The presents have been opened, the New Year’s festivities are behind us and now we just want to sit down and relax with a few boring non-eventful days. I am sure the Minnesota Wild probably welcomed the reprieve a 3-day lay off has given them before they face the Winnipeg Jets this afternoon. Yet the grim fact is the Wild are on a two-game skid and are in need of a confidence-building win on home ice. That is if you believe this team is still a playoff contender.
The Winnipeg Jets seem to have a lot of enviable pieces in their lineup, but so far haven’t been able to really climb their way to the top of the Central Division. Will rest allow the Wild to return to action refreshed and full of energy or will they look lazy and lethargic?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota would get out to a good start, as the re-formulated 3rd line would cash in after a turnover in the neutral zone who raced into the Jets’ end Luke Kunin found Joel Eriksson Ek who moved in deep and would draw the defense for him before he sent a pass across to Marcus Foligno for an easy back door tap in. 1-0 Wild.
It was the kind of pretty tic-tac-toe play you don’t often see from this team. The Jets tried to be physical with the Wild as Anthony Bitetto tried to light up Carson Soucy only to get knocked down by the Minnesota defenseman. Minnesota would draw the first penalty of the game as Neal Pionk held up Zach Parise. The Wild didn’t do too much with the man advantage, with slow puck movement that made it pretty easy for Winnipeg to work sticks and bodies into shooting / passing lanes. Pionk would immediately take another penalty as he stepped onto the stick of Mats Zuccarello before he had completely exited the penalty box for an ‘interference’ call that gave the Wild another power play. Minnesota would continue look inept on the power play, as errant passes and a lack of hustle made it easy for Winnipeg’s league worst penalty kill to clear the zone. The Wild looked relaxed as they chased down the puck only to turn it over again with more poor choices and the Jets got the kill without even facing a shot attempt during the power play. If the Wild have another power play like that again, I’d expect the home crowd to vocalize their displeasure over the lack of urgency. The pace of the game was rather sluggish, as the Jets looked like a team that didn’t want to be there. Minnesota was taking the body occasionally but overall there wasn’t a lot to get excited about. That would change a bit as the top line of Parise, Mikko Koivu and Kevin Fiala would set up quick chance as Parise’s shot would result in a big rebound from Connor Hellebuyck and as Brad Hunt fanned on a shot it was fired on goal by Fiala that drew a leg save by Hellebuyck. The Wild followed that up with its 2nd line of Zuccarello, Eric Staal and Jordan Greenway and Staal set up Zuccarello from in close that Hellebuyck stopped with another leg pad save. Devan Dubnyk wasn’t tested too much as Minnesota was backchecking and forcing Winnipeg to settle for shots from the perimeter. The Wild would give fans a little something to cheer with a few late shots that force Hellebuyck to make some key saves in the closing seconds of the period. It was an ok opening period, but you have to feel the two power plays were a big missed opportunity when you consider how much the Jets penalty kill has been struggling as of late.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would give the Jets a power play early in the period as Fiala held up Nikolaj Ehlers for an easy call. It only took the Jets 16 seconds to find the back of the net as Blake Wheeler threaded a cross-ice pass to Mark Scheifele who one-timed it by Dubnyk. 1-1 game.
The goal seemed to boost the overall energy level of the Jets and the Wild struggled to generate shots on goal. The Jets were winning the races for loose pucks and found itself defending more in its own end as a Tucker Poolman shot from the point was nearly poked home by a roving Ehlers. With Winnipeg creating more puck pressure, the accuracy of the Wild’s passing seemed to become problematic and Minnesota spent lots of time just kind of chasing the puck around the ice. Defensively, the Wild scrambled about its own zone and Dubnyk had to make some key saves to keep the game knotted at one. Soucy would get carried away trying to finish a check which left Kyle Connor all alone in the slot and he’d pounce on a puck that required Dubnyk to stop by making an acrobatic move. The Jets continued to swarm around the Wild zone with Minnesota players sort of standing and turning instead of skating after them. Luke Kunin would high stick Scheifele and earn a double-minor in the process. The Wild bench disagreed saying that Kunin was following through on a pass but to no avail and the fact there was no cut seemed odd to make it a double-minor. The Jets would then quickly take a penalty of their own early into the power play as Patrik Laine was called for interference making it 4-on-4 for the next two minutes. The Wild would go on the attack 4-on-4 as Staal set up Fiala for a breakaway before he was hooked down by Poolman before he could get off a shot.
So now the Wild had a rare 4-on-3 power play. Minnesota’s puck movement was again terribly slow, which made it fairly easy to defend. The Wild didn’t seem to want to screen Hellebuyck and all they managed was a few shots from the point that didn’t put much fear into the Jets at all. With another Wild power play killed off, now the Jets went on a 1:20 power play of their own. Minnesota’s penalty killers were a bit more assertive and applied more puck pressure and the Wild were able to kill off the man advantage. The Wild finally had a decent scoring chance as Foligno poked a puck behind the Jets’ defense for a 2-on-1 and instead of attempting some cross-ice pass, Foligno fired a shot on goal that Hellebuyck held onto. Minnesota would nearly cash in as Ryan Donato pounce on a nice feed by Victor Rask that Hellebuyck stopped but as the puck went up into the air, Poolman swatted the puck into the netting above the goal. This meant the Jets were tagged with a delay of game penalty as Mathieu Perreault was sitting in the penalty box initially but the officials would review the play and Poolman would go sit in the sin bin instead. The Wild’s power play was again mostly lethargic as the puck movement was again slow and very predictable. Minnesota only had a few scoring chances towards the end of the power play as Brad Hunt had a few shots on goal. However as the power play ended, the officials would get together and decide Staal was guilty of a double-minor for high sticking Bitetto. The announcement was greeted with boo’s and then disbelief as the replay clearly did not seem to indicate any high sticking by Staal and the officials would meet again an this time say Greenway was the guilty party. The other bizarre aspect of it if the Wild committed a penalty they let the Wild keep shooting the puck which makes no sense since the play should be stopped as soon as we have possession of the puck.
Minnesota’s penalty killer would kill off almost half of the Jets power play but momentum appeared to be on Winnipeg’s side even though the score was still 1-1. I put a lot of the blame for this on the Wild’s pathetic performance on the power play.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Jets nearly had 2 minutes left with the power play to start the period. Winnipeg would move the puck quickly around the zone and keep the Wild’s mostly passive penalty killers moving until they finally set up Wheeler for a one-timer who beat Dubnyk. 2-1 Jets. The Wild would try to claw their way back into the game, but the Jets were able to play keep away and the Wild struggled to complete simple passes in the offensive zone. Gabriel Bourque nearly made it 3-1 as the Jets’ 4th line set him up right at the top of the crease that was only denied by a timely poke check by Suter. Minnesota tried to crash the net, as they swarmed in the Jets’ zone but they couldn’t poke the loose puck into the yawning net and Winnipeg would hold onto its 1-goal lead. Winnipeg was more than happy to just chip pucks out of their zone and then muck it up through the neutral zone where the Wild couldn’t seem to help themselves from turning the puck over. A few shots from the perimeter didn’t cause Winnipeg too much concern and the frustration level continued to build as the Wild looked lost and desperate. At times the Wild appeared as though they were on the power play, but very few shots were being directed on goal and Minnesota was expending a lot of energy to accomplish very little. The Wild kept attacking the Jets’ zone with speed and it was Foligno making a nice backhanded pass where Luke Kunin spun and fired a shot by Hellebuyck. 2-2 game.
The Jets would show a bit more energy after Kunin’s goal, and Minnesota was spending more time defending in its own zone. Both teams seemed to be content to play for overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: After some time spent trying to gain possession of the puck, the Jets would take a penalty as Wheeler slashed the stick out of Mats Zuccarello’s hand. Minnesota would take a timeout to discuss the situation now they that they have a 4-on-3 power play. The Wild managed to win the initial faceoff and also help the Jets by clearing the zone at the same time. Minnesota had an initial look by Hunt that that Hellebuyck was just able to get his leg on to steer the shot wide. The Wild would finally cash in on the power play, or at least appear to as a point shot was knocked down by Hellebuyck and the scramble for the loose puck it was Staal who shoveled it home. The Jets argued that Parise may have interfered with Hellebuck’s ability to make the save and the goal was reviewed. After a lengthy review, the officials said there was no goaltender interference and the Wild would skate away with a 3-2 win.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy, Brad Hunt and Matt Dumba. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nick Seeler was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were:
~ Attendance was 17,271 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (19-12-2-2) 42pts 2nd in the AHL Central
19.9% Power Play (11th in the AHL)
85% Penalty Kill (5th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #7 Sam Anas ~ 9G 25A = 34pts
2. #20 Gerald Mayhew ~ 21G 12A = 33pts
3. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 7G 23A = 30pts
4. #27 Brennan Menell ~ 3G 22A = 25pts
5. #11 Nico Sturm ~ 9G 6A = 15pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #47 Louie Belpedio ~ 49 PIM’s
2. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 48 PIM’s
3. #44 Matt Bartkowski ~ 40 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (13-3-1) 2.56GAA .906%SP 2SO
2. #60 Mat Robson (5-7-3) 2.99GAA .898%SP 1SO
Recent Score: Iowa 5, Rockford 1
It was ‘Gerry Time’ in Des Moines on Friday night as Gerald Mayhew had two goals and two assists as Iowa rolled to a 5-1 victory over Rockford. Nico Sturm also had two goals in the game. Sam Anas had 3 assists while Kyle Rau and Brennan Menell had two helpers each of their own. Kaapo Kahkonen had 29 saves in the victory.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the Chiefs’ winger has finding the back of the net often throughout December and he added one more on Tuesday night in a 5-4 loss to Tri-City on 4 shots. He had another goal on 4 shots in Spokane’s 6-4 loss to Portland on Friday. Beckman has 29 goals, 59 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +25 in 36 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Team Russia, WJC) ~ the talented Russian is gaining more attention as he has a strong performance at the World Junior Championships in addition to his impressive play in the QMJHL. He had the game-winning goal and an assist in Team Russia’s 3-1 win over Switzerland in the quarterfinals. Khovanov has 2 goals, 6 points, 2 PIM’s, 15 shots on goal and is an ‘even’ rating through 5 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the Ice Dogs alternate captain is doing his best to lead the way as he had two goals and four helpers including the one that set up the game winner earning 1st star honors in the process in Niagara’s dramatic 9-8 win over North Bay on Thursday night. Lodnia has 18 goals, 42 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +12 in 23 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Spirit’s captain continues to light the lamp as he had a goal on 2 shots and went 14-for-21 in in Saginaw’s 4-2 loss to Kitchener. Giroux has 23 goals, 37 points, 10 PIM’s and is +6 in 35 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ the power forward earned 1st star honors as he had a goal and two assists on 6 shots with 5 registered hits in the Eagles’ 4-3 overtime win against Acadie-Bathurst on Friday. Boudrias has 20 goals, 43 points, 48 PIM’s and is +19 in 35 games.
LW – Vladislav Firstov (UConn, H-East) ~ the freshman winger had a goal and an assist on 3 shots in UConn’s 5-2 loss to Northeastern. Firstov has 6 goals, 13 points, 21 PIM’s and is a +4 in 19 games.