Wild's 4th Line Stays Red Hot as Minnesota dominates the Sharks in 5-2 Victory

Wild's 4th Line Stays Red Hot as Minnesota dominates the Sharks in 5-2 Victory

Wild

Wild's 4th Line Stays Red Hot as Minnesota dominates the Sharks in 5-2 Victory

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Friday’s game had some feisty play as the Sharks grew frustrated with the Wild who found a way to shut them down.  You could see the chirping starting right away even before the initial puck drop.  The Sharks were playing careful defensively, doing their best to deny time and space to Wild forwards.  Minnesota’s best line through the first half of the period was the 4th line of Nico Sturm, Nick Bonino and Zach Parise who were hustling well and causing some trouble in the offensive zone.  Yet it was the Sharks who would break the stalemate as Brent Burns scored his first goal in 25 games when he sent a long-range shot from the point that Kaapo Kahkonen never saw to give San Jose a 1-0 lead.

The Minnesota Wild would also recognize Patrick Marleau for playing in his 1,767 NHL game tying him for the NHL record for games play with the legendary Hall of Famer Gordie Howe.  The 3,000 fans in attendance at Xcel Energy Center gave Marleau a rousing ovation and you could see the Aneroid, Saskatchewan-native looking a little emotion as he stood in recognition as both benches sticktapped in respect.  I have always enjoyed watching Marleau play; a player who was always known for his speed and scoring ability.

The goal would awaken the Wild and they’d counter with 3 goals in a span of 1:12 seconds.  The first goal was a power play tally on a nice zone entry by Marcus Johansson who then won a battle along the boards before sending a pass out front to Mats Zuccarello who cashed in near the Sharks’ crease for his 10th of the season.  About 30 seconds later the Wild would strike again as a shot from the point by Jordan Greenway would hit Martin Jones in the shoulder and the puck would pop up into the air and then hit a crashing Joel Eriksson Ek in the chest and then flutter on into the net.  The goal was briefly reviewed to see if he touched it with his hand but the replay clearly showed it struck near his neck line and in and the goal would stand.  2-1 Wild.  But Minnesota wasn’t done just yet and this time it was Zach Parise racing into the Sharks’ end and he’d rip a shot that beat Jones top corner to give the Wild a 3-1 lead late in the period.  The frustration I mentioned at the start of this article would show up again as they’d give Minnesota a 5-on-3 power play late in the period as a delay of game penalty by Erik Karlsson and a dirty cross-check by Tomas Hertl.

Minnesota wasn’t able to take advantage of the 43 seconds of 5-on-3 time they had to start the 2nd period.  However, a poor decision by Marc-Eduard Vlasic ended up having him turn over the puck in his own end as the Sharks’ penalty killers were trying to leave the ice and this led to a quick transition and it was Kirill Kaprizov burying a goal to give Minnesota a 4-1 advantage.  For most of the period, the Wild continued to out skate, outwork and out execute the Sharks at both ends of the ice.  Minnesota was swarming in the offensive zone and backchecking tenaciously to thwart any attempts the Sharks made to counter attack.

Jones would make some big stops from close range to keep his team within three, but he couldn’t stop them all.  The Wild would strike late in the period as Nico Sturm turned on the afterburners to fly by Karlsson and then he got Jones to bite on a fake and then managed to zoom around the Sharks’ goal for a pretty wrap around tally.  The goal would be reviewed for goaltender interference and Sturm did make contact as he skated by Jones, but he still had the puck in his possession as he dangled by the San Jose goalie and the goal would stand, 5-1 Wild going into the 3rd.

With a 4-goal lead, the Wild were content to spend most of the 3rd period defending and working pucks deep into the San Jose end of the ice.  Kaapo Kahkonen had to make a few saves, but for the most part Minnesota was dropping back defensively to help out.  San Jose would score late in the period as Kevin Lebanc set up Joel Kellman for a quick shot that Kahkonen had no real chance to stop and Minnesota would roll to a 5-2 victory.  Kahkonen had 26 saves in the win.

What did you think of the Minnesota Wild series against the Sharks?  Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!

Mar 25, 2021; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Jordan Greenway (18) shoots the puck in the second period against the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Who are the Minnesota Wild going to lose in the expansion draft to Seattle?

In a way, its the elephant in the room.  As we get closer to the conclusion of the 2021 NHL season, the dark cloud of another expansion draft lingers as the Seattle Kraken get to select one player from each of the NHL’s other 29 teams (Vegas is exempt from the expansion draft).  Don’t get me wrong, I am fine with the expansion draft and I really do with the best of luck to Seattle.  I really hope the NHL succeeds as well in Seattle as it has in Vegas.  I think its good for the league and good for the growth of the game, especially after what has to have been a pretty tough year for the league with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet the reality of expansion for the clubs not named the Golden Knights or Kraken it means you are about to lose a valuable member of your current roster.  Teams really have two options they can utilize when protecting players.  They can use the formula of protecting 7 forwards, 3 defenseman and one goaltender; or 8 skaters and 1 goalie.  Any player that currently has a no movement clause, must be protected.  So in otherwords, the team is obligated to put them on either list no matter approach they choose.  According to CapFriendly.com, Minnesota has 5 players on its roster with no movement clauses (Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mats Zuccarello, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin) which means they only have 4-5 spots they can protect depending on the formula they chose.

There has been discussion that the Wild will approach older veterans like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter or possibly Mats Zuccarello about waiving their no movement protection so the team can try to shelter other players.  However, why would they do that?  That would be like your company asking you to give up your insurance.  While it might seem like the ‘right thing to do’ a NMC is a benefit you negotiated for.  Back during the expansion draft with Vegas, the team went to Jason Pominville about waiving his NMC and he refused.  So why would that change now?

So that means the Wild are likely going to lose a player they really wish they didn’t have to lose.  So who could find themselves on the available list?  Matt Dumba for starters.  Since the team already has to protect 3 defenseman because of their no movement clauses that leaves Dumba as the prime candidate to be picked up by Seattle.  A mobile, right-shot defenseman about in his prime that’s available?  Seems like an easy choice to me if I’m Seattle Kraken’s General Manager Ron Francis.

Other prime possibilities include defenseman Carson Soucy, forwards Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask, Ryan Hartman, Nico Sturm, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Kevin Fiala and goaltenders Kaapo Kahkonen and Cam Talbot.  Now the team will likely protect 4-5 of these players and possibly more if one of the aforementioned older players agrees to give up their NMC protections.  Yet no matter what you know at least one player from this list will be taken.  Don’t worry folks, talented youngsters like Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy or Calen Addison are both ineligible to be selected in the expansion draft.

I think most Wild fans are resigned to this fact and simply hope the team doesn’t compound the injury of such a loss by giving Seattle an additional asset to protect another player like it did during the Vegas expansion where it traded then-prospect Alex Tuch to the Golden Knights so they’d select Erik Haula instead of Dumba or Marco Scandella.  It is impossible to know precisely what the Wild are going to do just yet, and it all depends who they decide is too crucial to be left unprotected.  I would like fans to consider the possibility that projecting how much cap space might factor into who the team chooses to protect or not.

With Fiala, Eriksson Ek and Kaprizov likely to command significant raises one can guess that might cause the team to dangle a well-liked and effective player because they have to find a way to have the money they need to lock up these players long-term.  So like an adhesive bandage that you placed on a hairy part of your body, you just close your eyes and pull it off hard and fast and hope it doesn’t hurt too much.

Iowa 4, Grand Rapids 5

Over the years, the Iowa Wild have had its share of memorable moments against the Grand Rapids Griffins.  In their early years, they often felt the pain of lopsided losses, but more recently they’ve been witness to some true barn burners and Friday night would be one of the latter.

The game would start as a bit of a goaltending duel between Iowa’s Hunter Jones and Grand Rapids’ Kevin Boyle.  Grand Rapids would break the stalemate about halfway through the period as former Denver University start Jerid Lukosevicius‘ point shot beat Jones.  Iowa was unable to get anything by Boyle and the Wild would trail by one going into the 1st intermission.

In the 2nd, the goaltending duel continued as neither the Wild or the Griffins could manage to light the lamp so it stayed 1-0 going into the intermission.  Consider this the quiet before the storm.

In the 3rd period, Grand Rapids would strike twice in the first 5 minutes as Kyle Criscuolo and Albin Grewe made in 3-0 Griffins.  So another ugly rout on the way for the Wild in Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena right?  Not so fast as Iowa was going to score three times in a span of just 36 seconds to tie the game.  It started with Matt Boldy setting up Gerald Mayhew for a chance from near the top of the crease that the Wyandotte, Michigan-native buried to cut the Griffins’ lead to two.  Just 14 seconds after that, Brandon Duhaime scores his first goal of the season off the rush to cut it to one.  The Griffins called a timeout to discuss the situation, but to no avail as Iowa would score again just seconds later as Mason Shaw hammered a one-timer from the slot that found the twine.  Needless to say the 3 quick strikes gave Iowa lot of momentum and they’d get the go ahead goal a few minutes later as Boldy scored on a wrap around.  4-3 Wild, game over right?  Not quite.

The Griffins would tie the game as former Michigan State star Taro Hirose stepped into a slapper that blazed by Jones tying the game back at 4-4.  Ok, onto overtime?  Nah.  Grand Rapids would score with less than a minute as Dominic Turgeon ripped a shot over the shoulder of Jones to give the Griffins a 5-4 victory.  Jones had 28 saves in the loss.

Minnesota HS Report:  I am not sure why, but the Girls Hockey Awards were finally announced this weekend which identifies the top female high school player with the Ms. Hockey Award and the top goaltender of 2021 and both players are linked to their Eliteprospects.com page.  Congratulations to the award winners and any of the finalists as well!

2021 Ms. Hockey Award ~ F – Peyton Hemp (Andover)

2021 Goaltender of the Year ~ Brynn Dulac (Minnetonka)

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