Fandom of any team means dealing with the ups and downs of the season. For almost every climax and feeling of euphoria the team could give you it is often counterbalanced by moments of disappointment or failure. So far in this best of 5 play in series, fans are having all of these emotions as the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks have battled to a 1-1 series tie so far. Both clubs have felt success and frustration. Where will it go from here?
It will come down to who wants it more. The playoffs are a crucible and anything less than 100% effort, disciplined play and paying attention to the details is often exposed with significant consequences. Which club will take a series lead after Game 3?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota had good pace at the start of the game as Joel Eriksson Ek put his shoulder down and made a power move towards the goal before he was hauled down by Tyler Myers drawing a penalty in the process. Unfortunately, Jordan Greenway would trip up Myers and we would have 4-on-4 insteas of a Wild power play. The Wild didn’t do much with the ice a bit more open 4-on-4. Back at 5-on-5, the Wild would go on the attack as Brad Hunt would carry the puck deep into the Canucks zone and he’d send a backhander on goal that Jacob Markstrom had a little trouble getting under control. Minnesota followed that up with a dangerous shift from the top line as Kevin Fiala got a little room and he’d unleash a backhander of his own after a nice set up by Eric Staal. A few minutes later, a nice pass by Matt Dumba set up an easy zone entry by Eriksson Ek and then he’d dish a pass over to Marcus Foligno who let go of a shot that was fought off by Markstrom. Minnesota continued to dictate the pace of play through the first half of the period as well as the physical tone as they were finishing checks with regularity. The physical play helped create turnovers as J.T. Miller was knocked off the puck and the Wild would hold the Vancouver zone for about a minute as they set up a few big perimeter shots from Zach Parise and Dumba respectively. The Canucks tried to answer back as a point shot by Myers was redirected by Tanner Pearson that was denied by a stretching save by Alex Stalock. Vancouver was also rasing its physical game as Miller would give Dumba a shoulder right to the chin of the Wild defenseman that had him falling backwards. The hustle of the Canucks and the physical play by Vancouver was causing some havoc for the Wild but Stalock would get tripped up by Antoine Roussel giving Minnesota its first power play of the game. On the power play the Wild repeatedly set up Kevin Fiala for shots that mostly missed the mark. The Canucks would catch Minnesota pinching and Brandon Sutter raced into the Wild zone where stepped into a slap shot that was steered aside by Stalock before Sutter checked Hunt back into the Wild goaltender. Minnesota would come up empty on the man advantage and the Wild would try to take control of the game at even strength. Greenway and Eriksson Ek did a nice job off the rush as Eriksson Ek fired the initial shot that Markstrom stopped and then Greenway swept up the rebound and tried to go short side but was also dismissed by the Canucks’ goaltender. The Wild kept applying pressure as a point shot by Carson Soucy was redirected by Ryan Hartman that Markstrom absorbed. On the next shift, Soucy would hit Zack MacEwan who fell to the ice rather easily but he was able to work the puck down the ice which was tracked down by Jay Beagle for a chance that was steered aside by Stalock. As Beagle moved behind the Wild goal he’d be leveled Hartman who also knocked down Soucy in the process. Soucy would head to the locker room in what looked like shoulder pain and the Canucks would go on the power play. On the man advantage, the Canucks would set up Miller for quick chance that just missed wide. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a decent job of working their way into passing and shooting lanes and the Wild earned a big kill. At the tail end of the penalty kill, the Canucks crashed the net after a shot by Sutter and a scrum would break out as bodies piled into the Minnesota crease. Minnesota would take another penalty late in the period as Staal cross checked Tyler Motte which would give the Canucks a 1:35 of power play time to start the 2nd period. Not a bad period by the Wild, but they have to try to stay out of the box if at all possible.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild started the period on the penalty kill. Minnesota had good pressure on the Canucks puck entry and forced a turnover and were able to clear the zone. The Wild’s penalty killers continued to be assertive and Vancouver was only able to register a few perimeter shots before the power play expired. Give the Canucks credit for crashing the net on the few chances they had. Vancouver seemed to have a bit more jump in their skates and they’d force some Wild turnovers with a good forecheck as Sutter tried to work his way into the middle of the ice before swinging a shot on goal. Minnesota tried to turn the tables on Vancouver a few shifts later as Jordan Greenway used his big frame to protect the puck and he’d try to wrap a shot near the right post that Markstrom was able to hold out. The Wild finally started to get some traffic out in front of Markstrom as their forecheck was able to pin Vancouver in its own end for about 45 seconds. The Canucks had two good chances on shots from the point as Quinn Hughes ripped a shot that Stalock stopped and then he had to quickly recover to deny a Myers slap shot that drew another big rebound.
Stalock makes a pair of big pad saves. pic.twitter.com/uo5sjPclbj— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 6, 2020
Ryan Hartman would level Elias Pettersson with a hit that drew the ire of the Canucks and he’d get tangled up with Miller which had Hartman throwing a few punches before the officials moved in to break it up. Hartman was given a boarding minor as well as a roughing minor while Miller had a lone roughing penalty giving Vancouver a power play. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a decent job of denying clear shooting lanes and the Wild would clear the zone. As the Wild chased down the puck Pettersson would trip of Marcus Foligno which would negate the rest of the Vancouver power play and eventually give Minnesota 45 second power play. A few minutes later, Greenway was called for slashing putting Vancouver back on the power play. The penalty would prove to be very costly as the Canucks would hammer a shot from the point by Hughes that drew a big rebound which was pounced on by Brock Boeser and into the open net. 1-0 Vancouver. The Canucks continued to crash the crease with reckless abandon as Loui Eriksson steamrolled the Wild goaltender giving Minnesota a power play. The Wild had a fantastic chance on the power play as Fiala found Parise with a long pass who then set up Staal charging in on goal only to be thwarted by Markstrom. A minute or so later, the Wild had another great chance as Alex Galchenyuk tried to move in close and swung a shot on goal that seemed to lie in the crease as Markstrom reached back to cover it up before Minnesota could pounce on the loose biscuit. In the scrum that ensued, Tyler Myers threw a few jabs that earned him a trip to the sin bin. Minnesota again tried setting up Fiala and Jared Spurgeon for a few shots but Markstrom was up to the task to keep his team ahead 1-0 going into the 2nd intermission. The Wild need to be more forceful in battles near the crease and get some traffic in front of Markstrom otherwise his job will continue to be fairly straight forward.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota did nothing with the remainder of the power play to start the 3rd period. The Wild’s 3rd line had some good chances as Foligno and Greenway worked their way in close and force a rebound but unfortunately the puck was out of the reach of Eriksson Ek to take adavantage of it. The Canucks would add to their lead as they’d take advantage of the Wild pinching offensively and Roussel would fly by Hunt and race in on the breakaway where he beat Stalock with a backhander. 2-0 Canucks.
GOAL. Antoine Roussel blows past Brad Hunt and scores to double the Vancouver lead.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 6, 2020
Another Wild power play would end in failure as frustration boiled over by Kevin Fiala was he entered the zone and gave Markstrom a shove which drew the ire of Troy Stecher who tried to tackle Fiala before he got buried by Brandon Sutter. Fiala would get a double minor for the shove to Markstrom and roughing in the corner while the Canucks got minors for roughing and the Canucks ended up with a power play.
Fiala's a little frustrated and the nucks didn't like the shot at Markstrom pic.twitter.com/k01oImSnFJ— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) August 6, 2020
The Canucks didn’t do anything on the power play, as they were content to simply hold onto their 2-0 lead. They would eventually trip up Spurgeon to give the Wild another power play. Yet on the power play, the Canucks would counter attack shorthanded and Bo Horvat was robbed by an acrobatic save by Stalock to keep his club within two. Minnesota put all of its older veterans on the ice and they moved the puck methodically before setting up a few point shots for Ryan Suter. It was another man advantage that would ultimately come up empty for the Wild. The 4th line would try to cause some havoc offensively as Ryan Hartman would set up Mikko Koivu for a big shot that trickled through Markstrom and just before Hartman could pounce on the loose puck it would roll just oh so close to the left post and out. Eriksson Ek would then get tied up with Tanner Pearson near the Canucks’ bench which put Vancovuer back on the power play. Vancouver was again fairly conservative in their approach on the man advantage and it was more time lost the Wild could’ve spent trying to rally back into the game. Thanks to Stalock, the Wild would get another kill, but the question was whether the Wild had much more energy in the tank. Beagle would haul down Fiala to earn yet another power play with a little over 6 minutes left in the period. Minnesota would go with Dumba and Fiala along the wall and Spurgeon on the point on the power play. Minnesota would cause a little bit of trouble but the Canucks did a good job of sweeping dangerous pucks away before Wild could pounce on the few rebounds Markstrom gave up. Fiala would get called for slashing late in the game and the Canucks would get another power play, its 7th of the game. The Canucks would cash in off the rush as they caught Minnesota trying to pinch to create some offense while shorthanded as Pettersson one-times a shot by Stalock who was hoping to go to the bench to give the Wild an extra attacker. 3-0 Vancouver rolls to an easy victory.
No one should be blaming Alex Stalock for this loss. Stalock had 26 saves and kept Minnesota in the game probably far longer than they should have given the paltry effort offensively in front of him. Its the same story with this club; as games get tough and perhaps a bit physical certain players fade and you have too many people watching, floating and its only a matter of time before the puck ends up in the back of your net.
There were over 40 minutes of penalties called in this game. Many of the lazy or retaliatory variety which are classic signs of a team that is frustrated or tired or a combination of both. The only player that seemed to have a motor was again Kevin Fiala while the rest of the team seemed far too content to watch him do all of the heavy lifting.
On the many power plays the Wild had, it was just shots from the perimeter with little to no traffic in front of Markstrom making his job rather easy. Markstrom had 27 saves in the shutout.
Ryan Suter would leave for the locker room early in this game, no idea whether he’s hurt or not. But even Suter’s departure seems minor compared to the lack of fire you are seeing from so many of the Wild’s veteran players like Mats Zuccarello and Zach Parise who appear to be ready to pack up and go home.
The Wild can try to prove me wrong tomorrow night, but otherwise they’ll be on a flight home some time this weekend and fans can start worrying about the draft again.
~ 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, Nico Sturm, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Brad Hunt and Carson Soucy. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Ryan Donato, Luke Johnson, 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 Jacob Markstrom, 2nd Star Quinn Hughes, 3rd Star Elias Pettersson