On the Christmas Eve…eve, the Minnesota Wild are going into their late afternoon game against the Calgary Flames haunted by the ghost of holiday past. That ghost would be the fight that Wild defenseman Matt Dumba had with Calgary Flames’ winger Matthew Tkachuk. Dumba was compelled to fight Tkachuk over an open ice hit he delivered in the previous game the two clubs had against one another and the fight resulted in the defenseman’s season-ending pectoral injury. It sent the Wild’s season into a death spiral it was unable to recover from.
I think it can be argued that Dumba hasn’t been the same since he returned from that injury last season. Despite his early season predictions of being a 30-goal scorer, his offensive contributions have been fleeting and far between and his overall game has lacked confidence and consistency. Can the Wild exercise this ghost of holiday past with a win over the Flames?
1st Period Thoughts: The Minnesota Wild had good energy to start the game, they were active on the forecheck and supporting the puck well. They were making life tough for Calgary by working pucks deep and cycling the puck. I thought the Wild got good support from their defense; especially Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy and Brad Hunt in holding the offensive zone and forcing the Flames to endure some long shifts. The modified ‘kid’ line of Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway and Nico Sturm was Minnesota’s most impressive group. I thought Greenway was especially good at using his big frame to keep Calgary’s smaller defenseman at bey while he set up teammates for scoring chances. After Greenway’s first set up of Luke Kunin in the slot was stopped by Cam Talbot I felt the team kind of was deflated by the missed opportunity. At this point the Wild were out shooting Calgary 9-1. From here, Calgary started to gain confidence, as their star players like Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau began to make their presence felt as they took advantage of the fact the Wild were being less aggressive.
Luckily for the Wild, Devan Dubnyk was pretty sharp and he came up with the big stops to keep Calgary from gaining too much momentum. He seemed to have pretty good control of the shots and looked calm between the pipes. Minnesota and Calgary would go into the 1st period scoreless, but the Wild seemed to be winning many of the physical battles so far.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period started with the Wild going back to what worked well throughout the early portion of the 1st, working pucks deep, cycling the puck a bit and looking for scoring opportunities from in close. Ryan Donato would chase a puck down into the Calgary zone before working it over to Kevin Fiala who made a nice pass into the slot where Joel Eriksson Ek buried it. 1-0 Wild on a pretty passing sequence. Goal notwithstanding, it was great to have the lanky center back. He seemed to stabilize the Wild defense and his relentless hustle and physical play really makes a big difference for this club. A few minutes later, the Wild would strike again on an eerily similar play as Minnesota won the battle down low behind the Calgary goal and it was Greenway swinging a pass into the slot that Kunin buried. 2-0 Wild. The Flames were being forced to settle for unscreened shots from the perimeter that made things fairly simple for Dubnyk. Calgary maybe had 2-3 quality scoring chances the whole period as Minnesota was backchecking well and the Wild’s defense was doing a nice job of sweeping away or escorting rebounds out of the zone.
3rd Period Thoughts: In the 3rd period, the Wild would dodge a bit of a bullet early on as the Flames crashed the net and it appeared to have cut the Minnesota lead in half. Upon review, it was determined that Derek Ryan kicked the puck into the goal and I would agree with that assessment as his leg certainly had a ‘kicking motion’. No goal and Minnesota would hold onto its 2-goal lead. The ‘no goal’ call was very deflating for Calgary who was not having much fun playing against the Wild who were denying time and space through the neutral zone, making it difficult for the Flames to get set up in the Minnesota end. Minnesota’s excellent puck support helped the Wild to not get too panicked down the stretch and it also kept them out of the penalty box. The Wild would add an empty net goal as Eric Staal sealed the deal with about 2 and half minutes left. 3-0 Wild victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask, Nico Sturm, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy, Brad Hunt and Matt Dumba. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nick Seeler and Luke Johnson were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Joel Eriksson Ek, 3rd Star Luke Kunin
~ Attendance was 17,596 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 4, Grand Rapids 3 OT
Wild Prospect Summary:
Here is a quick listing of the Minnesota Wild’s prospects that are playing major junior, Jr. A, college or professionally overseas and their current totals going into the holiday break (in no particular order).
F – Nikita Nesterenko (Chilliwack, BCHL) ~ 34GP 12G 19A = 31pts 21 PIM’s
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ 32GP 23G 29A = 52pts 8 PIM’s +25
C – Matvey Guskov (London, OHL) ~ 32GP 6G 8A = 14pts 26 PIM’s ‘even’
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ 20GP 16G 18A = 34pts 10 PIM’s +14
G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ 25GP (21-3), 2.45GAA .921%SP 1SO
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ 32GP 21G 13A = 34pts 10 PIM’s +1
D – Fedor Gordeev (Guelph, OHL) ~ 21GP 1G 14A = 15pts 19 PIM’s +5
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ 31GP 19G 19A = 38pts 40 PIM’s +15
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ 26GP 20G 33A = 53pts 56 PIM’s +27
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ 13GP 4G 8A = 12pts 2 PIM’s -1
C – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ 16GP 7G 14A = 21pts 8 PIM’s ‘even’
G – Filip Lindberg (UMass, H-East) ~ 10GP (5-3-1) 1.76GAA .9265SP 2SO
LW – Vladislav Firstov (UConn, H-East) ~ 16GP 5G 5A = 10pts 19 PIM’s +1
D – Marshall Warren (Boston College, H-East) ~ 15GP 3G 2A = 5pts 14 PIM’s +10
LW – Jack McBain (Boston College, H-East) ~ 15GP 4G 5A = 9pts 21 PIM’s +4
C – Matt Boldy (Boston College, H-East) ~ 15GP 1G 2A = 3pts 4 PIM’s +1
D – Filip Johansson (Leksand, SHL) ~ 18GP 2G 1A = 3pts 10 PIM’s -5
D – Simon Johansson (Djugardens, SHL) ~ 18GP 1G 4A = 5pts 10 PIM’s +5
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ 27GP 2G 7A = 9pts 20 PIM’s +7
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ 32GP 16G 14A = 30pts 4 PIM’s +10