The Minnesota State Boys Hockey Tournament is in full swing in St. Paul so that means the Wild are going on a 3-game road trip out to California with the first one this evening in San Jose. Minnesota earned a big regulation win over Nashville on Tuesday night but still finds itself a point out of the Western Conference wildcard.
The San Jose Sharks are kind of just biding their time before they hit the golf course. Injuries have decimated the team most of the season and even when they have been healthy they just haven’t been able to get on track. Yet with little to lose, the Sharks are a dangerous team the Toronto Maple Leafs found out on Tuesday. Can the Wild keep climbing towards a playoff spot with a win in San Jose?
1st Period Thoughts: Well this makes for an interesting matchup. Minnesota has a 5-road game winning streak and the Sharks have a 3-home game winning streak. To start out, Minnesota came out and put forth decent effort in the first two minutes of the game. When you’re dealing with time zone differences, it’s what you want to see. Gerry Mayhew is in the lineup tonight with the absence of Eric Staal due to a death in the family. Unfortunately for the pressure that Minnesota had in those early moment, they came out with no shots on goal, and within the next two minutes, San Jose would log four shots on goal. Combine that with Alex Stalock not looking his best, this could end up being a long night. However, with the Sharks missing Erik Karlsson and Tomas Hertl, which could play in the Wild’s favor. Yet no matter who is or isn’t in the Sharks’ lineup, it is still up to the Wild to make this game happen. I will say, this has been a fast-paced, up-tempo game for both teams, which makes for a fun game to watch. I would be a bit more comfortable if Minnesota were able to get a few more shots on Martin Jones, because with just 3 shots in the first 8 minutes, isn’t exactly reassuring. San Jose does a great job at keeping Minnesota to the perimeter, not allowing them to really set anything up. Just when I think that perimeter issue is going to continue to cause issues, Ryan Suter takes the one-time from the blue line and gets it over Jones’ shoulder. Suter’s shot is usually pretty weak, so anytime he can get a goal from the blueline, I’ll take it. Now we have to wait and see how the Sharks respond. The would respond by getting some pressure of their own, but again the Wild would get that puck back with a great shot on goal by Jonas Brodin that Jones was able to stop. Slowly, but surely, Minnesota would start to close the gap in shots on goal. One thing is obvious, Ryan Donato continues to make things happen, which is sad because if Kiril Kaprizov makes the leap to the NHL next season, it seems like there will be no spot for Donato. Brad Hunt would get the first penalty of the night for hooking Timo Meier right in front of Stalock. The first 45 seconds or so of the Sharks power play was played in their zone, as the Wild were able to break up passes. San Jose would even up the score when Noah Gregor sent a screened shot past Stalock. The goal would ultimately be assigned to Stefan Noeson. Late in the period, the Sharks would get a break, as Mario Ferraro seemingly/clearly sent the puck over the glass, but the officials determined it wasn’t a penalty. Oh well. I’ll take a road game heading to the first intermission with a 1-1 tie.
2nd Period Thoughts: One thing I’m noticing in the early moments of the period, is the unsteadiness of Stalock when he skates behind the net. However, that may be more due to the Sharks doing their best to keep it away from him, so he can’t send out a breakout pass to his skaters. Brodin displayed just how quietly and confidently he’s played this season. He was the lone skater on a Sharks 2-on-1, but was able to break up the shot. On the opposite end of the defense spectrum is Greg Pateryn. His play makes you realize just how much Carson Soucy is missed. Kevin Fiala would get an amazing shot on goal off of a pass by Zach Parise, however Martin would block it. What was so great about it, is that we were amazed that Parise’s shot even got across the ice to Fiala, as the Sharks have been picking off those passes all night long. The Sharks almost went up 2-1 on a shot by Marcus Sorenson, but it was a combination of a save by Stalock and Marcus Foligno eliminated Sorenson from possibly getting the rebound. The Sharks would get the 2nd power play of the night, after Pateryn was called for high sticking. One issue in this penalty kill was the occasional failure to clear the puck when they’d get a stick on the puck. Minnesota would kill the penalty, and then create offense of their own. A beautiful backhand shot by Alex Galchenyuk over the shoulder of Jones. It’s shots like that, that prove it rarely hurts to take the shot. I honestly didn’t think anything would come of that shot, but I’m happy to be wrong. With about six minutes remaining in the period, the 4th line had an extended shift in the offensive zone. While it didn’t result in a goal, it takes time off the clock and wears out the opposition. That shift would be rewarded by a beautiful shift by Fiala, Parise, and Luke Kunin. It was Kunin’s beautiful pass that set up Parise, who wasted no time in shooting that puck. While the Sharks would get a good shot at the buzzer, I’ll take the two-goal lead heading into the intermission. Of course, there’s the old saying about a two-goal lead being the worst goal in hockey. We shall see.
3rd Period Thoughts: Well the start of this period wasn’t exactly the cleanest of hockey I’ve ever seen. While the puck was going up and down the ice, neither team was really making anything happen. It’s not productive hockey, and I find it a bit worrisome. It’s when things are disjointed, that things break down, and allow goals to happen. Donato would have a great breakaway chance, but Joe Thornton was able to break things up. The bigger question was why there wasn’t a penalty called. Matt Dumba would send the puck over the glass, which would result in the third power play for the Sharks. Which of course makes the non-call on Thornton that much more annoying as well as the officials not sending Ferraro to the box in the first period for the exact same thing Dumba was called for. While there haven’t been a lot of penalties tonight, the calls certainly feel a bit one-sided. Minnesota would again kill the penalty. There was a scary moment though with Stalock laying on the ice trying to get a stoppage in play. I couldn’t see the puck, and with the pack of skaters around him, I have to wonder how the referees saw the puck for so long. For a brief moment, the Wild had the lead in shots on goal, but as this game extends longer and longer with San Jose trailing, the Sharks have been putting everything on goal. It also helps that Stalock is finding ways to block the puck, even when he was completely out of position. That flurry around Stalock would eventually come to bite them in the butt, with a goal by Thornton. Stalock didn’t get much support because you have players like Pateryn out there probably causing more issues than actually contributing. The Wild would get their first power play of the night with Kevin Labanc getting called for hooking. This is the perfect time for the Wild to get some pressure and another one past Jones, who has had a pretty quiet third period. It doesn’t help when Minnesota skates in offsides though. The Wild would have issues getting the puck into the offensive zone, and in fact the Sharks were more of a threat offensively while short handed. One player I have like tonight (and for most of the season) has been Ryan Hartman. He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done. Heck, he even had a break away of sorts late in the period. As the Wild get closer to a playoff spot, they need to work on getting possession in their zone and finding a way of getting the puck out of the zone. The problem, is Minnesota weak play near the blue line. With two minutes remaining in regulation, the Sharks would pull Jones for the extra attacker. Jordan Greenway got close to an empty netter. Tonight, the Wild have had Evander Kane’s number all night. His shots either get stopped by Stalock or deflected off a Wild skater. Honestly, there’s not a better player in my book to be absolutely snakebitten. Finally in the last minute of regulation, I’m seeing a Wild being able to clear the zone. Minnesota would be able to tick off the remaining time and get the regulation win. Not only does this make for 6-road game wins in a row, but it also leapfrogs them ahead of the four teams ahead of them in the standings. Even crazier, that leapfrogging, now has the Wild in possession of the first wild card spot in the standings. Who would have thought that was possible?
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Alex Galchenyuk, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Ryan Donato, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Brad Hunt and Greg Pateryn.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Alex Stalock; 2nd Star, Ryan Suter; 3rd Star, Zach Parise.
~ Attendance was 14,517 at SAP Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Matvey Guskov (London, OHL) ~ the versatile forward had a goal on 5 shots in London’s 6-2 win over Kitchener on Tuesday. Guskov has 14 goals, 28 points, 48 PIM’s and is a +5 in 59 games.
F – Nikita Nesterenko (Chilliwack, BCHL) ~ the lanky forward had an assist in Chilliwack’s in their 5-2 loss to Surrey on Tuesday. The Boston College-commit has 4 assists in 4 playoff games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ the 6’6″ power forward earned 3rd star honors as he had a goal and two helpers on 5 shots and registered two hits in Cape Breton’s 6-1 win over Quebec on Wednesday night. Boudrias has 34 goals, 77 points, 77 PIM’s and is a +39 in 56 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the skilled winger lit the lamp on 3 shots in CSKA Moscow’s 3-0 victory over Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo on Wednesday to take a 2-0 series lead. Kaprizov has a goal, 3 points, +3 in 2 playoff games.
D – Fedor Gordeev (Guelph, OHL) ~ the lanky defenseman had an assist on 5 shots in Guelph’s 4-3 loss to Erie. Gordeev has 4 goals, 31 points, 36 PIM’s and is a +1 in 48 games.
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the winger’s production has tailed off a bit as he’s approached the century-mark in points, but he finally got there with an assist on 5 shots in a 6-2 win over Edmonton. Beckman has 44 goals, 100 points, 18 PIM’s and is a +39 in 60 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Spirit captain had a power play goal on his only shot of the game and went 4-for-8 on his draws in Saginaw’s 6-2 win over Mississauga. Giroux has 42 goals, 72 points, 22 PIM’s and is a +31 in 59 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the Kazan, Russia-native has an assist on 3 shots in Moncton’s 3-2 win over Acadie-Bathurst. He went 7-for-11 on his draws. Khovanov has 32 goals, 96 points, 90 PIM’s and is a +56 in 48 games.
G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ the big goaltender stopped a penalty shot and every other chance he faced on Thursday as he had 40 saves as the Petes’ earned a 8-0 rout of Hamilton. Jones has a 29-14 record, 2.85 goals against average, 4 shutouts on the season.
Minnesota High School Hockey Report: After Breck and Andover prevailed in Girls Hockey for Class A and Class AA respectively a few weeks ago, now its time for the Boys Tournament and the Class A field went through their quarterfinals on Wednesday. Here is a run down of the Class A quarterfinal scores.
#2 St. Cloud Cathedral 11, Mankato East / Loyola 2 ~ St. Cloud Cathedral was simply too much firepower for the Cougars to handle as Jack Smith (162nd by NHL Central Scouting mid-term rankings) had 2 goals and 2 assists as the Crusaders’ rolled to a rout.
#3 Hermantown 7, Monticello 1 ~ Mr. Hockey finalist Blake Biondi (91st by NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings) put on a clinic with a 1st period hat trick and added two helpers as the Hawks cruised to a 7-1 victory.
#1 Warroad 9, Hutchinson 3 ~ Northern Michigan-commit Grant Slukynsky netted a 1st period hat trick and four assists while freshman Jayson Shaugabay had a hat trick of his own as the Warriors were simply too much for Hutchinson.
#4 Mahtomedi 5, #5 Delano 2 ~ Delano jumped out to a 2-0 lead but the Zephyrs didn’t panic and they slowly but steadily wore the Tigers out. J.D. Metz‘s goal that gave Mahtomedi the lead mid-3rd period and they never looked back as they added a few more goals to seal a 5-2 win.