After the Minnesota Wild’s initial embarrassing loss to Boston in their first game out of the NHL All Star Break, fellow Crease and Assist writer Bruce Lange postulated the team might go on a mini-run. We may start asking him for lottery numbers, as the Wild have won their last 3 games and so far appear to making the most of the games in hand they had going into the week.
Meanwhile the Colorado Avalanche seemed to be poised to set themselves up for a deep playoff run. With elite offensive firepower and a much-improved defense the Avalanche are young and have skill, speed and right amount of grit to be a nightmare to play against. For whatever reason, the Wild often seem to raise their game against this club in the past, can Minnesota cap off its week with another victory?
1st Period Thoughts: It was pretty quiet to start the game, as the Wild were cautious to make many mistakes against a fast Colorado squad. Minnesota tried to get its forecheck working to force some turnovers as Luke Kunin stole a Nikita Zadorov pass near the Colorado blue line and he’d rip a shot wide of the goal and then the puck was swept up by Carson Soucy who let go a wrist shot that was blocked away by Pavel Francouz. Mikko Rantanen would get called for high sticking but the Wild were unable to get much of anything going with the man advantage as Colorado seemed to be draped on the Wild players whenever they had the puck. You’d think if they were checking that tightly that someone would be open, but the Wild struggled to deal with the pressure and Colorado killed the penalty without too much trouble. Shortly after the Wild came up empty on the power play, they’d take a penalty of their own as Nathan MacKinnon drew a hooking call on Greg Pateryn. Not sure why they keep playing Pateryn since he clearly is too slow and doesn’t bring any offense to the table. Minnesota would get the kill by following Colorado’s playbook with tight checking on the puck carrier and never letting the Avalanche power play get comfortable. Just out of the Avalanche power play, the Wild had a great opportunity as Kevin Fiala who got behind the Colorado defense but his wrister was snagged out of the air by the glove of Francouz. Minnesota was trying to work deflections from the slot to give Francouz some trouble and hope for a fortunate bounce. The crowd might as well have been sleeping with the few scoring chances as the game resembled an intense chess match, because I think both clubs were wary of making that first big mistake. Kunin would get another chance off the rush but his slap shot was again gloved out of the air by Francouz who continues to exhibit a superb glove hand. Devan Dubnyk had to be sharp down the stretch making some fine stops on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and a follow up by Erik Johnson. A late power play for Colorado would give the Avalanche some great chances in the last minute as Dubnyk had to make a few top notch saves to keep the game scoreless going into the 1st intermission. Give some credit some great hustle by the Wild’s penalty kill as well, but Dubynk was sharp enough to make the first save and then he got decent help after that to sweep pucks out of the dangerous areas of the ice. 0-0 after 1.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Avalanche had about 40 seconds of power play time left. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a nice job of keeping Colorado to the perimeter and Joel Eriksson Ek would draw a hooking call on Nazem Kadri. Minnesota again did little with the man advantage beyond one deflection attempt by Zach Parise which was steered aside by Francouz. Making matters worse, the Avalanche’s Bellemare would skate in and wind up and hammer a slap shot that snuck through 5-hole on an unscreened Dubnyk. 1-0 Colorado on the shorthanded and very soft goal.
GOAL. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scores shorthanded to open the scoring.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 10, 2020
Minnesota still had most of its power play left to work with and they still did little with it and worse yet they didn’t seem to have any strategy or concept of how they wished to attack Colorado’s penalty kill unit. The Wild kept trying to attack as Jonas Brodin let go of a shot that went off the glove of Francouz and off the right post and just trickled wide of the goal mouth before a Wild player could get a stick on it. A tripping call on Joonas Donskoi would give the Wild some hope on the power play and Minnesota would take advantage of the power play as some great passing by Parise who set up a one-timer for Jared Spurgeon who wired it by Francouz. 1-1 game.
GOAL. Jared Spurgeon scores on the power play to tie the game.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 10, 2020
The Avalanche would try to answer right back as Tyson Jost had a chance from in close that was fought off by Dubnyk. Colorado would catch the Wild defense sleeping and Matt Calvert was moving in on a breakaway only to be hooked off the puck by Spurgeon. Spurgeon would go to the sin bin and the Avalanche would take advantage on the power play as MacKinnon threaded a needle that Dubnyk never really saw. 2-1 Colorado. Colorado continued to dictate the pace of play as the Wild simply couldn’t stay with the much-faster Avalanche squad. Matt Dumba would take advantage of Valeri Nichushkin had a broken his stick and he’d try to move laterally to open up a shooting lane where he let go of a wrist shot that Francouz would again stop with a glove save. The Avalanche continued to play down hill and a turnover near the Wild blueline would turn into a shot by J.T. Compher drew a big rebound and Gabriel Landeskog pounce on the rolling puck and it would skitter by Dubnyk for a goal. 3-1 Colorado. Minnesota would try to answer back as Mats Zuccarello set up Jason Zucker for a point-blank chance that Zucker fired right into Francouz instead of going top shelf. With the Wild pinching with its defense in search of more offense, they also were vulnerable to the odd-man rush and Colorado had a 2-on-1 only to be thwarted by Pateryn before they could fire a shot on goal. Colorado was starting to win more and more of the small races for loose pucks and the Wild seemed to just be turning and watching the Avalanche go to work in their zone. Kardri would get a tripping call for knocking down Eric Staal giving the Wild a late-period power play opportunity. Minnesota had a good chance right off the faceoff as Ryan Suter let go of a wrist shot that was redirected by Parise that was held onto by Francouz. The Wild continued to look to work the backdoor play, but the Avalanche were able to disrupt the play, so Fiala would dangle around a defender and move into the slot and then he’d fire a laser of a wrist shot that beat Francouz cleanly cutting the Colorado lead to one, 3-2.
This is just disgusting. What a player Kevin Fiala is becoming. pic.twitter.com/XpjxxyJK6I— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 10, 2020
Shortly after Fiala’s goal, Jordan Greenway would get into a bit of a scrum with Cale Makar which drew the ire of Matt Calvert who skated over to Greenway only to find himself being pulled away by Marcus Foligno. No penalties were called in the scrum, and the 3rd line would try to assert itself as Greenway dropped a pass back to Foligno who fired a shot that was absorbed by Francouz. In the final seconds of the period, a long shot was taken by Spurgeon that drew a big rebound from Francouz ala Vladislav Tretiak that went right to Zucker who ripped a shot wide of the goal and Minnesota had to feel like they had plenty of fight still left going into the 2nd intermission down by one. Still, the soft goals given up by Dubnyk appear to be the difference thus far.
3rd Period Thoughts: The 3rd period was fast, furious and a more than a little feisty as Calvert would go after Dubnyk which prompted Kunin to drop the gloves and try to throw down. The Wild would swarm at times around Francouz but at the crucial moment wasn’t able to get a stick on the puck to bury the puck. Minnesota was making Colorado pay a physical price to make plays and the hits were taking a toll on the Avalanche as Kadri, Bellemare and Andre Burakovsky would both leave for the locker room for short stints only to try to soldier on and make a return. Francouz was doing a good job of just absorbing pucks and not giving the Wild any second chances on rebounds. Colorado was doing its best to not give the Wild much in the way of time and space and shots were hard to come by. You could sense the anxiety level of the mostly quiet home crowd building with each Wild shift as it failed to come up with the equalizer. The Wild were sending any shot they could direct towards the goal and the result was a lot of chasing the puck all over the ice with not many shots reaching Francouz. Foligno would drive to the net but Francouz fought off the chance as players careened into the goal cage knocking it off its moorings for a whistle. Give Francouz credit as his rebound control was tremendous, even with traffic near his crease he wasn’t giving up anything for the Wild to take advantage of. Minnesota would pull Dubnyk for an extra attacker with about 1:45 left to play. The Avalanche would flip the puck out of the zone and Minnesota never really put a scare into Colorado the last 2 minutes of the game and their winning streak was snapped at 3 games in this 3-2 loss.
~ 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, Ryan Donato, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Carson Soucy and Greg Pateryn. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Victor Rask and Brad Hunt were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Gabriel Landeskog, 2nd Star Kevin Fiala, 3rd Star Jared Spurgeon
~ Attendance was 17,444 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 5, Stockton 2
Stockton has given the Wild trouble in the past, and the game started out with both teams trading chances knowing that the first goal could be critical. The Heat would strike first, late in the period as Austin Czarnik scored to give Stockton a 1-0 lead going into the 1st intermission. Iowa would then answer back early in the 2nd period as Nico Sturm buried a rebound off a Gerald Mayhew chance. The Wild would get the go ahead goal a few minutes later as Mayhew rifled a shot by Jon Gillies to make it 2-1 Iowa. The Heat would tie it back up a few minutes later as Byron Froese found the twine behind Kaapo Kahkonen. Iowa would strike late in the period on the power play as Mayhew fired a laser of a one-timer after a nice set up by Sam Anas to make it 3-2 Wild going into the 2nd intermission. Iowa would extend its lead early into the 3rd period as Anas buried a power play goal. Stockton tried to pour it on offensively to claw back into the game but Kahkonen and Iowa’s defense locked things down and Anas would tallied an empty netter to seal a 5-2 victory in front of 9,020 in Des Moines on ‘Pink in the Rink’ night. Kahkonen had 36 saves in the victory, while Anas had a 5-point night (2 goals, 3 assists) and Mayhew had a 3-point night (2 goals, 1 assist).
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Fedor Gordeev (Guelph, OHL) ~ the tall and lanky defenseman had a goal on 9 shots in Guelph’s 5-1 win over Sault Ste. Marie on Friday. Gordeev has 3 goals, 23 points, 25 PIM’s and is a -4 in 39 games.
C – Matvey Guskov (London, OHL) ~ the bottom 6 winger / center earned 1st star honors by having 2 goals on 4 shots and a fight in London’s 7-3 drubbing of Saginaw on Friday night. Guskov has 12 goals, 24 points, 46 PIM’s and is a +3 in 49 games.
RW – Matt Boldy (Boston College, H-East) ~ the Wild’s top pick from 2019 had an assist on 3 shots in Boston College’s 3-2 loss to UMass-Lowell on Friday. Boldy has 2 goals, 11 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +2 in 25 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian which has let it be known that if he doesn’t make the big club (Minnesota) he’ll play in the KHL had an assist and an empty net goal on 4 shots in a 4-0 win over Blainville-Boisbriand. He also went 4-for-9 on his draws. On Saturday, he had a lone assist on 4 shots and went 4-for-8 on his faceoffs in Moncton’s 4-2 win over Shawinigan. Khovanov has 23 goals, 71 points, 68 PIM’s and is a +30 in 36 games.
G – Filip Lindberg (UMass, H-East) ~ the Finnish-born sophomore goalie wasn’t too busy Friday as he had 14 saves in the Minutemen’s 3-1 victory over Providence. Lindberg has an 8-4-2 record, 1.79 goals against average and a .930 save percentage with 2 shutouts.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ the power forward earned 2nd star honors as he had a goal on shots and a hit in Cape Breton’s 5-1 win over Blainville-Boisbriand on Saturday. Boudrias has 27 goals, 61 points, 58 PIM’s and is a +31 in 46 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Spirit’s captain had a power play goal on shots in Saginaw’s 3-2 win over Guelph. The Hanmer, Ontario-native has 32 goals, 56 points, 16 PIM’s and is a +15 in 50 games.
G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ the big goalie earned 1st star honors on Saturday by making 31 saves in Peterborough’s 4-1 win over Ottawa. Jones has a 25-12 record, a 2.82 goals against average and a .911% save percentage with 3 shutouts.
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the Saskatoon-native had a goal and an assist on 5 shots in Spokane’s 6-0 win over Tri-City on Saturday night. Beckman has 39 goals, 84 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +33 in 50 games.