It feels like it was a season ago when the Minnesota Wild last played before they went on their Covid-19 mandated hiatus. A few weeks later and the team returns to the 2021 NHL season at least healthier in theory and with some injured players back in the lineup or making their debut this year. Would this team look fast, well-rested and focused or would it look rusty like a club that got used to sleeping in?
Someone may want to wake the Wild up because I think they hit snooze one too many times. Yes, the team half resembled the Iowa Wild, especially on the blueline with Calen Addison, Louie Belpedio, Matt Bartkowski and Dakota Mermis in the lineup. It was an ugly performance on Tuesday as the team looked lost defensively and the Kings skewered the Wild with a variety of open looks. Kaapo Kahkonen had 25 saves in the loss. Los Angeles got off to a quick start, striking on the power play in the first five minutes of the game as Jeff Carter found Jarrett Anderson-Dolan all alone on the backside for an easy tally that Kahkonen had no chance to stop. Minnesota registered just 3 shots in the 1st period, which gives you an idea about how unprepared they were.
One theme of the night was watching Marcus Johansson unable to find any player to cover defensively as he was just spinning aimlessly in his own end until the puck found the back of the net. The Kings would add another goal in the 2nd as Anderson-Dolan threaded a pass to Trevor Moore for a goal off of the rush. Minnesota did show a bit more fire offensively, but rust was evident there as well as the Wild failed to capitalize on the power play as Kevin Fiala set up Mats Zuccarello on the back door only to be denied by a fine save by Jonathan Quick. The team’s power play struggles is nothing new and with the players they have coming back from injury means they have some more experimenting to do. I think simplifying their approach might help and while I understand the puck movement has been fun to watch its obviously not accomplishing a whole lot. Worst power play in the league speaks for itself.
As bad as the Wild played through the first two periods, the team was still down just 2-0 to start the 3rd. The Kings sat back and defended and the Wild struggled to generate quality chances down the stretch. Dustin Brown would score late in the 3rd as a bad turnover in their own end resulted in an easy set up by Anze Kopitar. Ryan Suter‘s gliding reach was a pretty feeble attempt to stop Brown on the play. Drew Doughty would add an empty netter and that’s all she wrote.
If there were any silver linings in the game, I thought Kirill Kaprizov still looked fairly sharp. Calen Addison certainly got a taste of the increased pace of play as he was walked pretty easily by Matt Luff in the 1st period only to be bailed out by a Kahkonen save. For a team that has playoff aspirations, this loss hurts but they will have little time to feel sorry for themselves as they face off against Anaheim on Thursday.
Iowa Wild 3, Rockford 2 OT
The Ice Hogs would jump out to a quick lead in what was a fast and furious opening period. Rockford’s Brendan Morrison struck twice to give the Ice Hogs a 2-0 lead going into the 1st intermission. Iowa would answer back 2nd period with two goals of their own as Gabriel Dumont went top shelf over the shoulder of Matt Tompkins. A few minutes later the Wild would tie the game as Adam Beckman fired a shot on goal that Tompkins stopped but Damien Giroux was there to bury the rebound for his first professional goal. With the game knotted at 2-2 in the 3rd period, the Ice Hogs would really pour it on offensively. Fortunately, Dereck Baribeau was solid and the Wild was able to get his team to overtime. In overtime, it was the Wild that went on the attack and they thought they had the game clinched when Will Bitten was hauled down as he was about to turn on the jets for a breakaway giving him a chance with a penalty shot. Tompkins would stand tall to stop Bitten’s attempt, but Iowa would score the game winner roughly 10 seconds later as Beckman lit the lamp to give the Wild a 3-2 victory. Baribeau had 28 saves in the win.
I have a modest prospect report for you to peruse as well as some Minnesota High School hockey rankings. What did you think of the Wild’s returning players? Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist!
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Matt Boldy (Boston College, H-East) ~ Reunited with fellow 1st round pick (of the Colorado Avalanche) Alex Newhook, Boldy had one of his most impressive games of the 2020-21 college hockey season as he had a goal and 4 assists on 4 shots in Boston College’s blowout of UMass-Lowell on Friday. Boldy leads Boston College in scoring with 6 goals, 19 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +8 in 15 games.
C – Jack McBain (Boston College, H-East) ~ The junior forward had an assist on 2 shots in Boston College’s 7-1 rout of the Riverhawks on Friday night. He had an even bigger night on Saturday as he had a goal and assist in Boston College’s 4-3 win to earn a sweep over UMass-Lowell. McBain has 5 goals, 18 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +18 in 17 games.
C – Bryce Misley (Vermont, H-East) ~ The senior center is in the likely swan song of his hockey career as he had an assist as the Catamounts lost 5-1 to Boston University. Misley has no goals and 2 helpers, no PIM’s and is a -6 in 10 games.
LW – Nikita Nesterenko (Boston College, H-East) ~ The skilled winger had a goal and an assist on 2 shots in Saturday’s 4-3 win over UMass-Lowell. Nesterenko has 7 goals, 16 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +14 in 17 games.
High School Hockey Report:
We’re getting closer and closer to the conclusion of the regular season, and @KarlEastHockey has his weekly rankings of Boys Class AA teams. If you want to read his full explanations for his rankings, his honorable mentions and complete section by section rankings click on the link here.
#1 Maple Grove (9-0)
#2 Lakeville South (9-0)
#3 Eden Prairie (8-1)
#4 Grand Rapids (7-1)
#5 Benilde-St. Margaret’s (10-0)
#6 Hill-Murray (7-2)
#7 St. Thomas Academy (7-1-1)
#8 Wayzata (6-3)
#9 Prior Lake (8-1-1)
#10 Cretin-Derham Hall (9-1)