Ever go and play a sport and your body just tells you right away this isn’t going to be your night? That is what it looked like for most of the game for the Minnesota Wild as they were dominated by the St. Louis Blues. Minnesota did not seem to have lot of energy as the St. Louis Blues outhustled and outskated and dominated the Wild all over ‘Rink 1’ at Target Field. One might want to try to blame it on the -10 temperatures, but the Minnesota Wild looked rusty as well as frozen.
The St. Louis Blues appeared relatively unaffected by the cold or the frosty conditions of playing on outdoor ice. The Blues passes were crisp and accurate, tape to tape while the Wild were fighting the puck most of the game. Minnesota Wild players were falling down or bumping into one another the way you would expect from a team that hasn’t played a game in about two weeks.
St. Louis would strike first on a goal by David Perron that was a low shot that somehow beat Cam Talbot short side. Shots like that find the back of the net in youth hockey, but at the NHL level, not so much. That should’ve been our first sign that this was not going to be a great night for the Minnesota Wild.
Minnesota would answer back 25 seconds later when Kirill Kaprizov got a step on a defender and then tried to center a puck towards Ryan Hartman that would deflect off the skate of Niko Mikkola and into the back of the goal. 1-1 after 1 period of play.
Less than a minute into the 2nd period, the St Louis Blues would add to their lead as Jordan Kyrou won a battle for the puck along the wall against Alex Goligoski and then he’d square up to the Wild goal and try to send a cross-ice pass to Vladimir Tarasenko only to have the puck go off the stick of a backchecking Hartman and into the Wild goal. 2-1 Blues.
This was just the beginning of the Jordan Kyrou show. Kyrou would add an assist a few minutes later as Jordan Greenway fell giving him a lane to set up Tarasenko for a one-timer that be blasted by Talbot to make it 3-1 Blues and the rout was on.
The former Oshawa General, Kyrou, continued to put on a clinic against the Wild as he’d win another battle down low on the power play and then send a pass out front to Ivan Barbashev who hammered it by Talbot and it was 4-1 St. Louis Blues to a collective groan from the 38,000+ frozen fans at Target Field.
Unfortunately it wasn’t done just yet as Kyrou would add another goal as he went top shelf, glove side on Talbot to make it 5-1. In the process he brought an outdoor game record with 4 points in a single game (let alone registered in a single period).
Minnesota would score on a strange sequence as Rem Pitlck‘s pass bounced off the stick of Scott Perunovich and then off the back of Jordan Binnington‘s goal mask and into the back of the net. 5-2 now, but any good feelings from his goal would be evaporate as the Blues struck again with another goal as Torey Krug ripped a shot by Talbot with 39 seconds left in the 2nd. At this point many fans got up and decided to go home early which is a big thing to do when you probably paid well over $100 for a ticket to attend the game.
6-2 Blues after 2 periods of play.
The Wild would finally start to move their feet a bit more and the 3rd and by pulling Kaapo Kahkonen (who they swapped out for Talbot after the end of the 2nd period) for an extra attacker they managed to score two more times on goals from Ryan Hartman and Kevin Fiala to pull the game within two, but would still fall 6-4.
Winter Classic broadcast thoughts
The TNT broadcast was almost as bad as the Minnesota Wild. During the 2nd intermission, when they announced the members of the U.S. Women’s Olympic team they had analyst Jennifer Botterill talk all through the intermission ceremony and didn’t even bother to put in graphics with the names of the players as their names were announced.
I’m sure people would’ve liked to have heard those names announced especially since many of those athletes were going to be players from Minnesota. I understand Jennifer Botterill is former Olympic champion, and it is tempting to get her perspective but can’t they do that AFTER those names are announced?
Also, at the end of the 2nd period half of the studio team was so bored by the game they decided to record part of podcast instead, leaving studio host Liam McHugh little to do but to try to stall for time as Wayne Gretzky and Paul Bissonnette returned from recording. Bissonnette asks multiple times, ‘are were seriously live right now?’ as they cut to commercial. Ouch.
Post-game reflection / reaction
Yet the most damning comments were really left after the game. This quote from Mats Zuccarello really kind of sums up the whole feeling from this one.
Zuccarello: “the first two periods, I don’t have words, like it’s embarrassing. I think the first two periods, you have 40,000 people coming, freezing their asses off and we’re playing like that?”
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) January 2, 2022
Prior to the game, the TNT crew interviewed Minnesota Wild alternate captain Matthew Dumba about practicing outdoors in the below zero temperatures, and the team alternate captain kind of laughed about how ‘Deano (Wild head coach Dean Evason), has optional practices and how not too many guys would go to something like that.” I wonder if those feelings have changed after the team looked rusty for yet another game when they’ve played only a few games in the last month?
After an ugly loss to the Buffalo Sabres a few weeks ago, players from the Minnesota Wild remarked how they hadn’t had a practice in 10 games. That was weeks ago, so I would like someone from the Minnesota Wild to explain to me why the team is continuing to treat practices like . Tonight’s loss extends the Minnesota Wild’s losing streak to 6 games.
If there is any consolation to be had from the embarrassing effort on the ice, almost universally the fans that did attend seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly despite the -12 temperatures. In many cases, they had nothing else to do but to drink and relish the scenery and spectacle of it all. Good for them. It is a shame the team didn’t give them more to cheer about and an effort worthy of their dedication to endure those conditions as cheerfully as they did.
To add insult to injury, it was revealed after the game that goaltender Cam Talbot left the game after the conclusion of the 2nd period because of ‘a lower body injury.’ Could that mean the Minnesota Wild will have to soldier on with Kaapo Kahkonen the next few games? The team certainly missed having Jonas Brodin in the lineup, as he was a late scratch due to his own ‘lower body injury’ but a potential Talbot injury is certainly ominous news for a club that seems to be at some kind of turning point this season.
The St. Louis Blues had to deal with the same conditions as the Minnesota Wild and they didn’t look bothered by it at all and they were making tape-to-tape passes most of the game. They executed like a team that knew this was not some was some throwaway exhibition game and wanted to do whatever it could to come away with two points. Perhaps practices shouldn’t be ‘optional’ anymore, eh Deano?
What did you think of this evening’s game against the St. Louis Blues? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!
Marco Rossi dazzles in OT thriller, Will Bitten traded
If any Wild fans were still disappointed in the cancellation of the 2021 World Junior Championships, those feelings dissipated quickly after the Iowa Wild’s 3-2 overtime win against the Colorado Eagles. How was this possible? Simply put, Marco Rossi. Minnesota’s 1st round pick from 2020 dazzled with an assist and two goals, including the game-winning tally on an overtime penalty shot. The 20-year old Austrian currently leads Iowa in scoring with 7 goals and 22 points in 20 games. While most of his offensive production has come on the man advantage this season, with time and space Rossi has proven he can be very dangerous.
Another player who also continues to play well is fellow rookie-pro Matt Boldy. The former Boston College standout is also producing at over a point-per-game pace with 4 goals, 9 points in just 9 games this season. Boldy had two helpers on 3 shots in the Wednesday night victory over the Eagles. His excellent one-timer seems to create havoc anytime he releases it and he’s continued to demonstrate excellent playmaking instincts.
Iowa also welcomed the return of veteran goaltender Andrew Hammond (aka the Hamburglar) back to the lineup, as he had 31 saves in the win over Colorado. Most importantly, he brought stability to the crease where Dereck Baribeau and Hunter Jones all too often gave up the momentum-deflating soft goals.
The team also made a significant roster move as they traded speedy forward Will Bitten to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Nolan Stevens. The 6’3″ winger from Brantford, Ontario had 3 goals and 9 points in 20 games with the Springfield Thunderbirds this season. The trade seems to be an attempt by both clubs to give two hard working players another chance by giving them an opportunity to shine with a different team.
Iowa also announced it has signed right-shot defenseman, Brendan Miller to a Professional Tryout contract. Miller had 5 goals, 20 points in 21 games with the Kalamazoo K-Wings this season.
Iowa Wild (record): (11-10-2-2) 26pts 3rd in the AHL Central
22.2% Power Play (5th in the AHL)
87.1% Penalty Kill (3rd in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #23 Marco Rossi ~ 7G 15A = 22pts
2. #13 Nick Swaney ~ 8G 10A = 18pts
3. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 7G 11A = 18pts
4. #18 Mason Shaw ~ 7G 10A = 17pts
5. #27 Joe Hicketts ~ 6G 11A = 17pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #55 Cody McLeod ~ 79 PIM’s
2. #18 Mason Shaw ~ 43 PIM’s
3. #19 Joey Cramarossa ~ 32 PIM’s
1. #35 Andrew Hammond (6-1-2) 2.09GAA .919%SP 3SO
2. #30 Dereck Baribeau (4-7-1) 3.10GAA .903%SP
3. #92 Hunter Jones (1-2-1) 3.00GAA .905%SP
Where Are They Now – RW – Zack Mitchell (Raperswill, NLA)
The Minnesota Wild signed Zack Mitchell as an undrafted free agent after the 2013-14 season. The former Guelph Storm star was one of the few bright spots on some pretty rough Iowa Wild squads. After putting his nose to the grind stone and doing what he could to try to lift an offense-starved Iowa club for three seasons he’d finally get his first NHL call up in the 2016-17 season. The Orangeville, Ontario-native played in 34 games for Minnesota over the course of two seasons where he registered 3 goals, 5 points and 4 penalty minutes.
Minnesota chose not to re-sign Mitchell after the 2017-18 season and he played the next year for Los Angeles Kings’ new AHL affiliate in Ontario. After that, he’d take his game to the KHL where he played for three different teams in three seasons before going to the Rapperswil Jona Lakers of the Swiss National League. He currently has 4 goals, 11 points, 6 penalty minutes in 32 games this season.
Minnesota Wild Prospect Report: With the cancellation of the World Juniors brought a quick end to the tournament for six Minnesota Wild prospects, but many of them still made an impact. Here is a quick summary of what they accomplished in their short time in Alberta.
D – Carson Lambos (Team Canada) ~ The Winnipeg Ice star did not register a point with Team Canada in two games. He had just one shot on goal.
D – Ryan O’Rourke (Team Canada) ~ The 6’0″, left shot defenseman also did not register any points or shots in one game with Team Canada. He did finish the tournament with a +1 rating.
RW – Pavel Novak (Team Czechia & Kelowna, WHL) ~ The 5’10”, right-shot winger had a goal and an assist on 3 shots and was a -1 in 2 games with Team Czechia. With the suspension of he tournament he’d return to play in Kelowna, and had 2 assists on 2 shots on goal and went 1-for-3 on his draws in Kelowna’s 5-2 win over Victoria. He has 13 goals, 33 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +9 in 25 games with the Rockets’ this season.
D – Jack Peart (Team USA) ~ The 5’11” Grand Rapids, Minnesota-native, had an assist on 1 shot in 1 game with Team USA.
C – Marat Khusnutdinov (Team Russia) ~ The former 2nd round pick from 2020 had 2 assists on 2 shots and 2 penalty minutes in two games with Team Russia.
G – Jesper Wallstedt (Team Sweden) ~ The Minnesota Wild’s top pick in 2021 had 2 wins, including a 48 save shutout to give him an impressive 1.50 goals against average and a .961 save percentage in two games for Team Sweden.
C – Caedan Bankier (Kamloops, WHL) ~ The lanky forward had 3 helpers on 5 shots on goal and went 20-for-31 on his draws in a 4-3 shootout win over Prince George. Bankier has 11 goals, 25 points, 12 PIM’s and is a -3 in 30 games this season.
D – Kyle Masters (Red Deer, WHL) ~ The mobile defenseman had an assist on 1 shot on goal in Red Deer’s 4-3 loss to Moose Jaw on Friday night. Masters has 2 goals, 10 points, 25 PIM’s and is a +24 in 34 games.