There is a saying that we were probably all told as children by our mothers, “if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” I am sure that was probably going through the mind of Minnesota Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau as he tried his best not to rip his own club apart after a thoroughly embarrassing 6-1 loss to Boston on Saturday night. I think all Wild fans were hoping he’d just let loose with the f-bombs and just say what he’s really thinking because I think most Wild fans probably feel the same way.
Chicago makes its way to St. Paul, sitting in front of Minnesota in the Central Division rankings and likely salivating at the chance to play a Wild team that is so slow and is rancid on special teams. With the game being played on NBC Sports Network, will the Wild (and Boudreau) melt down under the national spotlight?
1st Period Thoughts: The Wild looked a bit disorganized at the start, as the newly shuffled lines seemed to be a bit slow out of the gate and the speed of the Blackhawks. Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway imposed its will on the smaller Blackhawks’ defense by working pucks down low and then using their size to protect the puck as they set up a shot from the point by Brad Hunt that was blocked aside by Corey Crawford. The good shift seemed to give the Wild a bit of a template and the next few shifts the Wild tried to use the same method of attack and Ryan Donato’s redirect of a Mikko Koivu pass was steered to the corner by the Chicago goalie. Minnesota’s 3rd line had another great shift as Greenway set up Eriksson Ek from the slot that Crawford fought off for a save as the Wild kept swarming in the offensive zone. In a strange sequence, Alex Stalock would head to the Wild bench as he thought it was a delayed penalty only none were called leaving Minnesota’s net wide open. Fortunately, Minnesota never lost possession. Ryan Hartman would find Koivu for a chance from the slot that Crawford denied as Minnesota was pressing hard to get the first goal. Chicago tried to respond with some pressure of its own as they set up a long shot from the point by Erik Gustafsson which was deflected up into the netting by Stalock. The Wild and Blackhawks would flirt with breakaway chances with little tip plays through the neutral zone hoping to spring someone behind the opposing defense. Donato would get that opportunity as Hartman found him with a long pass but his wrist shot was denied by Crawford. Moments later, Donato would send a puck up into the stands for a delay of game penalty giving Chicago the first power play of the game going against one of the worst penalty kills in the league. The penalty kill would get a little help as Patrick Kane tripped up Foligno as he was chasing after a puck to negate the man advantage. As the ice was more open 4-on-4, the Wild seemed to have little idea how to use the extra time and space on the ice. The Blackhawks would go on the attack, Jonathan Toews would charge in as he was defended by Matt Dumba his knee would hit the head of Stalock who fell to the ice. After a quick evaluation on the ice by Wild trainer John Worley, Stalock was deemed to be ok enough to continue and the game would resume. Stalock would get a quick test as the denied Olli Maatta on a slapper from just above the right faceoff dot. The Wild were not able to do much with the abbreviated power play as Dumba’s wrist shot missed over the Chicago goal. The Blackhawks would have a great chance of their own as an errant pass gave Alex DeBrincat a breakaway but some good hustle by Donato didn’t give him much time to make a move and his backhander would miss high over the Wild goal.
Alex DeBrincat gets a breakaway, but Ryan Donato hustles from behind to negate what could have been a disastrous momentum shift in favor of Chicago. pic.twitter.com/pos2JcyRoV— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 5, 2020
Toews would race into the Wild zone and he’d let go a shot that was blocked away by Stalock and then he had to square up to deny a chance from Dominik Kubalik. The Wild had a chance late in the period as Jason Zucker found Carson Soucy with a pass and he’d drive to the net only to be stonewalled by Crawford.
Carson Soucy gets a good look, but Crawford makes the stop. pic.twitter.com/1ODKR0R51Q— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 5, 2020
Minnesota would take a penalty in the closing seconds of the period as Mats Zuccarello tripped up Connor Murphy to give Chicago nearly full power play to work with to start the 2nd period. It was an ok period, from an effort perspective but being knotted at 0-0 had to feel a bit frustrating.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Blackhawks had about 1:45 of power play time to start the period. Chicago would try to attack across the rush as DeBrincat pulled the trigger on a shot that missed wide of the mark. Minnesota was able to gather up the missed shots and clear the zone with relative ease and they’d get the big kill. The Wild’s 3rd line would try to go on the attack shortly after the kill but as Foligno raced around a Chicago defender his pass would just be out of reach of either Eriksson Ek and Greenway. Minnesota continued to apply pressure as Kevin Fiala swept up a puck near the wall in the Chicago zone and then moved into the slot and he fired a shot against a well-screened Crawford that rang off the post and in. 1-0 Wild.
Chicago tried to answer back as Drake Caggiula fired a shot that was blocked and then swept out of danger by the Wild defense. The Blackhawks came inches away from tying the game as a hard shot by Dylan Strome was stopped by Stalock but the puck would roll just wide and out of the reach of David Kampf before Eric Staal swept it away out of danger. A few minutes later, Crawford made a nice stop on a shot from the point by Dumba and then he stopped Greenway’s rebound bid right at the top of the crease. Greenway showed a bit of sandpaper after the whistle, but cooler heads would prevail even though the home crowd liked to see some feisty play from its power forward. The physical play started to ramp up as both clubs were feeling a sense of urgency in a game where the result was still very much undecided at this point in the game. Kane would be tripped up by Koivu that would put Chicago back on the power play. Minnesota’s penalty killers had a good initial effort as Marcus Foligno would attack the puck carrier and force a turnover and he’d carry it deep into the Chicago zone before the Blackhawks power play was able to get the puck back. The Wild’s penalty killers were scrambling at times, but their hustle allowed them to win most of the races to loose pucks and they were able to thwart most of Chicago’s attempts to get set up in the offensive zone and they’d get another big kill. Minnesota tried to go back on the attack as Zucker turned on the afterburners and get around Chicago’s defense for a close in chance that Crawford dismissed. The Wild would draw a penalty of their own as Soucy dangled around Kane and Slater Koekkoek tackled Donato to give Minnesota a chance to extend its lead. Chicago had a great chance shorthanded as Ryan Carpenter intercepted a pass and he’d race in for a breakaway only to be stonewalled by Stalock.
Minnesota would keep on attacking as Fiala picked up a puck in the neutral zone and turn on the jets to fly by Connor Murphy and then wire a wrist shot by Crawford. 2-0 Wild on his 2nd goal of the game. The two clubs would trade chances throughout the last few minutes of the period but at the crucial moment they couldn’t pull the trigger. The crowd would give an appreciative cheer as the 2nd period expired with the Wild holding onto a 2-0 lead. Fiala certainly is showing some of that ‘gamebreaker’ ability that former Wild GM Paul Fenton was talking about its too bad we haven’t more of that this season but still its been great to see.
3rd Period Thoughts: Chicago would set up Duncan Keith for a blast from the high slot that was snagged out of the air by the glove of Stalock just 22 seconds into the period. The Blackhawks continued to attack and Toews tried to set up Kirby Dach for a tap out front but again Stalock was there to make a nice glove save before Dach could get a stick on it. The 3rd line would nearly cash in as Eriksson Ek dished a puck back to Foligno who just was unable to connect on what would’ve been a tap in. You could see a sense of urgency with the Wild were backchecking with a purpose. Toews nearly was able to tap a shot by Stalock but his attempted missed wide. Minnesota would respond with a great chance of their own off the rush as he set up Jared Spurgeon for a shot and then Staal just missed wide on the backhander. The Blackhawks would strike on a wrist shot that seemed to catch Stalock by surprise as Adam Boqvist beat him cleanly from above the right circle. 2-1 Wild. Minnesota seemed content to simply defend its lead. Dach would make a nice move to dangle around Jonas Brodin and then move in on Stalock only to miss wide. Donato would get behind the Chicago defense for a breakaway but his backhander was stopped calmly by Crawford.
Ryan Donato gets a breakaway, but Crawford denies him. pic.twitter.com/OZ6iSVdH2C— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 5, 2020
The Wild tried to sit back and play a 1-2-2 and force turnovers in the neutral zone and then work the puck back into the Chicago zone to force the Blackhawks waste precious time trying to move it up the full length of the ice. Chicago continued to linger around the Wild zone, shooting the puck whenever an opportunity presented itself. The Blackhawks were getting traffic in front of Stalock, but to his credit he appeared to be seeing the puck well and was able to come up with the saves as well as not giving up any rebounds on the process. Chicago just kept sending shot after shot while the Wild just seemed to be standing still and eventually Maatta would beat a screened Stalock to make it a 2-2 game to a collective groan from the home crowd. Minnesota’s 3rd line would try to go on the attack as Foligno dropped his shoulder and muscled his way down low for a wrap around attempt that just failed work. Ryan Suter tried to pinch help lead a last rush but he’d stumble and fall awkwardly into the dasher they felt he was tripped up by Murphy to no call and the game would go to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: Minnesota would have a good initial chance in overtime as Fiala raced by Toews and then unleashed a heavy shot that hit Crawford in the mask which shook the Chicago goalie and he’d shake it off to draw a whistle from the officials. Fiala again seemed to have the jets working for him as he used his speed to create some space and he’d let go another shot that was fought off by Crawford. Minnesota kept applying pressure, being very aggressive as Chicago tried to exit their own end only to be hemmed in by turnovers. As Zuccarello fed it back to Dumba who managed to lift a shot that hit the crossbar and then off Crawford and in. 3-2 Wild victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Donato, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy and Brad Hunt. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Victor Rask and Greg Pateryn were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Matt Dumba, 2nd Star Kevin Fiala, 3rd Star Marcus Foligno
~ Attendance was 17,341 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (27-14-3-3) 60pts 2nd in the AHL Central
20.8% Power Play (8th in the AHL)
85.5% Penalty Kill (4th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #7 Sam Anas ~ 15G 34A = 49pts
2. #20 Gerald Mayhew ~ 31G 17A = 48pts
3. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 11G 26A = 37pts
4. #27 Brennan Menell ~ 4G 29A = 33pts
5. #11 Nico Sturm ~ 10G 13A = 23pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #47 Louie Belpedio ~ 89 PIM’s
2. #22 Brandon Duhaime ~ 57 PIM’s
3. #20 Gerald Mayhew ~ 56 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (17-5-2) 2.39GAA .914%SP 3SO
2. #60 Mat Robson (9-7-4) 2.87GAA .903%SP 1SO
Recent Score: Iowa 4, Manitoba 3
(knock on wood) The Iowa Wild are sitting in pretty good shape. 2nd in the AHL Central Division and 2nd overall in the Western Conference the Wild have a nice cushion going into February. Admittedly Iowa has played more games than some that trail behind them in the standings but they still have to feel fairly confident with how things have been going as they are 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 games. Iowa’s veteran workhorses in Sam Anas, Gerald Mayhew, Kyle Rau and Brennan Menell continue to carry the majority of the load offensively, but they are getting some nice secondary scoring from the rest of its lineup. Youngsters Nico Sturm, Brandon Duhaime, Connor Dewar and Dmitry Sokolov have contributed in small bursts and give the team some speed, grit and offensive punch when the team has needed it. Between the pipes, Kaapo Kahkonen has settled into the starter’s role quite nicely and Iowa while Mat Robson has been decent as the backup. Iowa Wild Head Coach Tim Army has a team that plays fast, gritty and is solid on special teams and seems to be in good position to make a long, post-season run.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the Saskatoon-native continues to drive the offense for Spokane as he had a goal and an assist on 6 shots in the Chiefs’ 6-0 win over Kelowna on Sunday. Beckman has 36 goals, 78 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +28 in 48 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Spirit’s captain earned 1st star honors as he had 2 goals and went 5-for-5 on his draws in Saginaw’s 6-3 win over Erie. Giroux has 31 goals, 55 points, 16 PIM’s and is a +16 in 48 games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth) ~ the junior winger had 2 goals on 6 shots in the Bulldogs’ 4-1 victory to sweep Denver this weekend. Swaney has 11 goals, 22 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +3 in 23 games.
C – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ the sophomore center had an assist on 4 shots in the Huskies’ 3-0 win over Miami. Hentges has 7 goals, 23 points, 10 PIM’s and is a -2 in 22 games.
G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ After a rough start last week, the big goalie responded with a 21 save effort to help give Peterborough a 4-1 win over Oshawa. Jones has a 24-11 record, 2.83 goals against average and a .910 save percentage with 3 shutouts.
LW – Matt Boldy (Boston College, H-East) ~ the team’s top pick from 2019 is trying to make a statement in his first Beanpot Tournament and he had 2 assists on shots in Boston College’s 4-4 tie with arch-rival Boston University. Boldy has 2 goals, 11 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +2 in 24 games.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the bottom 6 center had an assist in CSKA Moscow’s 3-0 win over Kunlun Red Star on Monday. Svetlakov has 3 goals, 15 points, 24 PIM’s and is a +9 in 36 games.