4-1 Wild on the shorthanded tally. The crowd would give an appreciative ovation the last 30 seconds of the game as the Wild rolled to another victory.
~ The Wild roster is as follows: Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Ryan Donato, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Carson Soucy, Jonas Brodin, Brad Hunt and Brennan Menell. Kaapo Kahkonen backed up Alex Stalock. Nick Seeler and Gerald Mayhew were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Eric Staal, 2nd Star Ryan Suter, 3rd Star Kevin Fiala
~ Attendance was 17,140 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ Crease And Assist: A Legally Compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog would like to send our most sincere condolences to the family of former Minnesota Golden Gophers player and head coach Doug Woog who passed away today at the age of 75.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 0, Tucson 2
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the skilled winger had a goal in a game that was postponed on Thursday night due to the weather against London. The score was 2-1 at the end of the 2nd period. Lodnia has 16 goals, 32 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +8 in 20 games.
C – Matvey Guskov (London, OHL) ~ the versatile center had an assist and went 3-for-3 on his draws as London held a 2-1 lead going into the 3rd period in Thursday’s postponed game. Guskov has 5 goals, 14 points, 26 PIM’s and is a +1 in 29 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario native had a goal and an assist on 4 shots in Saginaw’s 5-4 over in-state rival Flint on Friday night. He also went 14-for-19 on his draws. Giroux has 19 goals, 30 points, 10 PIM’s and is a -4 in 30 games.
C – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ the sophomore forward has cooled down offensively but he’s still chipping in points as he had an assist in the Huskies’ 4-1 win over University of Nebraska-Omaha last night. Hentges has 7 goals, 21 points, 6 PIM’s and is +2 in 15 games.
G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ fresh off the disappointment of being a released from Team Canada’s World Junior Championship’s squad, he returned to the Pete’s to pick up where he left off as he made 34 saves in Peterborough’s 3-2 win over Oshawa on Friday. Jones has a 19-3 record, a 2.51 goals against average and a .919% save percentage and 1 shutout.