Early on Sunday, I posted a fan poll on Twitter asking them who they felt would win between the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of their play in series. 52% of the 57 respondents I had said they thought Vancouver was going to prevail in Game 1. That percentage is more confidence than the survey of writers at The Athletic where over 80% of them were picking the Canucks to win the series. Yet, I did the same survey for Game 2 and it was nearly identical results with 51% saying Vancouver will win versus 49% that the Wild will win tells me the fanbase is expecting a stumble tonight.
Yet Minnesota skated away with a 3-0 victory in a game that thoroughly frustrated Vancouver. However, that is just Game 1 and no doubt the Canucks will be very determined to even the series tonight. Can the Wild shut down the Canucks in order to earn a 2-game lead in the Best of 5 series?
1st Period Thoughts: Vancouver got out to a very fast start, as Loui Eriksson dropped a pass back to Tanner Pearson and he ripped a wrist shot that beat Alex Stalock cleanly. 1-0 Vancouver just 24 seconds into the game. Minnesota answered right back as Jonas Brodin jumped into the play and he’d drive towards the net and he’d get slashed as he sent a backhand on goal and drawing a Canucks’ penalty in the process. On the ensuing power play, the Canucks penalty kill was shifting their coverage to try to give Kevin Fiala less time and space to work with. Minnesota only managed two shots from the perimeter that were easily dismissed by Jacob Markstrom. The Wild, undaunted went back to work with a mix of its 2nd and 3rd line as they frustrated Vancouver with some great work along the wall down low deep in the Canucks’ end. Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno used their strength to control the puck for about 40 seconds and drawing another power play in the process. Unfortunately, the story on the man advantage was similar to their first attempt as they struggled to get set up in the offensive zone and other than a few shots from the perimeter didn’t generate much pressure. At times the Wild looked a bit too choosy; as Luke Kunin deferred an open opportunity to shoot the puck from the slot to instead dish a pass to Matt Dumba who was waiting near the right faceoff dot for a sharp angle shot and another power play would expire without a goal to show for it. Jordan Greenway would get tagged with a roughing penalty as he gave a push to Elias Pettersson giving the Canucks their first power play of the game. Minnesota did a good job of pressuring the Canucks’ puck carriers and they were able to force Vancouver to settle for shots from the perimeter; and Stalock was able to come up with a few saves. Minnesota would get the kill without too much danger. The Canucks were starting to ramp up the physical play as they were finishing their checks consistently and they were hounding Minnesota’s defenseman to give the Wild trouble with its zone exits. The Wild were just chipping the puck out of the zone and this was leading to a lot of easy turnovers.
Gotta get some sort of shot off here. pic.twitter.com/uUcR3zi806— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 5, 2020
A few minutes later, Mikko Koivu was given a ‘delay of game’ call for hitting the puck with his hand off a faceoff in his own zone. The Wild captain wasn’t happy with the call, but it gave Vancouver its 2nd power play of the game. Minnesota’s penalty kill was again very good, giving the Canucks very little time and space and applying lots of pressure near the bluelines to disrupt passing and shooting lanes. The Wild nearly killed off the Canucks’ power play when Greenway would get called for slashing putting Vancouver back on the man advantage. The penalty kill of Minnesota again started out sharp, challenging the zone entries and forcing turnovers and clearing the zone and forcing Vancouver to spend precious time trying to set back up. The Wild’s strong puck pressure continued to cause Vancouver problems and they’d go on the attack as Ryan Suter moved the puck up to Zach Parise who then fed it across to Luke Kunin and the Chesterfield, Missouri-native moved in and he’d fire a wrist shot that trickled through Markstrom and in. 1-1 game on the shorthanded tally.
Nice little move by Zach Parise to set Kunin up. pic.twitter.com/b5hNtPDXuN— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 5, 2020
Minnesota played smart, safe hockey through the last few minutes to go into the 1st intermission knotted at one goal apiece.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would draw a penalty early in the period as Troy Stecher tripped up Parise as he carried the puck into the Canucks’ zone. The power play had a bit more of a run-and-gun feel as Minnesota used a pretty zone entry to set up Fiala for a chance from the slot that was deflected up and into the netting by Markstrom. A little later, Mats Zuccarello threaded a cross-ice pass to Matt Dumba for a one-timer that was gloved by the Canucks’ goalie and Minnesota again came up empty with the man advantage. The Canucks would counter attack soon after the expired penalty and it was J.T Miller making a toe drag move to let a sprawling Wild defender slide on by and then firing a shot that rang off the post and in. 2-1 Canucks. The Wild tried to answer back quickly with two great shifts where they moved the puck down low and created a few scoring chances from in close. A few minutes later, some excellent hustle by Jonas Brodin to chase down his own dump in, freeing up the puck for it to be gathered up by Fiala who fed a pass out front to Eric Staal in the slot who was stonewalled by Markstrom. The Wild were being a bit sloppy with the puck; half-hazard with their passes and the Canucks would cash in as Alexander Edler sent a shot on goal that was then swept on goal by Pettersson which Stalock stopped but Brock Boeser was there to shovel home the rebound. 3-1 Canucks. Minnesota would get a power play with a chance to cut the lead back to one, but the Canucks were blocking shots and not letting much of anything reach Markstrom. The Wild tried changing up their power play strategy looking ot set up Jared Spurgeon for a one-timer but again Vancouver did a good job of helping out their goalie by stepping in front of pucks. The next few minutes were a bit dangerous for the Wild as clearly they were a bit winded yet they needed to try to cut into the Canucks’ lead in order to set themselves up for a chance to rally in the 3rd. With the Wild pinching a bit, the Canucks were counter attacking well and Dumba would help sweep away a puck that came dangerously close to finding the back of the Minnesota goal.
MATT DUMBA TO THE RESCUE. pic.twitter.com/D4sON2nQCa— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 5, 2020
A shift after that it was Stalock stopping Pettersson on a chance right near the crease to keep his team within two. Ryan Donato would slash the stick Jake Virtanen‘s stick into kindling giving the Canucks a power play late in the period. The Wild penalty kill was again pretty solid, not giving Vancouver much space to work with and Minnesota would escape without further damage. The last few minutes were sort of aimless until the very end as Edler tried to light up Kunin with an open-ice hit only to get lit up himself and then Parise ran over a Canucks defender to track down a puck and drawing a penalty in the process as time expired. Unfortunately, Jared Spurgeon would also get a penalty meaning the 3rd period would start with both clubs playing 4-on-4. The frustration level was certainly raised as the Wild were trailing by two, but scoring in the first 5 minutes will probably be key if Minnesota is to have any chance to come back at all.
3rd Period Thoughts: 4-on-4 play was predictably up and down as the Wild were not well suited to trying to trade rushes with the speedier Canucks’ squad. At times it looked like the Wild were playing with fire as the Canucks appeared to be very comfortable with a bit more open ice and playing an up-tempo game. As 4-on-4 play ended, Alex Galchenyuk would trip up Pettersson giving the Canucks a power play. The power play was more of a shooting gallery as the Canucks operated in the Wild zone with impunity, passing the puck around and repeatedly setting up Miller, Pettersson and Quinn Hughes for one-tmers. Minnesota would take another penalty very late as Brad Hunt would give the Canucks a 2-second long 5-on-3 advantage. The Wild’s penalty kill tried to step up and shut down Vancouver but the reality it was another 2 mintues spent simply trying to defend instead of trying to dismantle the Canucks’ lead. Unfortunately, they would not escape unscathed on the man advantage as Hughest ripped a shot from the point that was redirected by Bo Horvat and by Stalock. 4-1 Canucks. Minnesota didn’t look like a club that had the energy to mount any kind of serious bid for a comeback. They looked tired and emotionally flat.
Full disclosure: It was at this point our internet provider decided to do server maintenance at midnight. Since we were watching the game on YouTube TV, because for whatever reason the game was being blacked out in our neck of the woods on USA we could no longer watch the game so my partner in crime and I headed to bed. So what you are about to read is apparently what we missed.
Elias Pettersson was caught delivering a punch to the back of the head of Ryan Hartman that knocked him out of the game, not with an upper body injury as you’d expect but with a lower body one. Judge for yourself.
Ryan Hartman shaken up after this encounter with Pettersson. pic.twitter.com/07iIBDsMBY— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 5, 2020
So for the next few minutes the Wild were trying to come back but were not exactly showing a willingness to pay a physical price to make plays. It wasn’t until the final five minutes that the Wild really started to press hard and show some urgency. The team was doing more to try to set up its best scorer, Kevin Fiala with chances and he rewarded them with two goals including this beauty with just 7.7 seconds left.
GOAL. Kevin Fiala scores his second of the period with 7.7 seconds to go.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 5, 2020
Brad Hunt would nearly tie the game at the buzzer but his shot hit Markstrom in the mask instead of finding the back of the net and the Wild came up short 4-3. After the final horn, both teams left their benches for a bit of a discussion on the ice.
Final horn blows and both teams gather at center ice to talk that talk. pic.twitter.com/M8vYtBFWSi— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 5, 2020
Stalock had 24 saves in the loss. I saw a few people suggest perhaps its time the team consider giving Devan Dubnyk a start I think it would be a big mistake. I did not think the goals Stalock gave up tonight were because of mistakes he made as much as it were high quality shots by some of the best shooters Vancouver has. I thought Stalock had some great saves that helped keep the game somewhat close.
On another note, where is Mats Zuccarello? Someone should put his face on a milk carton because he is missing out there. He does little to nothing on the Wild’s 3rd line and on the power play he is no threat to score as he keeps his eyes on the Wild’s two point men and often telegraph’s his passes so much they often invite turnovers. For a player who has as much playoff experience as he does and by how much the team overpaid to get him, he needs to be stepping up and not fading into the woodwork.
Another player who I felt seemed disengaged tonight was Ryan Donato. I realize you don’t get a lot of ice time on the 4th line, but you should never look tired or disengaged otherwise you encourage the team to find someone else that will inject more energy to that spot in the lineup.
If Ryan Hartman is indeed out for Game 3, I would expect the team gives either Nico Sturm or Luke Johnson that spot in the lineup. Minnesota plays at 1:30PM CT on Thursday so they’ll have to adjust their game routine and hopefully they don’t look like they need a siesta for Game 3.
The Wild roster tonight was: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Alex Galchenyuk, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Hartman, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Brad Hunt and Carson Soucy. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Nico Sturm, Luke Johnson, Victor Rask, Gerald Mayhew, Kyle Rau, Matt Bartkowski, Louie Belpedio, Brennan Menell, Mat Robson and Kaapo Kahkonen were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star J.T Miller, 2nd Star Bo Horvat, 3rd Star Kevin Fiala