Kevin Fiala Gives Wild 4-3 Overtime Win Against St. Louis

Kevin Fiala Gives Wild 4-3 Overtime Win Against St. Louis

Wild

Kevin Fiala Gives Wild 4-3 Overtime Win Against St. Louis

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The game had a cautious pace at the start the game as both clubs were wary of making a defensive mistake early.  Shots were few and far between.  St. Louis seemed to generate a bit more speed through the neutral zone and the Wild’s passing wasn’t quite as crisp as it needed to be so Kaapo Kahkonen found himself a bit busier than expected.  The Wild were not able to get much of anything going offensively, as St. Louis was forcing Minnesota to dump and chase and this led to lots of wasted possessions.

The Blues would stay patient and work pucks deep and some of Minnesota’s defenseman seemed to be fighting the puck.  One such player who seemed to handle the puck like a live hand grenade was Ian Cole.  On one sequence, it was Cole making a lazy cross-ice pass that was just out of reach of David Perron and then after he managed to get the puck back he was stripped of the biscuit by Ivan Barbashev but luckily he was bailed out by an alert play by Mats Zuccarello.  However, defensive breakdowns would prove costly late in the period as Victor Rask lost his coverage and this left Jordan Kyrou all alone about 15-feet from the crease and he’d fire a quick shot by Kahkonen.  Just under two minutes after Kyrou’s goal and it was Tyler Bozak drawing Nico Sturm and Carson Soucy towards him before dishing a puck to that same spot on the ice as the last goal except it was Sammy Blais pulling the trigger and he too found the back of the net.  2-0 Blues.  Minnesota would draw a penalty in the last minute of the period and were able to create some promising opportunities but they’d go to the locker room trailing by two.

Minnesota wasn’t able to capitalize on the remainder of the power play to start the 2nd.  The Wild seemed to be playing with fire a bit as Ian Cole continued to struggle out there.  Kahkonen would make a great save on Jake Walman to keep his team within two.  The Wild had some great opportunities too as a collision in the neutral zone resulted in a rare 2-on-0 but Zach Parise was stonewalled by Binnington and he was also able to deny Parise’s rebound bid as well.  Minnesota would keep attacking and their persistence would be rewarded when Matt Dumba sent in a puck deep into the Blues’ end that was tracked down by some good hustle by Kirill Kaprizov who then sent a pass back to a trailing Zuccarello who stepped into a slapper that beat Binnington.  2-1 Blues.

Predictably, the goal seemed to give the team a bit more jump and they looked to add the equalizer.  Kaprizov would get a step on the Blues defense and he’d rip a shot that Binnington stopped and then the Blues’ goalie nabbed his rebound bid out of the air with his glove.  St. Louis would answer back with a chance of their own as a point shot by Niko Mikkola that Kahkonen stopped but he couldn’t deny Perron’s rebound chance and the Blues had a 3-1 lead going into the 2nd intermission.

In the 3rd period, it didn’t look too promising as the Wild didn’t seem to have a lot of energy and the Blues seemed content to hold onto their lead.  However, St. Louis’ passiveness emboldened Minnesota and they started to spend more time in the Blues’ end of the ice.  Binnington found himself more and more busy.  The Blues did take a few chances to try to bury the Wild as Kahkonen had to make a few tricky saves in close including a fine glove save on Perron.

Minnesota would cut St. Louis’ lead to one as Jonas Brodin would swing a wrist shot on goal that was redirected perfectly by Sturm and by Binnington.  3-2 Blues and now the Wild began to believe they had a chance.  The Wild would pull Kahkonen for an extra attacker and they’d nearly have their hopes dashed as a long clearing attempt missed just wide of the Minnesota goal.  Minnesota would get the equalizer with about a minute left as Brodin stepped into a slap shot that beat a well-screened Binnington to send the game to overtime, 3-3.

In overtime, the Wild looked determined to build on the momentum from their latest comeback.  Their hard work would be rewarded a few minutes into overtime as Fiala raced into the zone before feeding a puck back to Zuccarello who then sent it back to Fiala for a one-timer he blasted by Binnington to give Minnesota a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory.  Kahkonen had 28 saves in the win.

What did you think of the Minnesota Wild’s home series against the St. Louis Blues?  Tell us what you think on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!

An additional 1st round pick gives Minnesota the freedom to take a goalie

The long held axiom of the NHL draft was that you never take a goaltender in the 1st round.  It wasn’t suggesting that goaltenders are not important, they certainly play a critical role in any Stanley Cup contending team but the long development process often means there is more risk in selecting a goaltender in the 1st round than drafting a skater.  Yet more and more teams are making that choice and giving younger goaltenders a shot earlier.

Washington’s Ilya Samsonov, Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko are recent examples of goaltenders taken in the 1st round being given the opportunity to lead their teams fairly early in their careers.  And its not just goalies from the 1st round as later round selections like 4th rounder Igor Shesterkin (Rangers), 3rd rounder Ilya Sorokin (Islanders), 3rd rounder Chris Driedger (Panthers), 2nd rounder Tristan Jarry (Penguins) are carrying a major portion of their team’s goaltending load by the time they are 25 years old.

In the 2021 NHL draft class, the clear cut top goaltending prospect for this summer’s draft is Swedish goaltender Jesper Wallstedt rated 10th by TSN‘s Bob McKenzie in his draft Top 100 list.  With such a high ranking, it would be very doubtful he’d fall far enough that the Wild would be able to select him with one of their two 1st round selections (Sorry Justin Bakke).  However there is another 1st round calibre goaltender that I think could certainly be available when Minnesota makes one of its selections in Sebastian Cossa of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.

Rated 14th in McKenzie’s Top 100, the 6’6″, 212lbs left-catching goaltender is rated from the late teens to the early 30’s by most scouting publications.  He is putting up incredible numbers (14-0-1 record, 1.46 goals against average, .946 save percentage) for the Oil Kings who are playing extremely well in an abbreviated Western Hockey League season due to the pandemic.  It is a shame there will not be a Memorial Cup tournament to see how he would perform on a bigger stage, but the Hamilton, Ontario-native moves well for a big man but many believe he has the potential to be NHL starter for years to come.  He sizes up situations well and then uses his big frame and solid positioning to give shooters very little net to shoot at.

This is no knock on the play of Cam Talbot (knock on wood) who continues to provide decent starts for the Wild.  In a way this is about the uncertainties revolving around the play of Kaapo Kahkonen and other goaltenders in the system like Hunter Jones, Filip Lindberg and Dereck Baribeau.  Kahkonen looked good early when he was playing a lot in Talbot’s absence with Covid-19, but more recently he seems more erratic now that he’s used only occasionally by the Wild.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but Kahkonen admitted he didn’t realize the Wild had a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win over San Jose on Saturday.  While the team won the game and clinched their spot, isn’t it a bit troubling that for a position where its all about situational awareness that the goaltender didn’t know such a basic fact about the club’s place in the standings?  I am not sure why, but it bothers me.  Yet on the flip side, his 17 games won as a rookie broke the previous Wild record held by Josh Harding so that’s a good thing.

Baribeau has been ok in Iowa, while Hunter Jones has had a rough adjustment going from juniors to the pros.  Filip Lindberg helped guide the Minutemen to a national championship with incredibly impressive numbers of his own, but still taking a chance on Cossa may be a smart move on the Wild’s part if they fear they may lose either Talbot or Kahkonen in the NHL Expansion draft this summer.  Another axiom in hockey is you can’t have too many goalies, especially good ones.

Iowa Wild (12-11-4)  28pts  4th in AHL Central

13.9% Power Play (27th in the AHL)

80% Penalty Kill (17th in the AHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 10G 17A = 27pts

2. #43 Connor Dewar ~ 12G 7A = 19pts

3. #18 Damien Giroux ~ 7G 12A = 19pts

4. #2 Calen Addison ~ 6G 12A – 18pts

5. #20 Gerald Mayhew ~ 8G 9A = 17pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #55 Cody McLeod ~ 91 PIM’s

2. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 37PIM’s

3. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 37 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #30 Dereck Baribeau (6-1-2)  2.54GAA  .914%SP

2. #92 Hunter Jones (5-9-1)  4.06GAA  .871%SP  1SO

Iowa 3, Rockford 5

The Iowa Wild have to feel a bit disappointed after Saturday night’s game where they lost to last-place Rockford.  The biggest reason for the loss?  Sub par play between the pipes as Hunter Jones gave up 4 goals on 28 shots which had Iowa chasing most of the game.

On the bright side is the play of Matt Boldy as he collected two primary assists in the loss.  The two helpers gives him 9 points in 7 games since joining Iowa.  While the big club doesn’t really have any openings in their lineup right now, but its good to see him playing at better than a point-per-game pace for the baby Wild.  Gerald Mayhew, better known as ‘Gerry Time’ has been heating up as well and he had two helpers in the 5-3 loss as well.

2nd year pro Connor Dewar is Iowa’s leading goal scorer this season with 12 and that’s a good sign for the former 3rd round pick (92nd Overall in 2018) that he’s staying on track with his development.  We haven’t heard as much from Calen Addison the last few games, whose offensive production has flat lined.

If Iowa can learn anything from the big club is winning the games you should win (i.e. earning wins against teams that are trailing you in the standings) because those points come back to haunt you when you find yourself needing to get points from clubs that among the best in the division like the Chicago Wolves.

Wild Prospect Report:

C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow) ~ The 4th Liner’s season is on the brink as CSKA Moscow lost 2-0 to Avangard Omsk on Monday despite the fact he went 12-for-17 on his draws.  On Wednesday, his season would come to an end as CSKA Moscow lost 1-0 to Avangard Omsk even though he went 6-for-8 on his faceoffs.  Svetlakov finishes his season with a goal, 4 points, 12 PIM’s and is a -1 in 22 playoff games.

D – Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw, WHL) ~ The skilled defenseman had a power play goal and an assist in Moose Jaw’s 5-4 overtime loss to Saskatoon on Monday night which finishes his season since the WHL is only playing a 24-game schedule and there is no Memorial Cup as well.  Hunt finished his 2021 season with 8 goals, 18 points, 11 PIM’s and is a -12 in 23 games.

LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ The top scorer in the WHL had a monster game recently as he had a hat trick and an assist on 5 shots in Spokane’s 5-3 win over arch-rival Tri-City on Wednesday.  Beckman finishes the season with 12 goals, 21 points, 2 PIM’s and is a -3 in 15 games.

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