The ‘Stealth Tank’ as some Wild fans are calling it is tanking without overtly trying to lose. Well apparently that memo didn’t reach the Minnesota Wild as the team won both of its games on its short, two-game Western Canada road trip. With the NHL trade deadline tomorrow, the choice to be buyers or sellers appears to still be up in the air and still being on the outside looking in, the rumor mills are swirling about with different players’ names being bantered as possible trade targets.
The St. Louis Blues, the division leaders and as the defending Stanley Cup Champions they’re hoping to make another run with an experienced group. No doubt some players on both teams will be a bit on edge, but also feeling the urgency of the home stretch of the season. Will the Wild earn a win and make it tougher to sell out or will this be the calm before the firesale?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota had the first quality chance of the game as Kevin Fiala stepped up to intercept a pass near the Wild blueline and he raced through the neutral zone before dishing a pass to Alex Galchenyuk who flew into the Blues’ end for a big shot off the rush that was blocked away by Jordan Binnington. The Wild continued to dictate the pace through the first few minutes of the game as Zach Parise sent a puck towards the goal that was redirected by Joel Eriksson Ek that Binnington denied. Minnesota was taking any chance to send shots on goal even if they didn’t have much in the way of traffic in front of Binnington. The Blues tried to assert themselves with their strength on the puck as they worked a cycle game down low, but Minnesota battled well and St. Louis was unable to even generate a single shot on goal. The Wild’s 3rd line of big bodies like Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno would cause a little havoc as a puck made its way out into the high slot that Jared Spurgeon stepped into but it was blocked before it could reach the Blues goal. St. Louis would respond with a great chance of their own as Alex Steen was denied twice from close range by a sprawling Devan Dubnyk.
Matt Dumba would tackle Steen behind the Wild goal for an obvious holding penalty giving St. Louis its first power play of the game. The Wild penalty killers did a decent job of applying timely pressure to the Blues’ puck carriers and Minnesota was able to clear the zone a few times. Minnesota’s penalty kill was even dangerous offensively as Foligno had a great opportunity shorthanded. The Blues’ power play’s only quality scoring chance came off the stick of Robert Thomas as he was denied from in close by Dubnyk. Minnesota would go back on the attack after the successful kill as they swarmed over the Blues’ end of the ice. The Blues would break the stalemate off the rush as Marco Scandella fired a shot on goal that drew a rebound from Dubnyk and Jordan Kyrou swept up the loose puck and fired it in from a sharp angle. 1-0 Blues. The Blues seemed to be getting more comfortable as the game went on, using their speed and strength to put Minnesota on its heels in its own end of the ice. Tempers would flare a bit as Greg Pateryn got into it with McKenzie MacEachern after the whistle. The Blues were winning the territory battle as Jaden Schwartz intercepted a puck near the Wild blueline and he’d pass it to Brayden Schenn who would move in and rifle a shot by Dubnyk. 2-0 Blues. After the goal, the Blues training staff attended to Schwartz who appeared to be hurt just moments after he assisted on Schenn’s goal and he’d head to the St. Louis locker room. The goal sapped any energy from the home crowd as it looked like two rather suspect goals given up by Dubnyk. Minnesota went to work trying to cut into the Blues’ lead, by getting some traffic in front of Binnington but Eric Staal‘s wrist shot was steered aside by the Blues’ goalie. Sammy Blais would get called for roughing giving the Wild its first power play of the game. Binnington would make a tremendous save on a redirection early into the Wild power play. The Wild would have one last chance in the closing seconds of the period as a wrist shot by Fiala had Minnesota crashing the crease but Binnington was able to snow angel and keep the puck out and the Blues kept its 2-0 lead going into 1st intermission.
During the intermission, in one of the anti-climax stories of the season it was announced that the St. Louis Blues would be the Minnesota Wild’s opponent at the 2021 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic. (yawn)
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would come up empty on the short remainder of the man advantage. The Wild kept applying pressure as Greenway powered his way towards the crease and Foligno sort of ramped a shot off the side of Binnington’s leg and the puck fluttered back down and in. The officials discussed the play but the goal would stand, as the Blues’ lead was cut to one, 2-1. Minnesota continued to be pesky as Ryan Donato would steal a puck in the corner but he was tied up before he could work a shot on goal but the Wild kept hustling as Victor Rask swept up the puck for a shot that was blocked and never reached Binnington. The Wild’s 3rd line put on a clinic of size and strength but for all of their effort they were unable to put many shots on goal. Justin Faulk would hold the offensive zone for St. Louis, and the Blues added to its lead as Oskar Sundqvist scored from in close as Mikko Koivu watched. 3-1 Blues. The goal seemed to take the wind out of the Wild’s sails let alone the home crowd which could only sit there and watch the Blues control the pace of play. The Wild zone began to look like a shooting gallery as St. Louis was blasting shots from all over the offensive zone. St. Louis would get called for ‘too many men’ and Minnesota went on the power play. On the man advantage the Wild made some quick passes but at the crucial moment the Blues made the Minnesota unable to pull the trigger. Even as the Wild set up Brad Hunt and Matt Dumba for blasts the couldn’t light the lamp. As the Blues’ penalty expired, Hunt would trip up Ryan O’Reilly to give St. Louis a power play of their own. The Wild penalty kill did a decent job at keeping St. Louis’ power play to the perimeter but the Blues’ Zach Sanford came dangerously close to extending his team’s lead in the closing seconds of the 2nd period.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Blues had about 30 seconds of power play time to work with but Minnesota would kill that off with ease. Fiala would be set up by Galchenyuk, but Binnington made the same and Zach Parise would be high sticked by Vince Dunn. On the power play, the Wild spent nearly a minute just trying to get set up in the offensive zone. The Blues’ puck pressure never really allowed the Wild to generate almost any pressure offensively beyond a few perimeter shots that never even forced Binnington to make a save. The Blues would go back onto the penalty kill after their 2nd ‘too many men’ infraction of the game that had St. Louis Head Coach Craig Berube chewing out his bench a bit. The Blues’ penalty kill would go on the attack and the Wild didn’t seemed to know how to handle it as a Carl Gunnarsson poke check turned into a rush the other way and it was Sundqvist setting up Ivan Barbashev for an easy tap in. 4-1 Blues to annoyed silence from the home crowd on St. Louis’ shorthanded tally. The Wild would attempt a few shots from the point, most of which were blocked and never even went on goal and another power play ended in failure for Minnesota. The Wild would try to exhibit some urgency about mid-way through the period as Koivu set up Ryan Suter from in close but Binnington was able to steer the shot aside. Minnesota kept launching perimeter shots which were easy glove saves for the Blues goalie which I suspect the team will try to spin this as a respectable finish against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Tempers would boil over as Mats Zuccarello got into a shoving match with Sanford after the whistle. Faulk would nearly go coast-to-coast as he flew by Wild defenders but his backhand shot was steered to the corner by Dubnyk. Minnesota had to work so hard just to get a weak perimeter shot on goal, it almost made the exercise seem futile especially with no pressure near Binnington’s crease meaning he usually had plenty of time to cover up the puck. Even when the Wild seemed to have a step on the Blues’ defense, it would quickly vanish as St. Louis had the speed to retreat and neutralize the threat. You could start to hear a few boo’s rain down from the frustrated crowd as the Wild struggled to generate any kind of attack against St. Louis in the closing minutes of play. The game would end to mostly ambivalent silence and a few cheers from Blues fans in the sparse crowd that stuck around until the end. Woof…
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Alex Galchenyuk, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Ryan Donato, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Greg Pateryn and Brad Hunt. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Gerald Mayhew and Louie Belpedio were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Oskar Sundqvist, 2nd Star Jordan Binnington, 3rd Star Brayden Schenn
~ Attendance was 17,266 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 3, Texas 4
The Iowa Wild have not had a lot of luck playing in Austin, Texas as it has been at least 2 seasons since they last won a game there. The Texas Stars would break the stalemate as Jason Robertson found a little space and he’d wire a shot by Kaapo Kahkonen. Iowa would answer back a few minutes later as Sam Anas continued his hot streak with a goal off a nice set up by Gerald Mayhew making 1-1 after 1 period of play. The Stars would take back the lead halfway through the 2nd on the power play when Reece Scarlett blasted a shot from the point that beat a fairly well-screened Kahkonen. 2-1 Texas. Iowa would answer back a few minutes later as Connor Dewar would found Dmitry Sokolov who rifled a shot by Jake Oettinger tying the game at 2-2 going into the 2nd intermission. Early in the 3rd period the Wild would give up a rare shorthanded goal when former Blaine Bengal Riley Tufte finished a 2-on-0 to give the Stars a 3-2 lead. Iowa would again answer back as a Brennan Menell point shot was deftly redirected by Kyle Rau tying the game at 3-3. The game appeared to be destined to go to overtime, but Texas’ Joel Kiviranta scored through traffic with about 50 seconds left in the period. The Wild tried but the Stars did a decent job of locking things down and they fell 4-3. Kahkonen had 20 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Matt Boldy (Boston College, H-East) ~ the freshman winger is starting to heat up as he had two goals and an assist on 3 shots in the Eagles 10-1 rout of cross-town rival Northeastern on Friday. Boldy has 7 goals, 21 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +11 in 30 games.
C – Jack McBain (Boston College, H-East) ~ the sophomore center had an assist in Boston College’s 10-1 thrashing of Northeastern. McBain has 6 goals, 18 points, 36 PIM’s and is a + in 30 games.
D – Marshall Warren (Boston College, H-East) ~ the freshman puck moving defenseman had an assist on 2 shots in Boston College’s 10-1 victory on Friday. Warren has 5 goals, 9 points, 20 PIM’s and is a +16 in 30 games.
LW – Vladislav Firstov (UConn, H-East) ~ the skilled Russian had an assist on 1 shot in UConn’s 4-3 overtime win against Boston University. Firstov leads the Huskies’ in scoring with 11 goals, 22 points, 27 PIM’s and is a +15 in 29 games.
C – Bryce Misley (Vermont, H-East) ~ the junior center had the Catamounts’ lone goal on one shot in Vermont’s 6-1 loss to Maine. Misley has 3 goals, 8 points, 12 PIM’s and is a -9 in 29 games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the junior winger had 2 assists on 3 shots in Minnesota-Duluth’s 5-3 loss to Western Michigan. Swaney had 11 goals, 24 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +5 in 26 games.
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-native had a goal on 8 shots in Spokane’s 5-1 win over Swift Current. Beckman has 44 goals, 98 points, 18 PIM’s and is a +41 in 57 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Hanmer, Ontario-native earned 1st star honors by having 2 goals on 5 shots in Saginaw’s 10-6 win over Sudbury. He was also 5-for-9 on his draws. Giroux has 37 goals, 62 points, 18 PIM’s and is a +22 in 55 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the Kazan, Russia-native earned 1st star honors by having 2 goals and an assist on 6 shots. He also went 6-for-9 on his draws. Khovanov has 30 goals, 86 points, 74 PIM’s and is a +45 in 43 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ the big, 6’5″ 220+ lbs power forward had the game-winning goal in the Eagles’ 5-4 win over Saint John. He also had 3 registered hits. On Saturday, the Terrebonne, Quebec-native had an assist on 2 shots and 2 registered hits in Cape Breton’s 4-2 win over Rimouski. Boudrias has 31 goals, 71 points, 77 PIM’s and is a +38 in 53 games.
D – Fedor Gordeev (Guelph, OHL) ~ the 6’7″ defenseman had an assist on 4 shots in Guelph’s 5-3 win over London on Friday. Gordeev has 3 goals, 25 points, 34 PIM’s and is +3 in 43 games.
D – Calen Addison (Lethbridge, WHL) ~ the offensively gifted defenseman had an assist on 6 shots in the Hurricanes’ 8-2 win over Moose Jaw. Addison has 10 goals, 48 points, 43 PIM’s and is a +8 in 44 games.
D – Jacob Golden (Erie, OHL) ~ the overage defenseman had three helpers in the Otters’ 7-4 win over Owen Sound. Golden has 3 goals, 24 points, 6 PIM’s and is a -1 in 41 games.
Minnesota High School Hockey Report: The girls teams crowned two new champions in Class A and Class AA respectively this weekend. Here are who those clubs were as well as their respective all tournament teams. In addition the finalists for Mr. Hockey and the Frank Brimsek Top goaltender award finalists were announced.
Class A Championship ~ Breck 6, Cloquet / Esko / Carlton 0
Class A 3rd Place ~ Warroad 5, Rochester Lourdes 1
Class A Consolation ~ Hutchinson 5, South St. Paul 3
Class A Herb Brooks Award Winner ~ Taylor Nelson (C-E-C)
Class A All Tournament Team
D – Lillie Ramirez (South St. Paul)
F – Alex Hantage (Hutchinson)
G – Hannah Ladwig (Hutchinson)
F – Sydney Phaneuf (Warroad)
F – Geno Hendrickson (Warroad)
D – Karlie Meeker (Warroad)
D – Tenley Stewart (C-E-C)
F – Taylor Nelson (C-E-C)
G – Araya Kiminski (C-E-C)
F – Olivia Mobley (Breck)
F – Ava Lindsay (Breck)
D – Emily Zumwinkle (Breck)
Class AA Championship ~ Andover 5, Edina 3
Class AA 3rd Place ~ Minnetonka 3, Maple Grove 1
Class AA Consolation ~ Roseau 4, Hill-Murray 0
Class AA Herb Brooks Award Winner ~ Anna Stoskopf (Roseau)
Class AA All Tournament Team
F – Memphis Mertens (Roseau)
G – Brooke Cassibo (Maple Grove)
D – Hannah Baskin (Minnetonka)
D – Maggie Nicholson (Minnetonka)
G – Brynn Dulac (Minnetonka)
F – Peyton Hemp (Andover)
F – Jamie Nelson (Andover)
F – Gabby Krause (Andover)
D – Kennedy Little (Andover)
F – Tella Jungels (Edina)
F – Hannah Chorske (Edina)
D – Vivian Jungels (Edina)
2020 Ms. Hockey – Olivia Mobley (Breck)
2020 Best Goalie – Anna LaRose (North Wright County)
2020 Mr. Hockey Finalists
F – Blake Biondi ~ Hermantown
D – Jake Boltmann ~ Edina
F – Matt Gleason ~ Cretin-Derham Hall
D – Luke Gramer ~ Moorhead
D – Wyatt Kaiser ~ Andover
F – Blake Perbix ~ St. Cloud Cathedral
F – Carsen Richels ~ Blaine
D – Nate Schweitzer ~ Benilde-St. Margaret’s
F – Grant Slukynsky ~ Warroad
F – Ben Steeves ~ Eden Prairie
2020 Frank Brimsek (Best Goalie) finalists
Grant Clafton ~ Grand Rapids
Hudson Hodges ~ Moorhead
Remington Keopple ~ Hill-Murray