Penalties played an early factor in the game as teams had coincidental minors for cross-checking barely a minute into the game. Minnesota continued to press the attack and they’d draw a slashing call on Nathan MacKinnon giving the Wild a rare 4-on-3 advantage. Philipp Grubauer was very impressive, stopping a number of quality chances to keep the game scoreless. On the power play the Wild moved the puck well as they tried to set up Kevin Fiala for shots on goal. Minnesota would cash in late on the power play as Victor Rask set up Kirill Kaprizov for a quick shot that Grubauer couldn’t stop. 1-0 Wild. The Avalanche would get a power play of their own but Minnesota did a great job of keeping Colorado to the perimeter and they were unable to even get a single shot on goal. The Wild’s big forwards of Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway were causing the Avalanche fits in their own end as they worked their way in close forcing Grubauer to make stops and Colorado to spend time defending in its own end of the ice.
The Wild thought they nearly extended their lead as Ryan Hartman raced in and he rang a shot off the crossbar and out. Minnesota kept attacking and the 4th line would strike next as Kyle Rau sped into the Colorado zone where he fed a pass back to a trailing Luke Johnson who skated into the slot and then rifled a shot top corner by Grubauer to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. The former University of North Dakota star was all smiles as he scored his 1st NHL goal. Minnesota didn’t let up and perhaps started to anger Colorado for their hustle and effort as Jacob MacDonald through a high hit to Hartman after he had passed the puck. No call was made on the play which certainly looked dangerous to me as Hartman no reasonable expectation to be hit since he had passed the puck a way a few seconds ago. Minnesota didn’t let it get to them, and perhaps as a ‘make up call’ the officials caught Colorado for changing players after they iced the puck and they gave them a delay of game penalty. Minnesota would take advantage of the late power play and it was Fiala ripping a shot top corner from the point to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead! Unfortunately, Minnesota would take a penalty of its own late as Carson Soucy was tagged with a cross-checking penalty and Hartman looks like he might be out for the rest of the game.
The Avalanche would capitalize on the early power play as Nathan MacKinnon made a little move to give himself a step ahead of Greenway and out of reach of Matthew Dumba and he’d rip a shot against the grain that beat Cam Talbot cleanly. 3-1 game. One player who was a bit annoyed, was Ryan Hartman after the non-call and initially he let his emotions get the better of him as took a careless tripping penalty. The Wild were able to get the big kill and Hartman would go to work trying to gain some level of revenge for the cheapshot he received earlier in the game as he dished out a heavy hit in Colorado’s zone and then stole a pass from just inside the blueline and moved into the slot and ripped a wrister by Grubauer. 4-1 Wild.
Colorado would rally back as they’d cut the Wild lead back to two just 30 seconds later as a shot by MacDonald drew a rebound from Talbot and Andre Burakovsky was able to gather up the puck and lift it into the yawning cage. 4-2 game. The Wild continued to gift Colorado with penalties and Minnesota was continuing to play with fire as Ryan Suter would pull the helmet off of Tyson Jost for a roughing call. It would prove to be a costly lack of discipline as the Avalanche would cut Minnesota’s lead to one as Nathan MacKinnon would thread a shot off the leg pad of Talbot which went right to the stick of Mikko Rantanen who buried the rebound. 4-3 game. At this point, you could see Minnesota was feeling a little nervous but this time it was a Colorado penalty in the offensive zone, a slash by MacKinnon that opened the door for the Wild to pad its lead. Minnesota would score its 3rd power play goal of the game as Kevin Fiala found Kaprizov in the slot with a pass the rookie made no mistake as he one-timed a shot by Grubauer to make it 5-3 Wild. Colorado tried to press late, but smart back checking and timely physical play by players like Johnson and Kaprizov kept the Avalanche at bey and trailing by two going into the 2nd intermission.
Minnesota would add another goal early in the period as Hartman battled for a puck which was swept up by Fiala who outbattled a Colorado defender and he turned and ripped a shot top corner on Grubauer. 6-3 Wild. Minnesota wasn’t done there as they’d add another as Zach Parise would sweep in down behind the Avalanche goal and he swung a pass out front to Joel Eriksson Ek for a quick shot that Grubauer had no chance on. 7-3 Wild. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar would swap out Grubauer for Joonas Johansson. The frustration continued to boil over for Colorado as Rantanen would go to the box for cross checking. The Wild would take advantage of another power play opportunity as Fiala ripped a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat Johansson to earn a hat trick and give Minnesota an 8-3 lead. A few hats rained down from the crowd and Minnesota now looked to try to finish the game without letting the game get too sloppy.
Colorado’s Liam O’Brien would try to run Matt Dumba through the goal post and Dumba wasn’t too thrilled about it and he went after the Avalanche’s energy forward. Ultimately both players would get 2 minutes for roughing and a 10-minute game misconduct so that meant they could both head to the locker room for the night. Minnesota would continue to hustle and Colorado just wanted to be anywhere but Xcel Energy Center as the Wild rolled to an 8-3 win. Talbot had 29 saves in the victory.
What did you think of the Minnesota Wild’s series against the Colorado Avalanche? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!
Wild Power Play is Becoming a Factor
Yes, the small headline above is a serious statement. The Minnesota Wild power play is starting to be a factor and in a good way. For most of the 2021 NHL season, the Wild power play has sat at the league basement with a percentage in the single digits, while opposing broadcasts delighted themselves at mocking Minnesota’s futility with the man advantage.
I don’t blame anyone for mocking us about it. It really was as bad as the percentage indicated. An inability to win draws meant Minnesota was often spending well over half of their power play just trying to enter the offensive zone. Yet there are signs the team has figured out some of these problems and the power play is starting to come to life. It won’t be mistaken for the Carolina Hurricanes’ power play anytime soon, but they’re finding the back of the net with more frequency.
Yes its two power play goals against Vegas but those were two one-goal victories against the Golden Knights. So the power play was able to make a difference and for a team that does reasonably well at even strength, its a place where even a small improvement can have an impact. The team seems to have settled on two combinations. At times that means trying combinations that might raise some eyebrows as the team’s top power play unit has Victor Rask and Nick Bonino on it but that is to give the team the best chance to win the initial draw and hold the offensive zone. Those two centers are working with Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala and with Jared Spurgeon on the point.
The power play will certainly not be among the top 5 in the league but its good to see it trending in a positive direction. With two power play goals on Monday and another 4 power play goals on Wednesday against the league’s 2nd best penalty kill, you could say its making a comeback in a big way!
Iowa Wild (8-9-3) 19pts 5th AHL Central
13.7% Power Play (26th in the AHL)
77.5% Penalty Kill (22nd in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 9G 11A = 20pts
2. #43 Connor Dewar ~ 8G 6A = 14pts
3. #2 Calen Addison ~ 5G 9A = 14pts
4. #18 Damien Giroux ~ 5G 9A = 14pts
5. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 4G 6A = 10pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #55 Cody McLeod ~ 51 PIM’s
2. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 33 PIM’s
3. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 27 PIM’s
1. #92 Hunter Jones (4-7-1) 4.21GAA .867%SP 1SO
2. #31 Joel Rumpel (1-1-1) 3.59GAA .879%SP
Iowa 5, Texas 2
Coaches will sometimes tell you that things can be easier when you’re on the road then when you are home. Teams come together and bond on road trips and their shared struggle of travel in hotel-life can on occasion focus the mind. Going into Saturday’s game, the Wild had won 2 out of the 3 games they had in this strange 4-game series against the Texas Stars.
Like many of the other games, the Stars had good energy early. They were peppering Iowa goaltender Hunter Jones with shots. But Iowa would find the back of the net first as Will Bitten scored his first goal of the season on a bit of a scramble near the Stars crease shoveling the puck home before Tomas Sholl could cover it for a whistle. Perhaps a bit stunned by Bitten’s goal, the Wild would add another about 20 seconds later as Damien Giroux gathered up a loose puck after Connor Dewar tried take the puck to the net and he buried it by Sholl to make it 2-0. The Stars would answer with a goal of their own 30 seconds later as Adam Mascherin ripped a shot by Jones but it still was a good start for Iowa who carried a 2-1 lead going into the 2nd period.
In the 2nd period, Iowa picked up where they left off by controlling the pace of play and hustling back to help defensively. Baxter, Minnesota-native Mitch McLain would give Iowa a 3-1 advantage. The Wild continued to play their smart game and Bryce Misley would score his first AHL goal to make it 4-1 Iowa. The Stars were clearly getting frustrated as Jones continued to prevent Texas from gaining any kind of confidence. Jarrett Burton would find the back of the net late in the period to give Iowa a 5-1 advantage going into the 2nd intermission.
With a comfortable lead, the Wild were content to simply defend and try their best to keep Texas from gaining any kind of momentum that would make them believe they had a chance in this game. The Stars would score late in the 3rd period as Julius Honka‘s shot from the point got through a screen before beating Jones. 5-2 Wild, but that was all the fight the Stars had left and they’d be happy to earn their 3rd victory in Texas out of the 4 game series on the strength of another 21 saves from Hunter Jones who ended up earning AHL Goaltender of the Week honors for his great weekend. Iowa’s next game is Friday against the Chicago Wolves which will also be Matt Boldy‘s professional hockey debut.
Wild Prospect Report:
C / LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ It has been tough sledding lately for the sharp shooting Wild prospect as he was held scoreless on 5 shots, but went 5-for-9 on his draws in the Chiefs’ 3-2 OT loss to in-state rival Tri City on Saturday. On Sunday, the experiment to use him at center continued as he had a power play goal on 7 shots and went 7-for-11 on his draws in another tough overtime 5-4 loss to Seattle. The skilled sniper would have a power play goal and an assist in the Chiefs’ 5-2 win over Tri- City on Wednesday. Beckman has 4 goals, 7 points, -8 in 8 games.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ The 4th line center had 4 shots on goal, 2 PIM’s and went 7-for-15 on his draws in CSKA Moscow’s 2-0 win over SKA St. Petersburg. On Tuesday, he again had no points but went 9-for-18 on his draws in a 5-2 win over SKA St. Petersburg to take a 3-0 series lead. Svetlakov has a goal, 3 points, 6 PIM’s and is a +1 in 14 playoff games.
G – Filip Lindberg (UMass, H-East) ~ The skilled goaltender who has been nothing but a wall for the Minutemen was listed as out for the Frozen Four due to Covid protocols. That probably means his 2021 NCAA season is done which is a shame since he’s put up some tremendous numbers with a 9-1-4 record, a 1.33 goals against average, a .946% with 4 shutouts on the season.
High School Hockey Report:
The High School Season has wrapped up, but so have the awards as the 2021 Mr. Hockey Awards were announced as well as the 2021 Frank Brimsek awards as the best high school goaltender and Reed Larson Award for the best defenseman in the state.
Mr. Hockey Award – D, Jack Peart (Grand Rapids HS)
Reed Larson Award – D, Jack Peart (Grand Rapids HS)
Frank Brimsek Award (Boys) – Jack Wieneke (Maple Grove HS)