Wild fans were a bit surprised to see Cam Talbot between the pipes to start game too, but variety is the spice of life right? Both clubs were also sporting their reverse retro jerseys which was no doubt a treat for the few hundred Minnesota Wild fans that made the trip down to Glendale, Arizona to watch the game in person. Let’s face it, the Wild reverse retro jerseys are fantastic and the ‘Peyote Coyote’ sweaters bring all kinds of mid-to-late 1990’s nostalgia with them.
In the opening period, the Coyotes had much-better pace to their game than they did on Friday and time and space was much tougher to come by. Minnesota continued to push the pace and eventually they slowly started to dominate the play. Initially the Wild were only able to generate chances from the perimeter that did not give the Coyotes’ Darcy Kuemper much trouble. Eventually the Wild started to swarm closer to the Arizona crease and they’d break the stalemate as Zach Parise found Nick Bjugstad crashing the net forcing a save from Kuemper but he was unable to corral the puck and it was pounced on by Matthew Dumba to put Minnesota up 1-0. Kuemper protested to the official but the Arizona bench chose not to challenge the play and the goal woulds stand. Minnesota would light the lamp nearly a minute later as Jordan Greenway skated into the Coyotes’ zone and he’d feint at a pass before letting go a wicked wrist shot that beat Kuemper top corner to put the Wild up 2-0. Perhaps sensing his team needed a boost, Brett Hayden would try to drop the gloves with Marcus Foligno. It wasn’t much of a fight as Hayden immediately began skating in circles trying to avoid being obliterated by Foligno and eventually would just cling to Foligno before he could land a haymaker that likely would’ve devastated the young forward. The Coyotes would try to answer back with a goal of their own late, but Talbot was solid and had good support around his crease and Minnesota would hold their two-goal advantage going into the 2nd.
In the 2nd period, it was obvious some players never really left the locker room during the 1st intermission as the Coyotes had the Wild on their heels from the drop of the puck. Arizona was able to get players behind the Wild defense for breakaways and odd-man chances and Talbot had to bail out his team with some clutch saves but he couldn’t stop them all. The Coyotes would score as Lawson Crouse crashed the net and jammed home a shot by Talbot to cut the Wild lead in half 2-1. One would think this would be the wake up call the Wild would need, but it was not. The Wild went away from the simple, funnel pucks on goal, crash the net approach. Minnesota was looking to set up tic-tac-toe plays and this led to turnovers and spending lots of time chasing Arizona all over its end of the ice. Despite being outworked and outhustled by Arizona, they had their chances to extend their lead back to two as Mats Zuccarello fired a shot on the power play that rang off the crossbar and out. But Minnesota just couldn’t get out its own way with bad turnovers and penalties and the Coyotes would net the equalizer late in the period as bodies were falling all over the ice before Jakub Chychrun stepped into a slap shot that deflected off Ian Cole and in. 2-2 game. Cole would take a penalty in the closing seconds of the period giving Arizona the power play to start the 2nd. At one point, the Coyotes worked a cycle game near the Wild blueline and a tired Minnesota line could only watch as they’d reach for the puck just hoping to be able to clear the zone so a skater or two could change. It was a horrific period of hockey for the Wild, and certainly gut check time if they are going to take this game back.
Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to learn their lessons from the 2nd period. After killing off power play to start the 3rd, they’d go right back on the penalty kill as Brad Hunt was called for slashing. The Coyotes would take full advantage of the situation as Derick Brassard would set up Conor Garland for a shot just between the dots and he’d rifle it by Talbot to give Arizona its first lead of the game, 3-2. Minnesota still seemed to be in a haze mentally as they continued to be outworked by Arizona and the Coyotes would add to their lead as Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s point shot was redirected in the slot by Tyler Pitlick and by Talbot to give the home team a 4-2 advantage. The Wild finally started to show a little bit more fire after Pitlick’s tally as Parise would ring a shot off the post. A few minutes later, on a 3-on-2, Kevin Fiala would drop a pass back to Dumba who rang a shot off the pipe behind Kuemper. The Coyotes would sit back and just wait for the Wild to try to enter the Arizona end, forcing a turnover and then sending it back down the ice and forcing Minnesota to regroup while valuable seconds evaporated from the clock. Down by two, the Wild would pull Talbot for an extra attacker with nearly 3 minutes left in the period. Minnesota wasn’t able to do much with the extra attacker and Pitlick would bury the empty netter to seal a 5-2 victory for the Coyotes.
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Jordan Greenway got the message loud and clear
Prior to the start of the 2021 NHL season, many Wild fans felt that Jordan Greenway might be dealt after a disappointing 2019-20 NHL campaign where he simply look uninspired on far too many nights. When Wild GM Bill Guerin voiced his disappointment in Greenway’s play it seemed all that much more likely he’d be shipped out. Instead, it was a 1-on-1 meeting where Guerin spoke in direct language what the Wild needed out of Greenway if he wanted to continue to have a future with the organization. He would have to dedicate himself more to his conditioning and be more focused to play on a nightly basis. Would Greenway heed those words?
The Canton, New York-native has emphatically answered that question, by being one of the team’s most consistent players. He’s using his 6’6″ 227lbs frame to maximum effect as he imposes his will along the boards and protects the puck about as well as any Wild forward. His power game has helped make him more impactful on the scoresheet as well where he’s currently second on the team in scoring with 18 points in 22 games.
He arrived to training camp in better shape and this has meant he’s had more energy in his shifts and is living up to the potential that made him an intriguing 2nd round selection back in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. There was little doubt about Greenway’s physical gifts, but if he could match that with more consistent effort from game to game and shift to shift would you have a player that could be that bull in a china shop that most teams covet. But he can also exhibit some great speed and sublime finishing ability too. On Friday, he had a rare breakaway and despite using Ian Cole‘s stick which Greenway described as “playing with a 2×4” he still managed to beat Antti Rantta for his 4th goal of the season. He would light the lamp again the next night on a pretty snipe off the rush that seemed to catch Darcy Kuemper by surprise for this 5th goal of the year.
What is his ceiling? If this was a normal 82-game season I don’t think 15-18 goals and 45-50 points would be out of the question. I do think he could take the initiative and shoot the puck more than he does, but he is doing so many of the small things well like winning battles for the puck along the boards and distributing it to teammates that is helping linemates like Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno look so good. Luckily for them and the Minnesota Wild, Jordan got the message and answered it the way he did.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Brennan Menell (Dinamo Minsk, KHL) ~ The ‘Woodbury Workhorse’ had a goal and an assist and 6 shots on goal in Dinamo Minsk’s 6-4 loss to SKA St. Petersburg. He then had a two assist, 5 shots on goal game on Saturday’s hard fought 4-3 overtime loss. He logged nearly 30 minutse of ice time in the loss. Menell has a goal, 4 points, 2 PIM’s and is a -3 in 3 games as SKA St. Petersburg has a 3-0 series lead.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ The fourth line center had an assist and went an atrocious 2 for 11 on his draws in CSKA Moscow’s 5-1 win over Spartak Moscow on Friday.
RW – Matt Boldy (Boston College, H-East) ~ The sophomore’s strong season continues as he had 2 goals on 4 shots in Boston College’s 4-2 win over Northeastern on Friday. Boldy has 10 goals, 24 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +11 in 19 games.
D – Marshall Warren (Boston College, H-East) ~ The mobile defenseman had two helpers on 2 shots in the Eagles’ 4-2 win over the Huskies. Warren has 2 goals, 9 points, 25 PIM’s and is a +16 in 20 games.
G – Filip Lindberg (UMass, H-East) ~ The Finnish born goaltender certainly keeps the Minutemen in games as he had 16 saves in UMass’ 3-3 tie against Maine on Friday. Lindberg has a 4-1-4 record, 1.61 goals against average, a .937 save percentage and two shutouts.
LW – Vladislav Firstov (UConn, H-East) ~ The Russian winger returned to the Huskies lineup where he had an assist in UConn’s 5-3 win over Providence on Friday night. Firstov has 3 goals, 12 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +2 in 12 games.
RW – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ The former Totino-Grace star’s season has slowed down a bit from a strong start, but he had an assist on 2 shots in the Huskies’ 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota-Duluth. Hentges has 7 goals, 15 points, 14 PIM’s and is -4 in 22 games.