It didn’t take long in the Minnesota Wild’s game against the San Jose Sharks the mantra was pretty simple. Shoot when you have the chance. Wild skaters were taking any chance to send shots on goal and the result was a more back and forth start than what we saw Monday night. Minnesota was moving its feet better and taking a more direct approach to funnel pucks on goal instead of spending lots of time passing and trying to establish the cycle. Martin Jones wasn’t tested too much as most of Minnesota’s shots were from the perimeter of the ice.
It wasn’t quite the same at the other end of the ice as Kaapo Kahkonen had to make multiple saves from in close. The Sharks best chance came on the power play as Rudolfs Balcers was denied by Kahkonen who sat on the puck before Evander Kane and Logan Couture could jam it in. Minnesota would earn its first power play as Brent Burns tripped up Kirill Kaprizov who appeared to take a bit of a dive on the play. Burns was irate as he went to the box, convinced of Kaprizov’s embellishment but instead the Wild went to the man advantage. The Wild had reasonable puck movement, but as they worked a puck into a good shooting position, the puck was just out of reach of Kaprizov and that was about as good as it got for Minnesota on the power play. In fact, the power play nearly turned into disaster as a blocked shot on Ryan Suter turned into a shorthanded breakaway for Kane that he missed on a shot wide of the goal. The game remained knotted at 0-0 to end the 1st period with the Sharks and Wild even with 10 shots apiece.
San Jose would take the lead early in the 2nd as Burns made a great diagonal pass to Balcers who got behind Ryan Suter and he’d go bar down on Kahkonen to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead. The Sharks continued to carry most of the play as they seemed to have a bit more jump and certainly a greater willingness to be physical. Matt Dumba continued his on-ice war with the Sharks’ Jeffrey Viel but the Wild struggled to create much in the way of offensive opportunities throughout the period. A slashing call on Kevin Fiala would prove costly as Erik Karlsson sent a shot on goal that was stopped by Kahkonen but he was unable to deny Ryan Donato‘s rebound bid as the Sharks went up 2-0. Carson Soucy had the chance to bury Donato before he was able to get a shot off but instead tried to stick check the former Wild winger. Minnesota would juggle its lines a bit, moving Mats Zuccarello to a line with Fiala and Ryan Hartman while moving Marcus Johansson to a line with Victor Rask and Kirill Kaprizov. The former line was ok, but the latter line appeared to be a bit disjointed. Still Minnesota trailed by two going into the 3rd.
In the 3rd period, the Wild tried to press the attack and the Sharks would sit back a bit which would help Minnesota’s cause a bit. The Wild would cut the lead in half when Kaprizov would gather up a puck and wheel around towards the point where he flung a wrist shot on goal that rang off the post and in by a surprised Martin Jones. 2-1 Sharks. Minnesota continued to apply pressure but the Sharks would get a big momentum crushing goal as Nikolai Knyzhov‘s shot from the point beat Kahkonen cleanly. 3-1 Sharks on Knyzhov’s 1st NHL goal. Tempers also started to boil over as Evander Kane would get into it with Ryan Hartman after the Sharks’ took issue with a hit by Kaprizov. The game would open up as Minnesota was pinching with their defense an we’d have more of a run-and-gun affair as both clubs traded scoring chances. Minnesota would cut the Sharks’ lead one late, as they pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker and Kevin Fiala scored top shelf on Jones. Yet it wasn’t meant to be as Kane scored an empty netter to seal a 4-2 victory. Kahkonen had 29 saves in the loss.
What did you think of the Minnesota Wild’s series against the San Jose Sharks? Let us know on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist!
The Minnesota Wild need to simplify their game
Some of you may know that I am a High School Football coach where I mainly coach on the defensive side of the game. The defensive coordinator I work with introduced a simple term to instruct our players to do the same thing; Sam Bradley. Supposedly, in the past there was a football coach named Sam Bradley who ran the same play 37-times in a row in a game. So to tell kids to simply repeat the defensive call or what was done the last time you just say ‘Sam Bradley’ and everyone knows what you’re talking about. Just like when Herb Brooks barked out “Again!” as he had his team doing ‘Herbies’ after his team’s embarrassing 3-3 tie to Norway in an exhibition game leading up to the 1980 Winter Olympics the players knew exactly what he wanted them to do (even though they hated him for it).
The Minnesota Wild would be wise to simplify their game offensively. Perhaps it was all of the positive press they’ve been getting for being 3rd in the Honda West or the 11-game home winning streak, but the team seems to buying the hype. It seems like the Wild go out of their way to make extra passes as they attempt to formulate the breakout; reversing with the defense and then having to make an outlet pass, then a drop pass and then another outlet to then try to dump it into the offensive zone. The extra passing has led to lots of turnovers and the Wild spending lots and lots of time chasing around the ice trying to get the puck back only to dump it back in and start the whole process all over.
No line is more guilty of ‘overpassing’ than the ‘Lettuce Line’ of Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello and Victor Rask. The line immediately tries to cycle the puck high in the zone using a forward pass and then a drop pass or some variation of it to try to lose defending skaters. That initially worked pretty well when teams were trying to stay close with the line and the lateral movement created by the short passes led to some nice scoring opportunities. Now teams are giving the puck carrier more space because they know they so desperately want to dish the puck that they will force a tough pass that is often fairly straight forward to intercept.
Some fans are mainly blaming Rask for the line’s recent struggles, but all three of them seem compelled to pass the puck 2-3 times more than they really need to before they even think of sending a shot on goal and the result is a lot of turnovers. The other lines are becoming more guilty of this, which is partly the reason why the team had just 11 shots on goal against St. Louis and had no shots on goal in the first 12 minutes of the Wild’s game against San Jose on Monday night.
Minnesota has been at its best when its been crashing the net, not flying by the cage and playing a simple straight-forward approach. While it has had some tic-tac-toe plays, all too often it seems to be trying to continually set up the pretty finish when sending pucks on goal often are just as effective if not more so for the many turnovers they’ll create trying to set up the perfect shot.
Against the Sharks, the Wild were facing a team with two goaltenders with sub-.900 save percentage. The strategy should be pretty obvious. GET SHOTS ON GOAL, AS MANY AS YOU CAN. There is a reason the Sharks give up over 3 goals a game, but not shooting the puck because the team is on some Captain Ahab-like quest for the perfect finish is only helping keep the Sharks into the game far longer than they should be. Ugly goals count just as much as the pretty ones do and if you look at this Wild lineup you don’t have too many players that can be relied upon for pretty goals. Keep it simple!
Iowa Wild (5-9-3-0) 13pts 5th in AHL Central
14.3% Power Play (24th in the AHL)
71.8% Penalty Kill (28th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 9G 8A = 17pts
2. #43 Connor Dewar ~ 7G 4A = 11pts
3. #2 Calen Addison ~ 4G 7A = 11pts
4. #18 Damien Giroux ~ 4G 7A = 11pts
5. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 3G 6A = 9pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #55 Cody McLeod ~ 30 PIM’s
2. #41 Josh Atkinson ~ 27 PIM’s
3. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 27 PIM’s
1. #30 Dereck Baribeau (3-1-1) 2.36GAA .920%SP
2. #31 Joe Rumpel (1-1-1) 3.59GAA .879%SP
3. #92 Hunter Jones (1-7-1) 5.32GAA .831%SP
Iowa 3, Texas 4 OT
It has been a challenging season for the Iowa Wild, and Tuesday night would provide another example of just how unlucky the 2021 squad has been. In the 1st period, Iowa would strike early on the power play when Damien Giroux buried a nice pass from Mitchell Chaffee to give the Wild a 1-0 lead just 1:33 into the game. The good feelings would be short-lived as former Blaine Bengal Riley Tufte and the Stars answered back just 19 seconds later. The rest of the period was kind of back and forth with both clubs trading scoring chances with one another but the game would remain tied going into the 1st intermission.
In the 2nd period, Texas would score 1:23 seconds into the period when Thomas Harley stepped into a slap shot that a well-screened Joe Rumpel never saw to give the Stars a 2-1 lead. The ire these two clubs have for each other would boil over a bit as scuffle would break out near the two benches. Ultimately Louie Belpedio and Gabriel Dumont and Texas’ Joe Cecconi would get sent to the sin bin and Texas ended up with a power play. Iowa would kill off the power play and then go back to work to try to tie the game. The Wild would even the game up late in the period as Calen Addison crashed the net after an initial shot by Giroux giving Iowa some confidence to be tied going into the 2nd intermission.
In the 3rd period, the game would steadily intensify as both clubs were wanting to make a push to earn a victory. Iowa, a team whose power play struggles have been eerily similar to Minnesota’s would find the back of the net on the man advantage when Addison set up Dumont for a shot from the slot that beat Colton Point to give the Wild a 3-2 lead with less than 5 minutes left. The Stars tried to rally back, but Iowa was doing a good job of keeping Texas to the perimeter. With less than a minute left, it appeared the Wild were going to escape with a victory when Texas scored the game-tying goal with just 2 seconds left on a desperate wrist shot by Cole Schneider that sort of floated in sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Stars controlled most of the possession and when you have the puck you have a chance to win. Ultimately, they were patient to wait for a small Wild mistake and it was Nick Baptiste burying the game winner for Texas and Iowa had to feel another painful loss. Rumpel had 29 saves in the losing effort. Iowa plays Texas again tonight at 7PM.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ The 4th line center didn’t have any points on Saturday, a hard fought 2-1 overtime loss to Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. Although he did go 7-of-11 on his draws and 7 hits in the loss. On Monday his team would eliminate Lokomotiv in a 2-0 victory where he went 8-for-11 on his draws and had 3 shots on goal in the victory. Svetlakov has a goal, 2 points, 4 PIM’s and is a an ‘even’ through 11 playoff games.
G – Filip Lindberg (UMass, H-East) ~ The Finnish born goalie is getting his chance to shine on the big stage of the NCAA tournament. Two tournament games in, he’s given up just one goal and had an 18-save shutout of Bemidji state in the Bridgeport regional final as the Minutemen punched their ticket to the Frozen Four. Lindberg’s wins improves his record to 9-1-4, with a 1.33 goals against average and a .946% and 4 shutouts.
D – Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw, WHL) ~ The Warriors captain had an eventful night on Saturday with a secondary assist on 1 shot, but his 17 PIM’s didn’t help in Moose Jaw’s 5-2 loss to Prince Albert. Hunt has 4 goals, 8 points, 28 PIM’s and is -7 in 8 games.
RW – Matt Boldy (Boston College, H-East) ~ The talented winger’s sophomore season came to an end on Sunday, despite scoring a goal on 4 shots in Boston College’s 4-1 loss to St. Cloud State. He finishes the season as the Eagles’ top scorer with 11 goals, 31 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +15 in 22 games. The Wild signed the talented winger to a 3-year entry level deal where he will be reporting to play for the Iowa Wild.