When you’ve been away a while, you feel an urge to make up for lost time and that certainly was the case on Wednesday afternoon for Marcus Foligno who is back from injury. The rugged forward was throwing his 220+lbs frame around quite a bit through the opening period between the Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes. Foligno’s strength wasn’t just on display on his checks, but also in an around the crease as he swept up a rebound near Antti Rantta but his spinning backhander was denied by the Coyotes puckstopper. The reunited line of Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway continued to cause havoc by leveling Coyotes’ players with big hits and giving Arizona’s smaller defensive corps fits in their own end. Minnesota peppered Rantta early and often but he was keeping his club still in the game. Cam Talbot had his share of action too as he made a fine save on a Lawson Crouse chance off the rush, as the game had a track meet type of feel through the first 10 minutes where they went nearly a half a period before they heard a whistle.
Minnesota continued to have quality opportunities as a careless play of the puck by Rantta turned into a shooting opportunity for Kirill Kaprizov that was fought off by the Arizona goalie. The Wild would finally break the stalemate on the man advantage. Minnesota would managed to work their way through the neutral zone and it was Marcus Johansson threading a saucer pass cross-ice to Mats Zuccarello who managed to sneak a shot short side on Rantta to give the Wild a 1-0 lead going into the 1st intermission.
The Coyotes would tie the game early in the period as they would strike on the power play as Nick Schmaltz fed a puck over to Jakub Chychrun who ripped a shot top shelf glove-side by Talbot knotting the game at 1-1 on his 13th goal of the season for the young blueliner. The Wild would answer back off the rush as Jonas Brodin raced out of the zone before sending a pass up to Nico Sturm who then dropped it back to Zach Parise who sent it cross-ice to Nick Bonino for a quick shot that Rantta stopped and kicked out right to Parise who promptly buried it. 2-1 Wild.
The Wild’s big line of Foligno, Eriksson Ek and Greenway continued to impose their will on the Coyotes as Greenway was denied on a chance from in close. Talbot would bail the Wild out a few minutes later as he made a fine save to deny Phil Kessel to keep his team ahead by one. Minnesota would give themselves a bit of cushion late in the period thanks to the power play. Kevin Fiala would feed a puck to Kaprizov who took the puck behind the Coyotes’ goal and he’d want to swing a pass out to the point but the puck would instead carom off the skate of Arizona’s Alex Goligoski right to Bonino who tapped it home. It was a fortuitous bounce as it gave the Wild a 3-1 lead going into the 2nd intermission.
The Wild would extend their lead early in the period with their 3rd power play goal of the night as Johansson intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and he’d race into the Arizona end before dropping a pass back to Zuccarello who sent a shot off the inside of Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s leg and by Rantta to make it 4-1 Minnesota. The Wild would add another goal shortly thereafter as Parise set up Jared Spurgeon for a tap in goal from near the top of the Coyotes’ crease to give Minnesota a 5-1 advantage. Arizona would score about mid-way through the period as Johan Larsson fed a pass to Dryden Hunt who set up Kessel in the slot for an easy goal but that was as close as it would get and Minnesota would roll to a 5-2 victory. Talbot had 28 saves in the win.
What did you think of the Minnesota Wild game against the Arizona Coyotes? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!
Is Kaapo Kahkonen’s confidence shattered?
Confidence is a big thing in sports. In professional sports where decision-making needs to be done in a split-second, confidence can often be the intangible that means the difference between success and failure. On Friday night and in his previous outing against San Jose 10 days before, it was troubling to see the lack of confidence Kaapo Kahkonen has in his game right now.
This rapid fall off occurred about the time Cam Talbot returned to the Wild lineup and Kahkonen found himself immediately supplanted by the veteran who was being given back-to-back starts. It is tough to blame the coaches too much for that approach since Talbot has played extremely well in most of those outings since returning from injury, but it clearly has had an effect on Kahkonen’s game.
You can see it in how he sometimes second-guesses himself as to whether to play the puck or not as we saw on Friday night where he didn’t play a puck heading deep into the Wild zone and instead the Blues’ Justin Faulk raced in, gathered up the puck and fed it out to Sammy Blais for a goal. Another example of the hesitation that sets in when one’s confidence is shaken was how he waited a half second before recognizing the cross-ice pass to Zach Sanford on the 1st goal of a 9-1 blowout, the most lopsided loss in franchise history. The Minnesota Wild chose to keep the rookie between the pipes for the whole game, which no doubt eroded his confidence a bit more.
“Not a fun experience. I felt I let my team down. Tough night obviously.” ~ Kaapo Kahkonen after a 9-1 loss to St. Louis on Friday, April 9th
Earlier in the season, when Kahkonen was carrying most of the goaltending duties for the Wild, some were talking about him being a possible Calder Trophy candidate. Those memories seem pretty distant now, even though he still carries a respectable record of 12-7-0, and 2.69 goals against average. After winning 9 games in a row, he has given up 18 goals in his last 3 starts (all Wild losses). However I do think he would benefit if the team had used him a bit more regularly than it has as of late. Wild Head Coach Dean Evason told Michael Russo of the Athletic that Kahkonen simply has to ‘work through stuff.”
Of course, the play in front of Kahkonen has been pretty lousy in his last 3 outings and that certainly doesn’t build much confidence either. Teams have to have trust in their goalie to come up with the clutch saves and then they have a tendency to rally around their goalie. If they feel they are the weak link, often their effort falters or they become quickly demoralized. Needless to say, Wild goaltending coach Freddie Chabot may have to be more of a psychiatrist with his young goalie after Friday night’s rough outing.
It is important for the Wild to try to re-establish his confidence because in a Covid world, even as more players are becoming vaccinated it doesn’t take much and you can end up having to lean on your backup goaltender (knock on wood). You want to be able to believe he feels confident he can get the job done if need be.
Iowa Wild (10-9-4) 24pts 4th in AHL Central
15.6% Power Play (23rd in the AHL)
79.4% Penalty Kill (19th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 9G 14A = 23pts
2. #18 Damien Giroux ~ 7G 11A = 18pts
3. #2 Calen Addison ~ 6G 11A = 17pts
4. #43 Connor Dewar ~ 9G 7A = 16pts
5. #21 Mitchell Chaffee ~ 1G 13A = 14pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #55 Cody McLeod ~ 57 PIM’s
2. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 33 PIM’s
3. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 32 PIM’s
1. #30 Dereck Baribeau (5-1-2) 2.35GAA .921%SP
2. #92 Hunter Jones (4-7-1) 4.21GAA .867%SP 1SO
Iowa 4, Rockford 1
It may not look like it from the statistics listed above, but the Iowa Wild are trending upwards these days. Admittedly, it was a rough 1st month for Iowa who battled through the growing pains of a young goaltender in Hunter Jones and poor special teams play. Part of the latter was due in part by the fact so many young and unproven players where being placed into roles traditionally held by the team’s veteran players. Some of those players were on the Wild’s taxi squad but now a few of them have returned like vets Matt Bartkowski (who just played his 600th AHL game) and Gerald Mayhew. This has stabilized the team at both ends of the ice and Jones and Dereck Baribeau have been looking more confident between the pipes and the result has been more victories.
The power play is starting to build momentum, helped by the recent addition of Matthew Boldy who is proving himself to have a deadly one-timer and young offensive defenseman Calen Addison. Damien Giroux has become an all situations player for Iowa Wild head coach Tim Army and Connor Dewar is showcasing some of that scoring touch he had when he played for the Everett Silvertips. Defenseman Ryan O’Rourke has not had a lot of points, but the youngster who would normally be playing in the Ontario Hockey League if they had a season has shown steady progress. From a development standpoint, that’s rather promising to see so many of the younger players stepping up and performing well in elevated roles. The power play and penalty kill have started a steady climb from the league basement and they too have been a major reason Iowa has been having more success lately.
But let’s not diminish the contributions of veterans like leading scorer Gabriel Dumont who has been a rock of consistency for Iowa. Gerry Mayhew may not be lighting the lamp the way he did a season ago for the Wild as the AHL’s leading scorer and league MVP but ‘Gerry Time’s’ presence forces other clubs to account for him and the youngsters have taken advantage of that extra time and space he helps provide. Cody McLeod, once the bane of Wild fans from his days with the Colorado Avalanche has been given solid reviews for his mentor-ship and examples of professionalism for the team’s younger players to follow.
Journeymen like Will Bitten, Mitch McLain, Mason Shaw and Louie Belpedio have also been finding their way onto the score sheet more frequently as the confidence of the team continues to grow. If you look at the standings, Iowa is actually 3rd in the division in points, but it is its .500 winning percentage that has them currently sitting in 5th place.
The team has benefited by better play from its goaltenders. After suffering through some horrible starts, rookie Hunter Jones has settled down and given Iowa some quality starts as of late. The team has had solid play from 6’6″ right-catching goaltender Dereck Baribeau who is probably the team’s starting goalie at this point. He has looked good in his 2nd professional year after spending most of his time with the Allen Americans (ECHL) last year. If either Jones or Baribeau gives this club reasonable goaltending, the Wild have enough offense and a reasonable defense to be a dangerous match up for anyone in the Central Division.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw, WHL) ~ The Warriors’ captain had a secondary assist on 6 shots in Moose Jaw’s 6-3 loss to Winnipeg on Wednesday night. On Saturday, the mobile blueliner had 3 shots on goal in Moose Jaw’s 4-2 loss to Saskatoon. On Tuesday, he had an assist on 4 shots on goal in Moose Jaw’s 8-3 loss to Brandon. Hunt has 6 goals, 14 points, 11 PIM’s and is a -7 in 16 games.
RW – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ The former Totino-Grace star had an assist on 1 shot on goal in the Huskies’ 5-4 win over Minnesota State. The junior winger’s season came to an end as the Huskies were blanked 5-0 by UMass in the NCAA Championship. Hentges finishes the season with 8 goals, 17 points, 14 PIM’s and is -1 in 29 games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ The senior forward ended his immensely successful college career after winning back-to-back national titles with the Bulldogs as Minnesota-Duluth was defeated 3-2 in overtime by UMass in the Frozen Four. The former Lakeville South star would sign a 1-year entry level deal with the Wild. He had an assist on 9 shots in the loss. Swaney finishes the season as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 13 goals, 28 points, 10 PIM’s and was a +5 in 28 games. In his four year career at UMD, Swaney had 46 goals, 55 assists, 101 points in 134 games with the Bulldogs.
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ The Chiefs’ alternate captain had a pretty snipe on 2 shots in Spokane’s 3-1 win over arch-rival Portland on Friday. On Saturday, the lanky forward from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan had another goal on 3 shots in the the Chiefs’ 7-6 loss to the Winterhawks. On Tuesday, he had 2 goals and 2 assists on 7 shots in Spokane’s 4-3 win over arch-rival Everett. Beckman has 8 goals, 14 points, 2 PIM’s and is a -5 in 11 games.
G – Filip Lindberg (UMass, H-East) ~ The Finnish goaltender returned from Covid protocol to get the start for the Minutemen in the National Championship game and he did not disappoint as he stopped all 25 shots he faced in UMass’ 5-0 win over St. Cloud State earning him All NCAA Tournament honors. He finishes the season with an impressive 10-1-4 record, a 1.24 goals against average and a .949 save percentage with 5 shutouts.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ The 4th line center had an assist on 1 shot and he went 6-for-13 on his draws in CSKA Moscow’s 2-0 series clinching win over SKA St. Petersburg to advance to the Gagarin Cup Finals. Svetlakov has a goal, 4 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +1 in 17 playoff games.
College Hockey Report: The NCAA Hockey season concluded this weekend with the Frozen Four. Congratulations to all of the teams and players and coaches listed below! Each player and coach listed is linked to their Eliteprospects.com page.
Women’s NCAA Champion: University of Wisconsin (WCHA)
Men’s NCAA Champion: University of Massachusetts (Hockey East)
Patty Kazmaier Award: G – Aerin Frankel (Northeastern, Hockey East)
Hobey Baker Award: F – Cole Caufield (Wisconsin, Big 10)
Mike Richter Award: Jack LaFontaine (Minnesota, Big 10)
Spencer Penrose Award: Mike Hastings (Minnesota State, WCHA)
Women’s Coach of the Year: Dave Flint (Northeastern, Hockey East)
Edward Jeremiah Award (Div. III men): Cam Ellsworth (Norwich, NEHC)