Being a long-time Minnesota sports fan is a practice in patience as well as restraint. Call it pessimism or keeping a healthy level of emotional detachment so you don’t experience the hollow feeling of disappointment when those teams fail to win the big game.
Even with the moves the Minnesota Wild made at the trade deadline, I think some fans tried to temper their expectations. I was one of them and I think there is plenty of history to indicate that probably is a good idea.
Yet its getting tougher.
When the Wild went 7-1-1 on their 9-game homestand, it helped lift Minnesota to 2nd place in the Central Division it was easy to rationalize with the fact the team has traditionally been pretty good playing at home.
However, when they went on a 4-game road trip starting with two very tough Metropolitan division teams like the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals I doubt too many fans thought we’d finish with two victories. That is exactly what they did with a 3-1 victory over Carolina and a 5-1 rout of the Capitals.
Minnesota got a little beat up after their 4-3 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday, losing Matt Boldy and Jon Merrill to injuries sustained during the game. A good reason to expect the team to struggle right?
Instead the Wild played suffocating defense anchored by the GREEF line of Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The line not only shut down two potent offenses, but they also chipped in goals.
Goaltending was also outstanding as both Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot played exceptionally well which never let Carolina or Washington get much momentum going.
Another commonality in the two victories was the fact the Wild scored early which meant they were not chasing the game. This allowed the Wild to dictate the pace of play and with solid defense it helped frustrate both opponents.
Tyson Jost was promoted to the 2nd line alongside Kevin Fiala and Frederic Gaudreau and I thought that line got better with every shift. The chemistry between Jost and Fiala appears to be progressing and it was great to see Jost register his first goal as a member of the Wild this weekend.
Alex Goligoski looked refreshed and he provided quality minutes and capable puck moving to the Wild blueline. Jake Middleton has been a solid shut-down presence and I think he has better puck moving skills than I expected.
Anyone notice Tom Wilson being a thug tonight? Nope, me neither. It’s a little different when there is a little more size and truculence in the lineup.
Minnesota’s next test comes this week when the Wild faces two Central Division clubs chasing them in the standings with a game against Nashville on Tuesday and St. Louis on Friday.
Ostensibly, these are 4-point games and are terrific opportunities for Minnesota to give themselves more space in the Central Division standings. Earlier in the season, the Wild did not fare too well against either club but perhaps with the confidence they’ve been playing with as well as some of their new roster additions they can reverse those earlier results.
If we’ve learned anything this week, perhaps its time fans start expecting more of this Minnesota Wild club in games against playoff teams.
What did you think of this week’s slate of Minnesota Wild games? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!
Vladislav Firstov makes his pro debut
Iowa splits 2-game series in San Diego
Spring break for those of us from the Midwest often means a chance to travel to a warmer, sunnier locale leaving behind winter. For the Iowa Wild, they go to work when they travel to the west coast to face teams like the San Diego Gulls.
Every point in the standings is absolutely critical for an Iowa Wild team currently mired in last place in the AHL Central division and its fleeting playoff hopes are on the line. It needs to go on a run if it wants any chance at all to reach the AHL playoffs.
Instead it managed to earn a split and a very feisty series against the San Diego Gulls. A dramatic 2-1 overtime victory on Friday night was followed up by a hard fought 5-3 loss on Saturday. Unfortunately, those are points that Iowa can ill-afford to pass up.
There were some bright spots. Mitchell Chaffee continues to be Iowa’s hot hand and that continued as he scored twice in Saturday’s loss; giving him a team-leading 19 goals on the season. Recently signed Vladislav Firstov registered his first points as a professional with two primary assists this weekend, a promising start for the former 2nd round pick (42nd Overall) in 2019.
Calen Addison had the game-winning overtime goal on Friday and he added an assist as he’s had a decent 2nd half of the season so far.
Connor Dewar, who was returned to the Iowa Wild this week after a long stint with the big club looked good and had a clutch game-tying goal and an assist in Friday’s overtime victory. I am sure Kyle Rau, Mason Shaw and Nick Swaney are glad to have some help.
Having Dewar back allows the Wild to spread out its scoring a bit more, and it is also a big boost at the faceoff circle where the team has struggled, but will it be enough?
Blue chip rookie Marco Rossi has cooled off a bit. He’s mostly noticeable when used on the power play, at even strength. Speaking of the Iowa power play, it has continued to fade and all too often they come up empty on those man advantage opportunities.
Goaltender Zane McIntyre has been pretty good in the last 10 games, and has given Iowa a chance to win most nights.
Yet, it cannot be stated enough that this team needs to go on a winning streak if it wants to qualify for the post-season as Iowa Wild Head Coach Tim Army states is the goal in this terrific episode of Becoming Wild released just a few days ago.
The 23-minute film does a great job of giving you some insight to life in the minors, and the emphasis on preparing these players for a chance to play in the NHL. Adam Beckman and his real-life roommate, AHL veteran Joe Hicketts could give the Odd Couple a run for their money.
I think the portion of the video where it discusses Cody McLeod‘s role in setting a good example for the team’s younger players to follow is particularly interesting. Yes, its the same Cody McLeod that used to annoy the hell out of Wild fans when he’d go after Wild players when he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
However, just watch and listen to the praise he gets, he’s far more than just a pair of knuckles on that Iowa Wild team.
If you at all curious what is going on with the Iowa Wild, I strongly recommend you check it out!
Iowa has games against Tucson (Tuesday & Wednesday) and Texas (Saturday & Sunday) next week.
Iowa Wild (25-27-4-4) 58pts 7th in the AHL Central
18.2% Power Play (24th in the AHL)
83.3% Penalty Kill (6th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #23 Marco Rossi ~ 16G 29A = 45pts
2. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 17G 23A = 40pts
3. #18 Mason Shaw ~ 13G 25A = 38pts
4. #21 Mitchell Chaffee ~ 19G 12A = 31pts
5. #13 Nick Swaney ~ 13G 17A = 30pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #55 Cody McLeod ~ 133 PIM’s
2. #14 Brandon Baddock ~ 121 PIM’s
3. #18 Mason Shaw ~ 89 PIM’s
1. #70 Zane McIntyre (14-11-2) 2.58GAA .913% 1SO
2. #30 Dereck Baribeau (4-8-2) 3.07GAA .903%
Wild Prospect Report:
C / LW – Caeden Bankier (Kamloops, WHL) ~ 2nd star honors were given to the lanky forward who had 2 goals and an assist on 3 shots an went 5-for-8 on his draws in the Blazers’ 8-2 thrashing of Moose Jaw on Wednesday. Bankier has 18 goals, 36 assists, 54 points, 24 PIM’s and is a +15 in 64 games played.
LW / C – Josh Pillar (Saskatoon, WHL) ~ Scrappy forward had an assist on 1 shot and went 10-for-16 on his draws in Saskatoon’s 4-1 victory over provincial rival Moose Jaw. Pillar has 13 goals, 24 assists, 37 points, 40 PIM’s and is +2 in 45 games.
D – Carson Lambos (Winnipeg, WHL) ~ Winnipeg’s alternate captain had an assist on 4 shots in the Ice’s 7-0 rout of Regina on Friday. Lambos has 10 goals, 33 assists, 43 points, 51 PIM’s and is +38 in 46 games.
RW – Pavel Novak (Kelowna, WHL) ~ Shifty winger had a goal and two helpers on 3 shots in Kelowna’s 9-2 demolition of Prince George. Novak has 27 goals, 40 assists, 67 points, 14 PIM’s and is a +23 in 56 games.
D – Simon Johansson (Ilves, Sm-Liiga) ~ Lanky defenseman had an assist in Ilves’ 3-2 loss to Karpat in the league playoffs. Johansson has as goal and an assist, 2 PIM’s and is a +2 in 4 playoff games.