Category Archives: Minnesota Wild

Wild Sluggish In 3-1 Loss to Dallas

Welcome back from the NHL All Star break folks!  Let’s give you a quick run down of what (probably) took place for most of the Wild players who did not attend the event itself.  Spend some relaxing time away from the bitter below-zero cold in exchange for some place sunny and along the beach, check.  Consume a few drinks and a few beers down by the beach, check.  Not have a care in the world, check.  So with a few days off the players return from their mini-vacations to the reality of the grind that lays before them.
The same is true for the Dallas Stars, who are hoping to try to get off to a fast start in the home stretch of the season.  With the schedule compressed and every point bringing you a step closer to the playoffs no one wants to stumble out of the gate.  Can the Wild pick up from where it left off by earning a victory in Dallas?
1st Period Thoughts: You know how to make your team look like you’re not completely rested? Start your plodding, slow players in the first few shifts. I mean, why not start your speedier guys to try and set the tone and possibly generate some offense. Instead, both teams are just skating back and forth, not accomplishing much of anything. Yet, Dallas will weather this kind of slow, defensive game much better in the long run. But I will say that I do feel better having Eric Fehr back in the lineup. Just before his injury, he was really starting to look like he found his spot on this team. Plus, he definitely adds a calming, veteran presence on this team. And like Eric Staal he has a Stanley Cup in his resume. Another thing that indicates that this team hasn’t played in a while, were the consecutive icing calls the Wild took near the midpoint of the period. The longer Minnesota goes without looking more controlled, the more dangerous things can be. But I suppose some of that can be chalked up to the fact that the Wild had only one practice during all this time off, and that practice being yesterday. And it’s going to be hard getting back into the swing of things with the strange schedule that Minnesota has in the immediate future. As the period continues, we’re starting to see Devan Dubnyk’s bad habit of overplaying the puck behind the net when he gets bored.  The Stars were ramping up their physical play and the Wild seemed to be ok with just taking a hit instead of delivering a check of their own.  As much as we tease Devan Dubnyk for leaving his crease to play the puck, Ben Bishop was trying to be ‘helpful’ by playing pucks which seemed to flirt with disaster.  Dubnyk would leave his net to sweep away a dangerous loose puck on a diving poke check that sent Alexander Radulov flying.  A few minutes later, Dallas had another great chance from in close as Jason Spezza was denied by Dubnyk.  Minnesota was having a difficult time creating much in the way of scoring chances, but a good shift by the Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker line resulted in a few quality shots on goal in the waning minute of the period.  Not a great period, the Wild looked winded out of sync like you’d expect from a team that had only been the ice once in 8 days since its last game.
2nd Period Thoughts:  The 2nd period did not start too well.  The Wild got caught pinching too much and the Stars raced back down the ice that nearly resulted in a goal for Denis Gurianov if not for a poke check by Marcus Foligno.  Dallas would score on the very next shift as Roman Polak sent a shot on goal that Andrew Cogliano redirected by Dubnyk.  1-0 Dallas.  It was Cogliano’s first goal as a member of the Stars, but he’d give Minnesota its first power play opportunity as he raked Parise across the face with his stick giving the Wild a 4-minute power play.  The first 3 minutes of the man advantage were pretty awful.  No cohesion, lots of errant passes and discombobulated scrambles for the puck and virtually no shots being taken.  In the last minute the team finally started to activate its defense a bit and it was Eric Staal setting up Brad Hunt from beneath the goal line and the former Bemidji State star wired it by Bishop.  1-1 game.  Minnesota would then give Dallas its first power play on its next shift as Staal was given a slashing minor.  The Wild’s penalty kill could best be described as helter skelter as they struggled to work pucks out of the zone which meant they leaned heavily on Dubnyk’s ability to make saves and he did a great job with a fair amount of traffic near his crease.  Even after the Wild killed off the penalty, the Stars would continue to swarm all over the Minnesota end and Dubnyk was sharp.  The Wild tried to turn the tables with a better forechecking effort and while they were able to generate a few more shots in the last few minutes none were of the high danger variety and they’d go into the intermission knotted up at 1-1.  A better effort, but still rather rusty.
3rd Period Thoughts:  The 3rd period started out rather cautious as both clubs were wary of making a major mistake that would result in quality scoring chance in their own end.  Time and space were tough to come by and teams were making sure they took the body after nearly every shot sent on goal.  You could sense the level of anxiety building in the arena as the game kept rolling along knotted at 1-1.  Please excuse me for going off on ab it of focused rant on Victor Rask.  He seems to have good hands, but his legs are slow and his stride is just clunky.  Rask seems to hesitate in just about every race for the puck, but he’s actually pretty adept at cherry picking but all too often he just doesn’t have that step or two to create separation.  The Stars would take the lead as Tyler Seguin sent a shot from the wall that trickled through Dubnyk.  2-1 Dallas and it was a pretty soft goal as there was no screen and the shot was taken from a fair distance away.  Minnesota tried to answer back, but the Wild couldn’t appear to find any open ice to send much in the way of shots on goal.  The Wild had shortened its bench to being a two-line team rotating between the Koivu line and the Staal line.  Neither line had a lot of jump and time steadily dissolved off the clock.  Minnesota wanted to pull Dubnyk with 1:23 left in the game, but does this club have any gas in the tank to make a late push?  Nope.  The Wild didn’t have the focus or the energy to make a few simple passes and as Dubnyk left the ice Koivu passed a puck to an area where no one was at and Granlund tried to recover only to give it away to Seguin to sealed the game with an empty netter.  3-1 Dallas victory.
Wild Notes:
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Jordan Greenway, Marcus Foligno, Pontus Aberg, Victor Rask, Matt Hendricks, Eric Fehr, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Brad Hunt, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn.  Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Nate Prosser, Anthony Bitetto and J.T. Brown were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Tyler Seguin, 2nd Star Devan Dubnyk, 3rd Star Miro Heiskanen
~ Attendance was 18,124 at American Airlines Arena.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the talented Russian is heating up offensively as he had 2 goals (including the overtime game winner) on 6 shots in CSKA’s 3-2 victory over Dinamo Minsk.  He then followed it up on Thursday with a goal and two helpers on 4 shots in CSKA’s 5-4 win over Ak Bars Kazan.  Kaprizov has 24 goals, 39 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +29 in 50 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ the rugged power forward had an assist in the Screaming Eagles’ 5-1 win over Sherbrooke on Wednesday night.  Boudrias has 18 goals, 38 points, 23 PIM’s and is a +11 in 43 games.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the 4th line center had a goal and went 6-for-13 on his draws in CSKA’s 5-4 victory over Ak Bars Kazan.  Svetlakov has 5 goals, 11 points, 21 PIM’s and is a +12 in 39 games.
Minnesota High School Hockey Report:
Let’s Play Hockey released its latest rankings for Boys and Girls in Class A & AA.  Here are their rankings as of January 30th, 2019.  Check it out!
Girls Hockey
Class A
#1 Warroad
#2 Breck
#3 Mound-Westonka
#4 South St. Paul
#5 Proctor / Hermantown
#6 Thief River Falls
#7 Cloquet-Esko-Carlton
#8 Rochester Lourdes
#9 East Grand Forks
#10 Duluth Marshall
Class AA
#1 Blake
#2 Edina
#3 Forest Lake
#4 Andover
#5 Eden Prairie
#6 Wayzata
#7 Brainerd / Little Falls
#8 Roseau
#9 Maple Grove
#10 Hill-Murray
Boys Hockey
Class A
#1 Hermantown
#2 St. Cloud Cathedral
#3 East Grand Forks
#4 Thief River Falls
#5 Totino-Grace
#6 Mahtomedi
#7 Alexandria
#8 Orono
#9 Sartell-St. Stephen
#10 Warroad
Class AA
#1 Edina
#2 Minnetonka
#3 Blaine
#4 Andover
#5 Maple Grove
#6 St. Thomas Academy
#7 White Bear Lake
#8 Eden Prairie
#9 Benilde-St. Margaret’s
#10 Hill-Murray


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Wild unable to generate any momentum in lackluster 4-0 loss in Boston

An extra cup of coffee, perhaps a soda during lunch which is something you do when you’re trying to keep your eyes open after a rough night of sleep.  No doubt, the 2nd day of two long days of work always is a bit more taxing physically let alone your mental focus.  For NHL teams in a back-to-back you toss in time spent traveling.  While the flight from Montreal to Boston is a mere 1 hour and 20 minutes, there is the ordeal of going through customs which certainly can turn into a headache.  This is exactly what the Wild have endured before tonight’s game against Boston.
The Bruins have been sitting back and patiently waiting for the Wild to arrive after a few days off.  Beyond spending some time for film study and practice, what else do you think they’ve done with that extra time?  Hopefully they’ve tired themselves out chasing around their families or stayed out a little too late the night before.  Can Minnesota get a victory against the Bruins?
1st Period Thoughts: Well, we’re less than a minute into the game, and we already have an excuse in the making. That being that the Wild arrived in Boston late last night while the Bruins were at home and asleep in their beds. But at least we have chances on both ends of the ice. With the way things were looking in that first minute, I was worried that we were going to spend the entire night in our own zone. So far, the Wild have been finding ways of not only getting the puck into the offensive zone, but have even managed a couple of shots on goal. It also seems like Alex Stalock is looking to play a mobile game, which I am not comfortable with. The Bruins have some players where it seems like they can score whenever they want (think of the 25 goals by David Pastrnak), with that in mind, I would be far more comfortable if Stalock would remain in his crease as much as possible. Yet even that wish isn’t enough, because even when he does stay in the goal, a nice screen and a deflection gets Danton Heinen on the scoreboard for the first goal of the night. Yet while it seemed early on that Minnesota was going to be able to get decent shots on goal, after they got the first three shots of the game, they hadn’t been able to tally any more. And as the old adage goes, you can’t score if you don’t shoot. The first power play of the night would go to Minnesota after Zdeno Chara interfered with Jordan Greenway. But like the limited shots on goal have been, they didn’t get one shot on goal during the man advantage. The longer this period continues with Minnesota’s limited shots on goal, it feels like it’s just allowing Boston to give a speed demonstration: skating, passing, and shooting. This of course forces the Wild to just try to hold on and try to keep up. I’m tired of playing catch up. And there’s more catch up to be had, with a goal by Brad Marchand which he was able to get by grabbing a rebound off of the back boards. Unfortunately for all involved, there’s still over eight minutes remaining in the period. This makes me wonder if we’ll see Devan Dubnyk at some point during the night. Sadly, even when the Wild get the puck into the offensive zone, they’re being kept to the perimeter, and they’re not even allowed to get a low percentage shot. So far, the two Wild skaters who have tried to make things happen, are the two guys with Boston connections, Greenway and Charlie Coyle. Both have had their chances, and it’s imperative that someone makes something happen, so why not one of them. Boston’s Kevan Miller would take the next penalty for holding Nino Niederreiter. Again like the rest of the game, Minnesota is finding it difficult to set anything up. The power play would be short-lived, with Eric Staal getting called for tripping goaltender Tuukka Rask. That power play would prove deadly, earning Jake DeBrusk the first power play goal the Wild have given up on this road trip. As the Wild head into the locker room down 3-0, you have to wonder if they have anything left in the tank, heck even to just keep more goals from being scored.
2nd Period Thoughts: Again, the Wild got the first three shots on goal in the period. They get those shots, and then Boston is able to either break up the passes or get them back to the perimeter. It’s a very effective way to stop any attempts by Minnesota to tip the momentum their way. Like a friend of mine said, should the Wild lose this one (which seems likely with how things are going and how they look in general), this is still a 3-1 road trip. It’s a win all around, and at this point, we need to take those small steps forward where we can get them. It looked like the Wild were going to have just a hope with a shot by Jared Spurgeon and then Luke Kunin deflecting the puck to then Coyle standing near the crease hoping to get the puck as it trickled between Rask’s pads. Unfortunately, Rask was up to the task and didn’t allow any puck movement. Minnesota would head back to the penalty kill, with Zach Parise getting called for tripping. The Bruins wouldn’t waste time, with Patrice Bergeron making it 4-0 Boston. So as you can probably tell, I’m already thinking about this road trip being over. Yes, it’s been successful, but it’s time to get back home. Time go get back to game starting in Central Time. I do like the occasional Eastern Time start, but it also takes away a little time between work and start time. Minnesota would get the next power play after John Moore got called for interference after shoving Kunin into the goal. And just like Minnesota’s previous two power plays, it looks like they’re not going to be able to get anything set up, which is funny because they’re so slow and deliberate with anything they do. When you take so much time to get things done and then have nothing to show for that time, that’s when the frustration sets in. With just over two minutes remaining in the period, again I’m feeling like I can’t wait to get out of this period. Thankfully we didn’t allow more goals than the Bergeron goal.
3rd Period Thoughts: I guess if there’s a silver lining early in this period, the Wild have almost evened up the shots on goal. But then when you look at the shots, very few of them have been of any decent quality. With the exception of the fourth line, it feels like everyone else is still back in Montreal. They haven’t looked ready (or interested) in playing much of the night. To add insult to injury, when this team is tired (from both the road trip and a back-to-back), they look even slower. Heck, not just look slower, they are slower. It would be nice if the team and its management would decide on an identity for this team. When this team had speedy wingers like Jason Zucker, Erik Haula, and even Jordan Schroeder, this team could get things done. Of course the problem then, is that they were too soft. Now we’ve added size and lost speed, but I can’t say that we’ve really gained physical players. Sure Greenway and Nick Seeler can be physical, but there are still other bigger players who continually don’t play their size well. It would be nice if this team could figure out what they want (and find a nice balance) and then actually buy in and execute that style. One sad side effect to this game, is that after the great work in the first three games of the road trip, and getting back into the playoff picture last night, they’re most likely going to lose that wild card spot in the next day or so. While both Anaheim and Vancouver are off tonight, either one can easily leapfrog Minnesota. The only ace up the Wild’s sleeve are the games in hand that they possess. Time to get back to Minnesota. Time to get some rest. Time to regroup.
Wild Notes:
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Marcus Foligno, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Greg Pateryn, Nick Seeler and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock got the start with Devan Dubnyk serving as back up.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Tuukka Rask; 2nd Star, Patrice Bergeron; 3rd Star, Brad Marchand
~ Attendance was 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record (20-8-4-3)  47pts  1st in AHL Central
20.3% Power Play (12th in the AHL)
84.8% Penalty Kill (6th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #25 Justin Kloos ~ 12G 15A = 27pts
2. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 5G 22A = 27pts
3. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 3G 18A = 21pts
4. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 8G 12A = 20pts
5. #36 Colton Beck ~ 12G 7A = 19pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 75 PIM’s
2. #37 Hunter Warner ~ 42 PIM’s
3. #21 Carson Soucy ~ 38 PIM’s
Top Goaltenders:
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (10-4-4)  2.28GAA  .922%SP  5SO
2. #35 Andrew Hammond (9-4-1)  2.92GAA  .907%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 2, Rockford 6
YouTube Highlights


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Wild and Flames Slug it Out – Dumba Injured

Over the years, the National Hockey League has changed significantly, rarely do you see staged fights at center ice anymore.
That’s a good thing.
For the most part, NHL rosters no longer contain one-dimensional players that fight. Those players are normally rostered in the American Hockey League and called up for emergencies. Those players should be locked in a glass case that says, break glass in case of emergency.
In today’s NHL, players must be able to play in all three zones. Players will still fight, but it’s not a focus like it once was. It’s an extra skill set. Players like Wayne Simmons are a premium, he’s can fight and score goals.
On December 6, 2018, the Minnesota Wild lost to the Calgary Flames 2-0. During that game, there were two incidents. First, Wild defenseman Matt Dumba saw Flames center Mikael Backlund skating with the puck in the Flames end. Dumba lined up Backlund and ran him over, delivering a massive hit.
The hit incensed the Flamers bench. Enter fourth-line forward Ryan Lomberg, he chased Dumba down, grabbed him and started punching him. The on-ice officials soon intervened. When the dust cleared, Dumba was still on the ice and Lomberg was in the showers with seven minutes in penalties (two-minute minor instigator, five-minute major fighting, and a game misconduct). Lomberg was suspended for two games by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
The Flames didn’t like the hit and their players and head coach complained about the hit in the post-game press conference.

During today’s rematch, 40 seconds into the game, Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk challenged Matt Dumba to a fight. The two squared off and had a spirited fight.

Second, there was another transgression that needed to be addressed. In the previous meeting, Flames defenseman Mark Giordano injured Wild captain Mikko Koivu with a dirty, bush-league leg check. (Below is the video of the dirty hit.)

Giordano's trip on Koivu #Flames #MNWild #MINvsCGY pic.twitter.com/d0ahN21nOQ
— Sportsnet 960 (@Sportsnet960) December 7, 2018

At the time, no one from the Wild challenged Giordano. On his way off the ice, Koivu punched Giordano and a scrum ensued. For his efforts, Giordano was assessed a two-minute minor penalty and was suspended for two games the next day by the NHL’s Department of Player safety.
The Wild Players took Giordano’s number, and that act would be avenged during today’s game. At the 18:03 mark of the second period, Wild forward Matt Hendricks challenged Giordano to a fight, settling that score.
“I think they didn’t like Dumba’s hit; that was known right from the get-go,” Hendricks told the media after the game. “But I don’t think we were happy with our game in Calgary, either. It was a dirty hit in my opinion on Mikko. Gio knows how to play the game, for sure. He’s old school. I don’t think he was happy with that play either.”

All was good, right? Nope. The Flames players continued with their shenanigans. They kept taking runs and cheap shots at Dumba. He was gone by the end of the first period with an undisclosed injury.
Finally, after seeing enough, the Wild Captain stepped up and fought Sam Bennett. Seriously, Sutter hadn’t fought in almost 10 seasons (Feb 18, 2009) but he did land some good punches on Bennett.
According to Michael Russo of the Athletic, Dumba fought Tkachuk, played five more first-period shifts and was never seen or heard from again.

The Wild aren’t known for their toughness. They’re not real big. Playing heavy hockey isn’t their game. Historically, teams have taken runs at the Wild skilled players because they didn’t have a tough guy. Obviously, the Flames don’t feel threated by the Wild and were free to take liberties with their players.
I would argue the Flames overreacted. At the time of Dumba’s green light, but legal hit on Backlund, he was jumped and pummeled by Lomberg at center ice. How many times does he have to pay for a legal hit? The Flames whined about the hit because of the timing and the score.  So what? Get over it.
I’d rather see players like Nick Seeler fighting instead of a top defenseman like Sutter. You don’t want your skilled players getting hurt fighting. Ironically, the Wild are sixth in the NHL in fighting majors with nine. The Boston Bruins are leading with 12 fighting majors. Some of the Bruins writers have wondered aloud if the Bruins need a tough guy? Why is that? Maybe the Bruins and the Wild are tired of being run and are taking care of things on their own.
Maybe, the on-ice officials could do a better job officiating the games so the players don’t have to take matters into their own hands.
In the past, players respected the “unwritten code”. That code no longer exists today. Before, if an opposition player was taking runs at the other team’s players, the opposition’s tough guy would inform the offending team’s captain if this behavior persists, I am going to start taking runs at your skilled players until this stops. In today’s world, most would find that unacceptable.


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Four Goal Rally in the 3rd Powers Wild to 4-2 Victory Over Winnipeg

Leftovers, the post-Thanksgiving bounty that some look forward to almost as much as the holiday itself.  Yet at a certain point, depending on how much was left from the event you might get a little tired of it.  Let’s face it, day #3 or #4 turkey sandwich often is far less satisfying than a day #1 turkey sandwich because you’re picking through the lesser of what is left.  In a way I’m sure Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau felt the same way watching his team throw away a 3-goal lead in the 3rd period against Ottawa on Thanksgiving eve.  While Minnesota re-grouped after a goaltending change and won the game 6-4 it was the kind of mental collapse that drives coaches’ crazy.  Especially since its becoming a bit of a disturbing trend the last 3 games.
Hopefully the Minnesota Wild players didn’t gorge themselves too much with Thanksgiving food and are feeling their carb overload fatigue as the Winnipeg Jets come to town.  So for those of you smart enough to avoid the pushing, shoving and consumer-driven insanity of Black Friday, can the Wild give its fans a holiday gift with a big win over the Jets?
1st Period Thoughts:  In many ways, the Wild actually played pretty well.  The Wild did a reasonable job of shutting down the Jets’ top line of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers.  Minnesota denied time and space and kept them to the perimeter.  The Wild also counter attacked fairly well and generated some prime chances; the best one being a breakaway chance off a 2-on-1 set up by a nice saucer feed by Mikael Granlund to Jason Zucker.  Unfortunately, Zucker didn’t have a lot of time to make much of a move and Connor Hellebuyck was able to make the big save.  I thought Joel Eriksson Ek looked engaged and was supporting the puck well.  The Wild’s defense; especially the pairing of Matthew Dumba and Jonas Brodin was impressive in their ability to weather the Jets’ forecheck and then break out of the zone fairly cleanly either with a well timed reverse of the puck or a crisp outlet pass.  At times I felt Minnesota was trying to be a bit too cute with the puck in the offensive zone instead of just taking what the Jets were giving them.  The Jets would score late in the period as Tyler Myers‘ slap shot from the point was partially deflected by Eric Fehr that forced Alex Stalock to make a leg pad save that yielded a nice rebound for Patrik Laine to pounce on.  1-0 Jets.  Tough to get too mad at Stalock who made some great saves after some tremendous passing by the Jets.  He also got a little help from the post as well.  Ryan Suter looks like he’s struggling to move and his anticipation of the play appears to be a bit off as well.  The Wild need to simplify their game offensively.  Minnesota did do a great job shutting down the Jets on their lone power play of the period; some great reads by Nick Seeler to intercept pucks and clear the zone.
2nd Period Thoughts:  This period was more of a test of frustration for the Minnesota Wild, especially on the power play.  The Wild didn’t do anything with three power plays the Jets gave them.  Minnesota made a mid-ling Jets penalty kill look like the best in the league as they had a hard time getting set up in the zone and then the puck movement was slow, methodical and predictable which made it fairly simple for Winnipeg to get sticks and bodies into shooting lanes.  When the Wild did finally set someone up for a great shooting opportunity they either blasted it off the post or one of their own players helped deflect the puck away from the goal as was the case on a Jared Spurgeon gimme that struck Zach Parise‘s leg instead of the back of the net.  After 3 straight Jets penalties you knew the pendulum was going to swing the other way and the Wild were going to be finding themselves a man down and sure enough slashing penalties to J.T. Brown and Marcus Foligno gave Winnipeg a chance to extend their lead.  Ehlers would score late in the period on the power play to give the Jets a 2-0 advantage.  Stalock had been pretty impressive to this point, but Ehlers’ goal was pretty soft as it beat him 5-hole from a fairly long distance.  Ryan Suter is a waste of time on the man advantage.  He doesn’t have the jump to make the plays to hold the zone and his shot is too weak to scare anyone so teams give him 20 feet or more knowing all too well he’s not going to pull the trigger.  The Wild have to be feeling like this game is slipping away from them as they simply haven’t tested Hellebuyck much at all.  Charlie Coyle looks content to be another passenger playing in a Top 6 role.  The Wild’s most energetic and arguably effective line has been the Foligno-Eriksson Ek-Greenway line.  Even the Wild’s 4th line has shown more focus than the top 6 has, which seems to be gun shy and worried about getting hit by the Jets’ physical blueliners than making plays.
3rd Period Thoughts:  The 3rd period had a little bit of everything for the Wild, a little frustration, plenty of chippy play and of course the goals that would give the team an improbable victory.  It all got started with the Wild’s 4th line.  Nino Niederreiter would skate into the Jets zone and unleash a heavy wrist shot that beat Hellebuyck wide and the anxious sellout crowd had something to cheer about.  2-1 Jets.  The snipe seemed to get the Wild’s legs going and Niederreiter appeared to have cleared a huge mental hurdle.  The 4th line continued to be a source of pesky play with Nino leading the way and they’d connect a few minutes later as Niederreiter won a battle for the puck along the wall and carried it below the goal line before feeding it out front to Eric Fehr who seemed to have lifted the stick of Adam Lowry beating Hellebuyck top shelf.  2-2 game.  The chippy play really started to boil over.  Whether it was Jason Zucker getting into it would Jacob Trouba or minutes after that, it was J.T. Brown leveling Andrew Copp with a huge hit near the Jets bench that saw his face smash against the glass.  The Jets training staff would help him off the ice and to the locker room for repairs.
Shortly thereafter an elbow by Lowry to Eriksson Ek caused Nick Seeler to step up to defend his teammate near the Jets’ bench.  Lowry would shove Seeler into the Jets bench and a fracas ensued as Greenway tried to help Seeler who disappeared among a flurry of bodies.  The officials were able to break up the scrum before it turned into a full-on brawl but considering it appeared the officials were going to call Lowry for his initial elbow the resulting penalties greatly disappointed the home crowd and Wild as well.  Lowry would get a double-minor for roughing while Seeler and Greenway got roughing calls of their own more or less evening the score.  No call was made on the initial elbow which started the whole situation to begin with.  Boudreau was outraged and the crowd rained down boo’s at the officials.  On the very next shift Ryan Suter was getting into his own battle with Nikolaj Ehlers.  Both were taking turns cross checking one another and it looked like they were going to both end up in the penalty box.  Yet as the puck went to the corner where Suter chased it down, Ehlers went for a high hit which got Suter’s arms up as tried to side step the check and it knocked off Ehlers’ helmet giving the Wild defenseman a penalty.  This drew even more boo’s from an already ornery home crowd as the Jets were about to go on the power play.  Minnesota’s penalty kill would again stand tall; thanks in part due to the faceoff prowess of Fehr and the ability of Wild defenders to strip Jets’ players of the puck and clear the zone efficiently.  The Wild would get the big kill and Suter would rejoin the play as Minnesota was on a counter attack making it a 3-on-2.  Minnesota moved into the Jets zone and after an initial shot on goal by Matthew Dumba, Hellebuyck knocked the puck down but a crashing Eric Staal buried it to give the Wild a 3-2 lead.  Hellebuyck wasn’t happy, but he never had control of the puck.  The Jets would pull their goaltender but Minnesota’s defense again stood tall and Zach Parise would seal it with an empty netter giving the Wild a 4-2 victory.
Alex Stalock was excellent, making 26 saves in the victory and while he provided a few tense moments with some of his decisions to play the puck he made some outstanding stops to keep the Wild in the game.  He probably wants the Ehler’s goal back, but beyond that its pretty tough to be the least bit critical of his game.  The Wild penalty kill did surrender one goal, but they also kept the Jets and especially Laine at bey.  I thought Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba and Jared Spurgeon were outstanding tonight.
Offensively, the Wild need to give a few beers to the 3rd and 4th lines.  I felt the bottom 6 were the lines that provided a consistent source of energy and offensive chances when the top 2 lines seemed unable to do much of anything.  Nino Niederreiter’s goal really was the catalyst that got this team playing with some urgency and the fact they also buried the game tying goal demonstrates how they led the way tonight.  I thought the Foligno-Eriksson Ek-Greenway line did a great job at causing havoc and Foligno is really starting to impress me.
This was a huge 4-point swing for the Wild who now gain a little space between themselves and the Jets in the Central Division standings.  Minnesota needs more wins like that against quality opponents and any win over a divisional foe is big.  I liked how the team stood up for itself and yet at the same time didn’t get too carried away where they stopped playing hockey and was overly worried about matching the Jets hit for hit.  Now the team can rest for a few days and get ready for the Arizona Coyotes next week Tuesday.  Life is good!
Wild Notes:
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Eric Fehr, Nino Niederreiter, J.T. Brown, Ryan Stuer, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn.  Kaapo Kahkonen backed up Alex Stalock.  Devan Dubnyk, Nate Prosser and Matt Hendricks were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were:
~ Attendance was 19,116 as Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (11-4-2)  24pts  2nd in the AHL Central
29.2% Power Play (2nd in the AHL)
85.9% Penalty Kill (3rd in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #9 Cal O’Reilly ~ 4G  15A = 19pts
2. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 7G 7A = 14pts
3. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 3G 10A = 13pts
4. #7 Sam Anas ~ 3G 8A = 11pts
5. #10 Gerry Fitzgerald ~ 6G 3A = 9pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 34 PIM’s
2. #37 Hunter Warner ~ 27 PIM’s
3. #26 Matt Read ~ 20 PIM’s
Top Goaltenders:
1. #35 Andrew Hammond (7-3-1)  2.96GAA  .911%SP
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (4-1-1)  .98GAA  .966%SP  3SO
Recent Score: Iowa 2, Milwaukee 3 SO
Like their parent club, Iowa also had a game on Thanksgiving eve against division rival Milwaukee.  Iowa would get out to a good start as alternate captain Mike Liambas redirected a shot from the point by Hunter Warner that beat Troy Grosenick to make it 1-0 Wild.  All good things come to an end, and after nearly 220 minutes of play without surrendering a goal, Kaapo Kahkonen gave up one to Tanner Jeannot tying the game at 1-1.  Iowa was really struggling to stay out of the penalty box and those penalties would catch up to them late in the period as Matt Donovan‘s blast from the point on the man advantage make it 2-1 Milwaukee going into the 1st intermission.  Iowa would tie the game back up in the 2nd on a power play of their own as Cal O’Reilly buried the biscuit after a nice set up by Sam Anas.  Iowa pushed hard for the go ahead goal and through the rest of the 2nd and 3rd period they couldn’t get another puck behind Grosenick and the game would go to overtime.  In overtime, both clubs were playing tight defensively and only managed a few token shots apiece and the game would go to a shootout.  Grosenick was a perfect 3-for-3 in stonewalling Iowa shooters while Kahkonen went 2-for-3, as Justin Kirkland‘s goal would prove to be the game winner.  Kahkonen had 31 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ still playing on CSKA Moscow’s 4th line, he had an assist in their 5-0 win against Ak Bars Kazan last week Tuesday.  Svetlakov has 2 goals, 5 points, 17 PIM’s and is a +7 in 20 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the super skilled Russian had an assist in CSKA Moscow’s 2-1 win over Neftkhimik on Saturday.  Kaprizov has 10 goals, 18 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +22 in 26 games.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Silvertips captain had an assist and 7 shots on goal and went 8-for-24 on his draws in Everett’s 3-2 overtime loss to in-state rival Spokane on Sunday night.  Dewar has 18 goals, 32 points, 27 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating in 20 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ The top pick in 2017 had two helpers in Niagara’s 4-3 loss to Oshawa on Sunday evening which earned him 3rd star honors.  Lodnia has 7 goals, 23 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +4 in 22 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Spirit’s captain had a goal and went 5-of-8 on his draws in Saginaw’s 4-3 overtime win over North Bay on Thanksgiving.  Giroux has 9 goals, 18 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +6 in 22 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian has been on fire lately and he had a goal and two helpers on Tuesday in the Wildcat’s 6-3 win over Quebec.  Khovanov has 15 goals, 32 points, 38 PIM’s and is a +6 in 24 games.


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Brodin's Empty Net Goal Lifts Wild to 3-2 Victory Over Colorado

At the school where I teach at, we are encouraged to share with our students what we are presently reading.  I will admit my reading tastes vary a lot, from historical non-fiction, to science fiction and fantasy novels but perhaps what I read about the most is hockey.  I have been a subscriber to the Hockey News for the last 17 years.  In their most recent issue, they hit me with an article that hit me ‘right in the feels’ as they had with Sal Barry‘s NHL ’94 History.  I love video games and a few years back I had a video game poll and by a slight margin NHL ’94 prevailed.  Yet with all due respect to Barry, the person who should be lauded the most for providing a definitive NHL ’94 history is Chris Alaimo of Classic Gaming Quarterly.  So what does this have to do with tonight’s Wild / Avalanche game?
Tonight’s game could feel like you’re watching someone play NHL ’94.  Lots of hard hits, feisty play and goals.  The Avalanche are young, fast and super skilled and the Wild got owned when the two clubs met during their season opener.  Minnesota looked slow and old, and will no doubt want to rectify that tonight.  Can the Wild even the season series against Colorado?
1st Period Thoughts:  It was not the fast paced up and down the ice affair that it was in the season opener.  But with Colorado playing the 2nd game of a back to back perhaps that’s understandable.  The opening period was more of a chess match as both teams were wary of giving up much in the way of prime scoring chances.  Devan Dubnyk would dismiss a few early opportunities but Colorado would still be the club to break the stalemate.  After a faceoff win by Colorado’s Vladislav Kamenev in the Wild zone, Mark Barberio would step into a slap shot that found its way through a maze of legs and sticks to beat Dubnyk 5-hole.  1-0 Avalanche.  Minnesota seemed to flirt with disaster a couple times with some penalties, but the Wild did a terrific job on the penalty kill at getting sticks and bodies into passing lanes.  The Wild would get a few power plays of their own and they didn’t do much of anything with it.  On the first man advantage, the Wild tried to set up Matthew Dumba repeatedly but Colorado was quick to get bodies into the lane to prevent those shots from ever reaching Semyon Varlamov.  It’d be nice if the Wild would set up a one-timer on the opposite side and let Dumba crash the net for a rebound.  I think Zucker or Staal would be a nice option for something like this.  On the next man advantage the Wild tried to work a few pucks in close, but still most of the shot attempts never got close to Varlamov and Minnesota would come up empty.  The Wild managed just 4 shots on goal; their best chance coming off the stick of Zach Parise on a door-step opportunity that was just a few inches too low to make it over Varlamov’s leg pad.  There was certainly a fair amount of chirping after the whistle, but so far nothing major from a cheap shot perspective.
2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota had a much better 2nd period, working harder to create chances in close on Varlamov.  They’d score early as Mikael Granlund swept up a rebound off a Nino Niederreiter shot and he’d lift a forehand right underneath the crossbar to tie the game at 1-1.  The Wild carried most of the play throughout the period, winning many of the small races to loose pucks and putting a fatigued Colorado team on its heels.  The feistiness was still present as Matt Calvert would chirp with Matthew Dumba but no gloves were dropped.  Minnesota would almost cash in on the next shift after Granlund’s goal as Marcus Foligno crashed the net but Varlamov was able to shut the door on the point-blank-range opportunity.  The only thing that threatened to ruin it all was penalties.  A strange sequence where J.T. Brown was high sticked right in front of the official that wasn’t called and then just seconds later Eric Fehr sent a puck up into the stands only resulted in the Wild being put on the kill for delay of game.  Fortunately the Wild’s penalty kill and Devan Dubnyk were rock solid as he bailed out the club with a terrific save on Mikko Rantanen.  The Wild did a better job at moving the puck but they still had some missed chances that might haunt them.  In particular, a chance off a good zone entry by Charlie Coyle in which he and Matt Read set up Joel Eriksson Ek for a chance in the slot only to watch the youngster fritter the puck away instead of getting a shot off.  Still, its anyone’s game and Minnesota should put on the gas for the 3rd period against a Colorado club that is probably fairly tired at this point.
3rd Period Thoughts:  In the 3rd period the Wild seemed to be in control.  The Wild had more jump in their skates and seemed to be a bit more hungry than Colorado.  Minnesota was spending more and more time in the offensive zone and they were taking every opportunity to put shots on goal.  The persistence would pay off as Nikita Zadorov’s ill-advised high stick on Jason Zucker.  On the man advantage the Wild worked the puck around the perimeter before feeding a pass just beneath the left faceoff dot where Eric Staal sort of flubbed a one-timer but it was enough to find the back of the net.  2-1 Wild.  The Wild continued to apply pressure even after the goal which was good to see for a club that so often is known for hunkering down defensively to try to protect a one-goal lead.  One player who was bringing it was Matt Dumba who got the sellout crowd going with a big open ice hit on Alex Kerfoot.  Dumba would get tagged for a weak tripping call to give the Avalanche a power play with a little over 2 minutes left in regulation.  Colorado wanted maximum offensive pressure and they’d pull Varlamov for an extra attacker right away at the start of the Avalanche power play it would prove to be a crucial mistake.  Just seconds into the power play Jonas Brodin would sweep up a puck and throw a long range backhand shot nearly the full length of the ice that found the back of the net.  3-1 Wild and this would prove to be an important tally.  Colorado kept Varlamov pulled and they’d control the offensive zone, moving the puck around as they set up Nathan MacKinnon who got off a quick shot that was held onto by Dubnyk.  A fracas would ensue after the big save and some more chirping between the clubs.  Colorado would score with about 41 seconds left as Gabriel Landeskog crashed the net and finally managed to chip a puck over a sprawling Devan Dubnyk to cut the Wild lead to one, 3-2.  The Avalanche pushed hard for the equalizer but Minnesota managed to get enough sticks on shots and they’d prevail 3-2.
Devan Dubnyk was again outstanding, making 30 saves in the win.  He was seeing pucks well through traffic and really gave Colorado little to shoot at all game.  Defensively the Wild played with a little fire in around its crease that had been lacking in previous years.  Ryan Suter, Nick Seeler Greg Pateryn, Matthew Dumba and even Jonas Brodin were winning the physical battles this evening.  The penalty kill was perfect against one of the top power play units in the league.
Offensively the Wild was best served when they kept it simple.  It was good seeing the Wild taking pucks to the net, but still some players could stand to pull the trigger more.  Staal’s one timer from the slot area is something I hope we see more on the man advantage as Minnesota’s power play was becoming a one-trick pony as they kept trying to set up Dumba over and over.  He has a great shot, but it simply was too predictable.
This was a big win for the Wild against a Colorado team that had their number last season.  The Wild moved much better and while I would admit I think Colorado was a bit tired coming into this game, Minnesota was moving its feet and arguably had its best effort of the season.  Now the Wild go on a long road trip, but they have some great momentum going for them with their 5th victory in a row.
Wild Notes:
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Joel Eriksson Ek, Charlie Coyle, Matt Read, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn.  Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Nate Prosser was the lone healthy scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Eric Staal, 2nd Star Mikael Granlund, 3rd Star Devan Dubnyk
~ Attendance was 19,093 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 6, Colorado 5 OT
This would be a crazy back and forth game but one that I’m certain delighted the costume clad fans at Des Moines’ Wells-Fargo Arena.  Iowa would get out to a fast start as Justin Kloos scored off a nice feed by Kyle Rau.  Colorado would quickly turn the tables, peppering Andrew Hammond with shots and they’d tie the game a few minutes later as Andrew Agozzino scored to make it 1-1.  Almost 30 seconds later Iowa would answer back as Luke Kunin found the twine behind Spencer Martin giving the Wild a 2-1 advantage.  Iowa would add to its lead just 15 seconds later as Gerry Fitzgerald finished off a pretty give and go with Mason Shaw.  3-1 Iowa.  Yet Colorado would answer back less than 20 seconds later as the Eagles’ David Warsofsky rifled a shot from the point that beat ‘the Hamburglar.’  A few minutes later Ryan Graves blasted another shot from the perimeter that beat a well-screened Hammond to make the game 3-3 going into the first intermission.  In the 2nd period, the play was more defensive in nature and Iowa would take the lead on a shorthanded goal by Gerald Mayhew off a nice pass by Colton Beck.  4-3 Iowa going into the 3rd.  In the 3rd, the game would get crazy again as Colorado struck twice in a matter of 27 seconds mid-way through the period to take a 5-4 lead.  Iowa would tie the game back up a minute later on Kunin’s 2nd goal of the night.  Colorado would take a costly faceoff violation penalty in the closing seconds which would give Iowa a power play to start off overtime.  In overtime, the Wild used an all forward group consisting of Kloos, Rau, Sam Anas and Cal O’Reilly.  O’Reilly would make a perfect set up pass for Kloos to blast home a one-timer that gave Iowa a dramatic 6-5 victory.  Hammond had 50 saves in the win, while Rau finished with two helpers on the night.  Kunin led Iowa with 6 shots on goal.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ The freshman is getting top-line ice time and making the most of it as he netted a hat trick in the Huskies’ 7-0 demolition of Boston College on Thursday night.  Hentges has 4 goals, 6 points, 10 PIM’s in 5 games this season.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ The skilled Russian continues to be a leader offensively for the Wildcats as he lit the lamp in their 4-3 shootout victory over Acadie-Bathurst.  Khonvanov has 8 goals, 16 points, 20 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating through 14 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Gatineau, QMJHL) ~ the power forward continues his strong start as he chipped in a goal and an assist Gatineau’s 5-4 overtime loss to Blainville-Boisbriand.  The Terrebonne, Quebec-native has 9 goals, 19 points 4 PIM’s and is a +4 in 15 games.
LW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the Florida-native found the back of the net twice on 6 shots in the Friars 5-0 pasting of Hockey East rival Boston University on Friday.  Duhaime has 2 goals, 6 PIM’s and is a +3 in 6 games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the Lakeville South-native had a goal and an assist in Bulldogs 3-2 win over Notre Dame on Friday.  Swaney has a goal, 5 points in 7 games this season.


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Dubnyk and Late Penalty Kill Stands Tall To Deliver 4-1 Wild Victory Over Los Angeles

After last week where the Wild played in two back-to-backs, Head Coach Bruce Boudreau decided to give his club two days off before coming back to the rink to prepare for tonight’s game against Los Angeles.  What would you do with two days off from your job?  Spend more time with family?  Get some errands done around the house?  Binge watching your favorite show?  Its probably less dramatic than that.  Maybe enjoying a rare opportunity to take the kids to school during the season which may not seem like a big deal to many, but for professional athletes who miss those mundane parent moments they cherish the chance to do so.
The Los Angeles Kings have struggled out of the gate, with issues similar to the Wild in regards to team speed.  Can Minnesota continue to steadily climb the Central Division ladder with another win on home ice or will the Kings reign supreme?
1st Period Thoughts:  The period kind of reminded me of a 3-day old donut.  It may look like a donut, but when you take a bite into it only has a fleeting moment where it feels like the sweet treat you were hoping for.  Beyond that, it missing the mark.  Sort of like the Minnesota Wild early on who were resorting to area passes far too often making for easy turnovers by the Los Angeles Kings.  Los Angeles would turn a puck over near the Wild blueline and Tyler Toffoli was stopped at close range by Devan Dubnyk.  The Kings kept peppering Dubnyk with shots as the Wild were doing a lot of standing, watching and reaching in their own zone.  Minnesota would start attempt to go on the attack, but bad passes and poor decisions often meant they weren’t even able to get a shot off.  Tempers also started to flair as Kyle Clifford seemed to be head hunting early as he narrowly missed Marcus Foligno with a big hit.  A few shifts later he’d trip up Jordan Greenway which caused Nick Seeler to step in and Clifford would oblige.  It wasn’t much of a fight with Clifford throwing a few punches before Seeler wrestled him to the ice.  I’ll give Clifford the win simply because he actually threw a punch.  Later in the period Zach Parise would get into it with Dion Phaneuf who cross checked and slashed the Wild alternate captain as the two stood and chirped at one another.  No fight ensued, but Parise and Phaneuf would both sit in the box for two minutes which was probably Phaneuf’s idea in the first place.  Minnesota would score late in the period as Eric Fehr got knocked down while trying to crash the net and the puck would go off the sliding forward and into the goal behind Jack Campbell before they knocked the net off of its moorings.  The play would be reviewed, but ultimately ruled a good goal as Jake Muzzin clearly tripped up Fehr on his way to the net.  1-0 Wild on Fehr’s goal from J.T. Brown and Ryan Suter who now has officially played in his 1000th NHL game.  It wasn’t a pretty period, but neither club seems to have a lot of speed.  The Wild out shot the Kings 7-6.  The Wild looked pretty sluggish for having a few days off before this game.
2nd Period Thoughts:  It seems like I’ve been saying this a lot this season, but Minnesota showed vast improvement in the 2nd period.  Minnesota was moving its feet better, dictating the pace of play and generating more high quality scoring chances than the Kings did.  Los Angeles still had some close opportunities as Nate Thompson had a puck bounce over his stick as he was looking at a mostly open Wild goal.  Minnesota would draw a power play when Drew Doughty cross checked Parise to the ice.  After the call was made, Doughty went crazy as he argued with the official on his way to the penalty box.  On the man advantage, the Wild moved the puck well as they set up Jason Zucker for a wicked one-timer from the right faceoff circle that Jack Campbell was able to able to steer to the corner.  Minnesota controlled the puck and wore down the Kings penalty killers but not many shots would reach Campbell and they’d escape still down by a goal.  The Wild would persist and after a quick counter attack Charlie Coyle would set up Jonas Brodin for a quick shot that beat Campbell.  It was a soft-ish goal, but the Wild were happy to take it. 2-0 Wild.  Minnesota would continue to attack and they came dangerously close to adding to their lead as Zucker kept poking at a puck from in close until it snuck through Campbell’s pads but Coyle wasn’t able to tap it in.  The Wild had to feel better about its effort even though they were being out shot 15-16.
3rd Period Thoughts:  When the Wild allowed a goal fairly early in the 3rd period on a bad turnover by Seeler when Kyle Clifford sniped a shot off the rush.  2-1 Wild you had to wonder if the home team was somehow going to find a way to push this game into overtime.  Luckily that didn’t happen, but it came damn close.  Especially as the Wild more or less took 3 back-to-back dumb penalties in the last 6 minutes to put the Kings on the man advantage.  Perhaps Greenway’s initial cross-checking penalty was just the result of a battle on the ice, but after that it was a combination of laziness and lack of awareness of the league’s rules.  The latter being an interference penalty taken by Greenway who played the puck before he had completely left the penalty box which a no-no according to league rules.  Greenway was clearly caught by surprise by the call, but luckily for him the Wild were able to kill the penalty thanks to some strong plays on the puck by Fehr and Foligno.  Soon after they killed Greenway’s 2nd penalty the Wild would go back on the kill as Eric Staal lifted a puck up into the stands.  With just over two minutes left in the game the Kings would pull Campbell in order to have a 6-on-4 advantage as they pushed for the equalizer.  Minnesota outbattled the Kings for the loose pucks and were able to clear the zone and eventually they’d be rewarded as Mikael Granlund connected on a long range clear that found the empty net.  3-1 Wild.  A few moments later the Wild would intercept a pass in the neutral zone and Mikko Koivu would add an exclamation point with another empty net tally to seal a 4-1 victory.
Devan Dubnyk was again terrific, making 23 saves in the victory.  He never gave the Kings any hope and he had good help from his defense to clear away dangerous pucks.  The penalty kill was outstanding; with Eric Fehr who had a tremendous game clearing the zone.  The penalty kill down the stretch effectively sealed the win tonight.
Offensively the Wild didn’t have a ton of shots on goal, but they took their chances to pull the trigger when they had the opportunity and it was enough to prevail this evening.  Zucker, Parise continue to be the main offensive workhorses up front with their speed and hustle.  Granlund has been heating up as well and even though its an empty netter it helped put the game away and kill any chance for this one to crawl into overtime.
This was an important win for the Wild against a team it should beat.  As slow as the Wild are, the Kings may be slower and that probably helped Minnesota this evening.  Now the Wild have to regroup and get ready for one of the fastest teams in Colorado on Saturday.
Wild Notes:
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Matt Read, Jordan Greenway, J.T. Brown, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Greg Pateryn and Nick Seeler.  Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Nate Prosser and Joel Eriksson Ek were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Ryan Suter, 2nd Star Marcus Foligno, 3rd Star Jonas Brodin
~ Attendance was 18,778 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ Crease And Assist: A Legally Compliant Hockey Blog would like to congratulate Ryan Suter on playing in his 1000th NHL game this evening.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ The Spirit’s captain is heating up offensively as he had a goal and was 8-of-12 on his draws in Saginaw’s 6-0 rout of in-state rival Flint.  Giroux has 7 goals, 12 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +9 in 12 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian had a goal in Moncton’s 7-2 win over Shawinigan on Saturday night.  On Sunday he followed that up with a 2-goal effort that earned him 1st star honors as he tallied the game winner in their 5-4 win over Rimouski.  Khovanov has 7 goals, 15 points, 20 PIM’s and is a +1 in 12 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Gatineau, QMJHL) ~ the big power forward earned 1st star honors registering a goal and an assist in Gatineau’s 4-3 overtime loss to Val ‘d Or on Sunday.  On Wednesday, the Olympiques-star had a goal and and an assist in Gatineau’s 4-1 win over Victoriaville.  Boudrias has 8 goals, 17 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +2 in 14 games.
D – Niklas Johansson (Karlskrona, Allsvenskan) ~ The late-bloomer is having a strong start to the season registering a goal, 11 points which is 12th best among all skaters in the Allsvenskan league which is Swedish minor league circuit.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the Wild’s top draft pick from 2017 had a goal in Niagara’s 3-0 win over Peterborough.  Lodnia has 5 goals, 14 points, 8 PIM’s and is a -2 in 13 games.


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Penalties, Poor Effort Early On Haunts Wild in 5-4 Overtime Loss to Carolina

There was a collective sigh of relief on Thursday night as the Minnesota Wild rallied to a 4-3 overtime victory over division rival Chicago.  While it felt good to win, the Wild certainly had their moments where they looked uninspired and slow which has been a disturbing theme early this season.  Yet, at the same time they certainly showed more urgency and determination to create scoring chances in close which is a better formula for success than simply settling for shots from the perimeter.
Minnesota is hoping to follow up that success as the Carolina Hurricanes come to town.  The Hurricanes are young, fast and appear to be re-energized under new Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour and that has pushed them atop of the Metropolitan Division.  The Wild struggled mightily against Vegas and Colorado which are two of the faster teams in the West, will they fare better against one of the faster clubs from the East?
1st Period Thoughts:  Since its ’80’s night at Xcel Energy Center I’ll stick with the theme.  The 1st period was sort of like the scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris’ dad gets stuck behind an old lady driver who swerves back and forth so much he couldn’t even pass her.  Don’t remember the scene?  Let me help.

This is pretty much like how the Wild played throughout most of the period.  Slow, wayward and frustratingly ineffective.  Poor lazy passes, no cohesion just on the ice turning the puck over and spending most of the period chasing the Hurricanes’ skaters around the Minnesota zone.  Carolina was peppering Devan Dubnyk with shots.  Minnesota was so discombobulated, their main strategy was to just try to skate it across the red line, dump it in and change.  It was that bad.  Carolina would light the lamp first as an absence of puck support allowed the Hurricanes to enter the Wild zone with speed where they sent a puck on goal that Dubnyk stopped but would be pushed in off the knee of a crashing Jordan Staal.  The ‘NHL War Room’ would review the play but rule that the goal should stand since Staal wasn’t pushed into the crease.  Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau challenged the call on the grounds of ‘goaltender interference’ but ultimately the officials overruled the challenge and the goal would stand.  1-0 Carolina.  It was a ludicrous challenge by Boudreau who was more likely to find Al Capone‘s Vault than the ruling he was hoping for.  The physical play would intensify as Matthew Dumba hip checked Valentin Zykov hard into the boards.  Minnesota’s penchant for dishing out open ice hits would draw the ire of Carolina and Brett Pesce would go after Mikael Granlund and earn a roughing penalty in the process giving the Wild its first power play of the game.  On the man advantage, the Wild would find the back of the net as Minnesota moved the puck quickly around the perimeter to set up Jared Spurgeon for a shot from the point that Curtis McElhinney juggled which gave Charlie Coyle the chance to pounce on the rebound.  1-1 game despite the fact the Wild were being out shot 22-5.  Minnesota’s one bright spot was the performance of its penalty kill where the Wild killed off nearly a minute of 5-on-3 power play and one late just before the end of the 1st to take their tie into the 1st intermission.  It has to get better right?  I seriously don’t want to reference Howard the Duck in the 2nd period.
2nd Period Thoughts:  I know I threatened to reference Howard the Duck, but that seems like too fine of a film to compare Minnesota’s 2nd period travesty.  Maybe Weekend at Bernie‘s is a better choice since the Wild’s effort (at least from its skaters) was about as high energy as a dead body.  Minnesota had no jump and Dubnyk was forced to make some outstanding saves to keep his team in the game including a diving save to stop Justin Faulk.  The Wild would eventually start moving the puck out of the zone but couldn’t seem to handle it long enough in the offensive end to direct almost any shots on McElhinney who appeared bored out of his mind.  Like that dead corpse, the Wild continued to just chip pucks into the neutral zone where they became easy turnovers for Carolina to pounce on.  Minnesota would draw a power play late in the period as Andrei Svechnikov hooked Spurgeon.  But the power play would last a whopping 9 seconds before Jason Zucker would kill it off with an ill advised slash and then berate NHL referee Steve Kozari who slapped him with an additional 2-minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.  The penalty proved costly as the Hurricanes swarmed all over the Wild zone before Brett Pesce redirected a Sebastian Aho shot up and over the shoulder of Dubnyk.  2-1 Carolina.  Minnesota would kill off the remainder of Zucker’s penalty but the damage had been done and the Wild ended another period in miserable fashion as they were outshot 37-8 to this point in the game.  Perhaps a telling sign of Wild fan expectations, there were no boo’s for another atrocious effort on the ice.  They’re either very easily entertained or they don’t care enough to air their frustrations.
3rd Period Thoughts:  The 3rd period was more entertaining but it was still pretty lousy as the Wild continued to see how many more slashing penalties Steve Kozari would call.  Minnesota would take the lead early in the period as a power play gave the Wild some time and space and Mikael Granlund set up Zucker for a one-timer he blasted by McElhinney.  3-2 Wild.  Unfortunately the Wild couldn’t stay out of the box as they kept taking slashing penalties.  Carolina would appear to miss on a golden chance as Aho fanned on an open net, but later in the power play he’d pounce on a big rebound given up by Dubnyk and tie it up at 3-3.  The game appeared to be destined for overtime when Mikael Granlund somehow snuck a shot by McElhinney just a fraction of a second before he hugged the post.  4-3 Wild.  Game over right?  Nope as the Wild’s penalty problems gave Carolina additional chances and they’d pull McElhinney for an extra attacker and they’d cash in as Justin Williams shoveled home his 1st goal of the season tying the game at 4 and sending it to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts:  In over time the Wild seemed to forget that the one spark they had skating-wise was Jason Zucker and Bruce Boudreau kept sending out the old veterans which was a recipe for disaster.  Zach Parise would skate the puck into the Carolina zone, turn to buy time for help and lose the puck in the process.  The Hurricanes would counter attack and before Parise could catch up, Sebastian Aho blasted a shot by Dubnyk.  5-4 Hurricanes win.
Devan Dubnyk again had a terrific night, making 52 saves in the loss.  He certainly was not to blame for tonight’s result.  He kept Minnesota in the game when they had absolutely no reason being in it at all.  The penalty kill was leaned on far too often due to poor discipline and an inability to adjust to the officials calls.  They had to kill off 9 penalties this evening.  You can’t do that and expect your goaltender to bail them out everytime.  Minnesota needs to stay out of the box and move their damn legs.
Offensively the Wild was rewarded quite a bit considering how one sided the game was from a shots perspective.  Nino Niederreiter is a turnover machine.  It is incredibly annoying watching him try to dangle and just lose pucks over and over with little idea of what he’s really trying to accomplish.  The only Wild player that seems dangerous on the majority of his shifts this season is Jason Zucker.  The rest of the team’s forwards appear sluggish and slow.
Minnesota gave up the most shots on home ice in its history with the 57 shots the Hurricanes sent on goal this evening.  The Wild didn’t deserve to even get a ‘mercy’ point and the shame is they had a pretty good chance to come away with 2 points in this one.  The Wild look old, slow and more than a few of its older forwards seem to be a shadow of what they were just a season ago.  Carolina is young and fast and again the Wild looked unable to really keep up.  Its tough to see much hope with this current squad.  Hopefully they give us reason to be less pessimistic on Monday in Nashville.
Wild Notes:
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jordan Greenway, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Matt Hendricks, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn.  Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Nate Prosser was the lone healthy scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Jared Spurgeon, 3rd Star Sebastian Aho
~ Attendance was 18,715 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 4, Texas 3 SO
Iowa is off to its best start in its history and that continued on Friday night in Des Moines.  It was a defensive battle in the opening period against these two divisional rivals.  Both the Stars’ Landon Bow and Iowa’s Andrew Hammond were sharp and the period would end in a scoreless tie.  Iowa would break the stalemate early in the 2nd as Ryan Murphy found a little space and he’d wire a shot by Bow.  1-0 Iowa.  Texas answered right back less than a minute later as Adam Mascherin tied it up.  The Stars would then take the lead a few minutes later as Gavin Bayreuther scored to make it 2-1 Texas.  Iowa would tie it back up a few minutes later as alternate captain Mike Liambas scored his 2nd goal of the season off a rebound on a Gerry Fitzgerald shot.  With the game knotted at 2-2 going into the 3rd Iowa would take the lead as Fitzgerald’s hot start to the season continued as he used his speed to wrap a shot by Bow.  3-2 Iowa.  The Stars would pour it on for the equalizer and they’d tie the game with just 9 seconds left in regulation sending the game to overtime.  In overtime Texas carried most of the play but Hammond stood tall and the game went to a shootout.  Sam Anas would be the lone skater to find the back of the net in the shootout and Iowa would skate away to its 3rd straight victory.  Hammond had 30 saves in the win.  Kyle Rau led Iowa with 5 shots on goal to go along with a helper and Anas had 4 shots of his own.
Wild Prospect Report:
G – Dereck Baribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ The big goaltender made 30 saves in the Remparts’ 6-2 win over Cape Breton on Thursday night.  Baribeau is 4-3 on the season with a 2.54 goals against average and an .907% save percentage.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the Bulldogs survived a late-game scare from Michigan Tech as Swaney chipped in a helper in their 2-1 victory.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ The Pas, Manitoba-native had a monster game on Friday night as he had 2 goals, 2 assists and with 8 shots on goal in Everett’s 5-3 win over Edmonton.  Dewar has 6 goals, 11 points, 8 PIM’s and is a -3 in 7 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian lit the lamp, but he was an awful 3 of 17 on his draws as Moncton lost 6-5 in a shootout to Rouyn-Noranda on Friday.  Khovanov has 4 goals, 8 points, 14 PIM’s in 8 games.


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Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Carolina Hurricanes 10/13/18 @ 7:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Minnesota Wild (1-1-1)  3pts  7th in the Central
2.0 Goals For Per Game
2.7 Goals Against Per Game
0% Power Play
81.8% Penalty Kill
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 2G 1A = 3pts
2. #11 Zach Parise ~ 1G 2A = 3pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 1G 2A = 3pts
4. #12 Eric Staal ~ 1G 2A = 3pts
5. #24 Matthew Dumba ~ 1G 0A = 1pt
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 5 PIM’s
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 2 PIM’s
3. #29 Greg Pateryn ~ 2 PIM’s
Top Goaltenders:
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (1-1-1)  1.93GAA  .945%SP
2. #32 Alex Stalock N/A
 
 
Vs.
 
 
Carolina Hurricanes (3-0-1)  7pts  1st in the Metropolitan
4.3 Goals For Per Game
2.8 Goals Against Per Game
10% Power Play
71.4% Penalty Kill
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #20 Sebastian Aho ~ 2G 4A = 6pts
2. #79 Michael Ferland ~ 2G 3A = 5pts
3. #11 Jordan Staal ~ 3G 2A = 5pts
4. #37 Andrei Svechnikov ~ 2G 2A = 4pts
5. #14 Justin Williams ~ 0G 4A = 4pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #44 Calvin de Haan ~ 4 PIM’s
2. #79 Michael Ferland ~ 4 PIM’s
3. #14 Justin Williams ~ 4 PIM’s
Top Goaltenders:
1. #34 Petr Mrazek (1-0-1)  3.53GAA  .841%SP
2. #35 Curtis McElhinney (2-0-0)  2.00  .930%SP
Lines:
Carolina Hurricanes
Ferland~Aho~Teravainen
Foegele~Jo. Staal~Williams
McGinn~Necas~DiGiuseppe
Martinook~Wallmark~Svechnikov
Slavin~Hamilton
de Haan~Faulk
Fleury~Pesce
Mrazek
McElhinney
Minnesota Wild
Zucker~Staal~Eriksson Ek
Parise~Koivu~Granlund
Niederreiter~Greenway~Coyle
Foligno~Fehr~Brown
Suter~Dumba
Brodin~Spurgeon
Seeler~Pateryn
Dubnyk
Stalock
Welcome (back) to the 1980s.
Depending on the age of those reading this, the 1980s can mean many things. You may have been old enough to be raising a family of your own. Or, you were in elementary school, high school, or college. And then there are those of you who weren’t even born yet. For myself, when the decade started, I was 3 going on 4, and most of the decade was spent in elementary school. For those of us old enough to remember the decade, it was about the fashions (some of it pretty questionable) and the music. There are some classic albums that came out during the decade, I think of Thriller by Michael Jackson and Purple Rain by Minnesota’s own native son, Prince. Along with the music of the 1980s came the birth of music videos and in particular MTV on cable television. It brought our musicians into our homes on a regular basis, which if you lived in the middle of no where, were hundreds of miles away from one of the major cities where bands made tour stops, you could finally see them perform. Sure, it wasn’t live, but it was one step closer to seeing your favorite singer or band. While the song I think best defines the 1980s as a whole was written in 1979, it was the song and video that christened MTV’s debut. I give you the Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star. 

For Minnesota hockey fans, the 1980s weren’t exactly something to write home about. With the exception of the Minnesota North Stars making the Stanley Cup Finals in 1981, there wasn’t much to write home about. Now mind you, in that decade they missed the playoffs only two seasons, 1986-87 and 1987-88. However, let’s keep in mind you had to be really horrible to not make the playoffs back then. Don’t believe me, just look at their record in the 1990-91 season where they also lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Many of those appearance were ended in the first or second round. With the exception of the Cup final season of 1980-81, they only made it past the second round in the 1983-84 season. And of course the 1980s took us into the 1990s which led to the ultimate demise of the North Stars. But with that in mind, the Minnesota Wild have decided to host a 1980s themed game today. For those of you heading to the game today, you will be gifted with a “puzzle cube” or as you better know them, a Rubik’s cube. So pull out your hair band wigs, your Aquanet, and your leg warmers. Perhaps certain slower players should don some leg warmers to keep their legs a bit more limber. With the age and slowness of this team, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
I know there are plenty of people out there who are still riding high on Thursday night’s win against Chicago. Yes, it felt good to get the first win of the season, but let’s not pat ourselves on the back and start planning the parade route because we beat Chicago. That was a Chicago team that missed the playoffs last season altogether and are also not the same Chicago teams that won the Stanley Cup. This Chicago team is a mere shadow of its former greatness. Sure, they still have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but even they’re getting older. However, Chicago’s fourth line certainly had more pep than Minnesota’s, yet that could be addressed by calling up players like Kyle Rau and Justin Kloos from Iowa. No, this isn’t a ploy to get more “one of us” players on the team. It’s simply that they have far more speed than say Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, and J.T. Brown. The NHL has become a league of speed, but for whatever reason, the Minnesota Wild haven’t gotten that memo (or they’ve chosen to ignore it). On many nights, it feels like the only spark of speed this team has is Jason Zucker. It’s going to be a long season if we have to rely on one player to sprint up the ice to try and create something. 
Today’s opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes are looking pretty good out of the starting gate. They’re boasting a 3-0-1 record, which compared to the Wild’s 1-1-1 record, it’s certainly much better. The test will be whether or not the Hurricanes can continue on that pace, or at least a respectable one. Not only are the Hurricanes playing well, this is actually their best start to the season in team history, since they’ve been in Raleigh. The only season the franchise posted a better start was in the 1995-96 season when they were still the Hartford Whalers. I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the afternoon game, as I feel they often don’t bode well for the Wild. But perhaps it’s the kind of “out of the ordinary” kind of game that will help get this team out of their funk. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it will be enough to start them on a long winning streak, but this team has become rather monotonous that maybe they need something different. Eric Staal’s brother Jordan Staal like his team, is off to a good start as well. In five games played, Jordan has 3 goals and two assists. But the first step in trying to build on Thursday night’s win is to not spot your opponent two goals relatively early in the game. When you’re struggling, you can’t afford to give goals to the opposition and then have to dig yourself out of your self-dug hole. Sure, it can create some drama and a good byline for the writers, but I’d rather not have to watch the continual need for rallies night after night.
So as we relish in the decade of the youth of many of use, and we sign along to Video Killed the Radio Star, I have to think, wouldn’t it be nice if it was RADIO that killed the video star. Like many fans, I know for sure I much prefer Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid doing the game on the radio over Anthony LaPanta and Mike Greenlay on television. One can dream, because to quote another 80s class “sweet dreams are made of this.”


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Late Period Goals Spark Wild Rally For 4-3 Overtime Win Against Chicago

The hockey buzzards are circling.  Fans and writers are shifting their eyes nervously as they consider how outplayed the Minnesota Wild have been in their first two games.  The coaching staff seems to be at a loss for an explanation which is not what you want to hear at this point in the year, just two games into the 2018-19 season.  It would be like hearing your doctor noticing some mark on your body and saying, “whoa, I have no idea what that is.”
So with a fanbase hoping, desperately, for this team to show that the first two games were an aberration their old nemesis comes to St. Paul in the Chicago Blackhawks.  As much as experts were dismissive of the Wild before the start of season, most of them were even more harsh towards Chicago.  However, at this point the Blackhawks have found a way to win their first two games.  Can the Wild earn its first win of the season against is rival?
1st Period Thoughts:  Normally when the Minnesota Wild play the Chicago Blackhawks, you can feel the energy of the home fans as we play our natural rival.  However, most of the 1st period could be personified by the near silent home crowd as they watched their club again struggle to stay with Chicago through the first few minutes.  The one player that did show up for Minnesota was Joel Eriksson Ek who was flying around the ice trying to make things happen.  Jason Zucker was moving fairly well too, and he’d use his speed on a partial breakaway only to be denied by Cam Ward.  Chicago wasn’t even really swarming and Minnesota spent nearly a minute chasing around its own zone.  Devan Dubnyk was facing a fair amount of shots early as the Jonathan Toews, Dominik Kahun, Alex DeBrincat line was giving Minnesota fits in its own end.  DeBrincat would find the back of the net first as a turnover near the blueline by Jonathan Toews made for an easy set up.  1-0 Chicago to an apathetic response to the home crowd.  Minnesota didn’t have any answer as Chicago would add to its lead 3 minutes as Toews made a pass from down low to Kahun who fired a shot top corner for his 1st NHL goal.  2-0 Chicago.  Minnesota looked slow, but making matters worse were inaccurate passing all over the ice that thwarted potential Wild rushes before they even had a chance to start.  The Wild crowd seemed to be contemplating leaving as the period wore on.  Minnesota would try to rally back as they crashed the net a few times but Ward was able to keep the puck out of the net.  The Wild were still showing signs of being unlucky as well as Eric Staal fanned on a near open net late in the period and while it gave fans a reason to wake up a bit, the fact they couldn’t bury the biscuit only fueled the growing pessimism surrounding this year’s squad.  Minnesota was out shot Chicago 16-11 but all that matters is the fact Chicago leads 2-0.  The Wild did have a power play, for about 9 seconds before Mikko Koivu got tagged for hooking to negate the man advantage.  In a way it sort of captures the spirit of this game so far, potentially hopeful for about 9 seconds and then its back to a whole lot of nothing.
2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild started the 2nd period much the way they ended the 1st period.  Trying to work pucks in close but unable to cash in as Charlie Coyle was denied on a chance from the slot by Ward.  Moments after that it was Mikael Granlund stealing a puck in the Blackhawks’ end and having time and space to let go a great shot only to dive and miss the net completely.  Chicago appeared to ease up a bit and the Wild were showing a bit more desperation as they were forcing turnovers and activating their defense a lot.  However through the first half of the period it wasn’t generating a ton of shots with only about 4 shots to their credit.  Minnesota would persist and they’d finally cash in as Jason Zucker worked a puck back to Staal who buried it just inside the post.  Chicago still held onto a 2-1 lead but the goal would wake up the sleepy sellout crowd and Minnesota appeared to feed off the energy.  Chicago’s defense was having problems turning the puck over and Minnesota continued to apply pressure and with just 2.8 seconds left in the period it was Staal setting up Zucker who rifled it home tying the game at 2-2.  It was a much better overall effort from the Wild, but we are playing against Chicago.  The same Chicago squad most experts have picked to finish last in the division so its tough to get too excited at this point.  A big 3rd period coming up for the Wild, which almost seems ridiculous to say at this point in the season.
3rd Period Thoughts:  A lazy penalty by Eric Fehr would put Minnesota in a bad spot to start the 3rd as Chicago was able to capitalize on the power play on DeBrincat’s 2nd goal of the night.  3-2 Chicago.  Minnesota didn’t seem to have a lot of energy after Chicago’s early goal and the Blackhawks were content to force the Wild to the perimeter and the Wild were willing to settle for shots from the blueline.  That meant Cam Ward wasn’t tested all that much.  Minnesota would wait until there was less than 5 minutes left in the game before they started to pour it on.  Unfortunately a penalty on Mikael Granlund late in the 3rd would put Minnesota a man down in the final two minutes.  Minnesota would struggle to get the puck out of the zone to be able to pull Dubnyk for an extra attacker.  Zach Parise worked the puck down low and he would send a puck back out front towards the Chicago crease and a crashing Ryan Suter tapped it by Ward tying the game with under 30 seconds left in regulation.
Overtime Thoughts:  Minnesota started overtime, down a man for the first 40 seconds of OT.  The Wild did a decent job of forcing Chicago to settle for shots from the perimeter for the remainder of the 4-on-3 power play.  Dubnyk would make a save to put overtime back to 3-on-3.  The Wild poured it on in overtime as Zucker used his speed to create a great opportunity but Ward would hold on to keep it tied at 3.  Moments later a foiled bid by Chicago was transitioned out of the zone by Suter up to Zucker who skated in all alone to beat Ward with a backhander, 5-hole to give Minnesota its first win of the season, 4-3.
Devan Dubnyk was again fairly solid, making 27 saves in the victory.  He had a few clutch stops early on when the Wild offense was still hibernating.  Defensively the Wild did a better job of blocking shots and limiting Chicago’s chances.  I thought Jared Spurgeon and Matthew Dumba played well this evening.
Offensively the team kept it simple and crashed the net and their persistence was rewarded as they pumped 40+ shots on goal this evening.  Of course it didn’t hurt playing against a pretty suspect Chicago defense.  Minnesota’s persistence and desperation certainly was on display as the Wild was not being picky with shots and throwing just about anything they could on goal.
The win most likely brought about a big sigh of relief for a lot of fans, but let’s keep the win in perspective.  Most pundits picked Chicago to finish last in the division and the Wild nearly lost this game.  Minnesota should beat Chicago.  You could even sense the relief in the players in their post-game interviews, so its obvious the pressure was mounting on this group.  It will be interesting to see if they can follow this up with another win on Saturday against Carolina.
Wild Notes:
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, J.T. Brown, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn.  Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Matt Hendricks and Nate Prosser were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Jason Zucker, 2nd Star Alex DeBrincat, 3rd Star Ryan Suter
~ Attendance was 18,652 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ J.T. Brown wore #23 this evening, joining Gustav Olofsson, Pavel Patera, Jason Marshall, Scott Ferguson, Jason Morgan, Cody Almond, Petr Kalus, Eric Nystrom and Sean Bergenheim in having worn the number for the Minnesota Wild.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 8, Manitoba 1
Iowa haven’t had a lot of success over the years but perhaps things are changing as the Wild were about to have a game for the ages on Sunday afternoon.  Iowa would take advantage of a turnover in the Moose’s zone and Gerry Fitzgerald beat Eric Comrie short side.  1-0 Iowa.  Iowa’s speed was causing Manitoba trouble throughout most of the period and they’d score on the man advantage as Ryan Murphy stepped into a one-timer that Comrie had no chance on.  2-0 Wild.  The Moose would cut the lead back to one as Kristian Reichel finds the twine behind Andrew Hammond on a shot from the slot.  This was as close as it got for Manitoba.  Iowa would pour it on in the 2nd period as Hammond found Louie Belpedio with a long outlet pass and the former Miami Redhawks’ captain found Colton Beck with a pass for a pretty finish.  3-1 Iowa.  Iowa would light the lamp a few minutes later as Eric Martinsson‘s shot from the point was redirected by Kyle Rau that eluded Comrie.  4-1 Iowa.  The Wild wasn’t done there as Beck would score his 2nd of the night on a pretty play out front making it 5-1 Iowa going into the 3rd period.  Hoping for a rally, the Moose would swap out Comrie for Ken Appleby but it wouldn’t get any better for Manitoba.  In the 3rd period, Iowa would continued to apply pressure that put Moose in the box and they’d add three more goals as Mike Liambas, Gerald Mayhew and Mason Shaw would each light the lamp to give the Wild an 8-1 rout.  It was the most goals scored in a home game in team history.  Hammond had 26 saves in the victory.
New Iowa Wild Head Coach Tim Army talked to play by play broadcaster Joe O’Donnell about practices and you might recognize the person who asked him a question in this #AskArmy segment.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Nick Boka (Michigan, Big 10) ~ the senior defenseman played on the Wolverines’ 2nd pairing and registered his first point of the season, an assist in Michigan’s 5-2 loss to Vermont.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the small-ish center had the game winning goal in the Spirit’s 4-3 win over Erie on Saturday.  Giroux has 2 goals, 4 points, and is a +4 in 7 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Gatineau, QMJHL) ~ the big power forward’s strong start continued on Saturday as he chipped in two helpers in the Olympiques’ 7-4 win over Cape Breton.  On Wednesday night Boudrias chipped in an assist in Gatineau’s 3-2 shootout loss to Moncton which included a penalty shot in overtime that he failed to convert on.  Boudrias has 5 goals, 12 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +9 in 8 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMHL) ~ After going 12 of 19 on his draws, he also added an assist in Moncton’s 3-1 win over Blainville-Boisbriand on Saturday.  He followed up Saturday’s performance with a better effort on Sunday where he had a goal and two helpers in the Wildcat’s 8-1 rout of Acadie-Bathurst.  He did not fare quite as well on Wednesday with 2 PIM’s and missed his shootout attempt in the Wildcats’ 3-2 win over Gatineau.  The feisty Russian forward has 3 goals, 7 points and 14 PIM’s in 7 games this season.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ The talented Russian is heating up with a 2 goal performance in CSKA’s 5-1 win over HC Dynamo last night.  Kaprizov has 8 goals, 12 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +8 in 16 games this season.


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Disturbing Trends Continue in Minnesota's 2-1 shootout loss to Vegas

The home opener.  Breaking out the jerseys and other Wild paraphanalia and heading off to the arena or local drinking hole to celebrate with your fellow fans.  It is supposed to be a time of excitement, full of the festive moments at the arrival of another season.  I have little doubt the fans will show up, but what sort of a team will they see?
Will they see the team that mostly failed to show up against Colorado on Thursday?  I am sure the thousands of fans that are paying top dollar to see the 2018-19 version of the club are hoping the real Minnesota Wild arrive this evening.  Vegas is also hoping to avenge a sub-par effort of their own.  Which team will rebound with a victory in St. Paul?
1st Period Thoughts:  Compared to Thursday, the opening period of hockey was an improvement.  At least a little bit as Minnesota seemed to moving its feet more than it did in Denver.  However, it was also evident that the Wild were not as fast team-wise as Vegas.  The pace was frantic, but Minnesota struggled to demonstrate much cohesion as breakout passes were often not on target and the Wild were only able to generate shots from the perimeter.  The Golden Knights seemed to want to keep the tempo high as they could tell the Wild were scrambling and playing rope-a-dope in their own end.  Devan Dubnyk had to make a few saves early on as he denied William Karlsson on a blast from the high slot.  Minnesota would get lucky about mid-way through the period as Matthew Dumba would block a shot and then work the puck through the neutral zone and on up to Charlie Coyle who took the puck down below the dot before sending a pass back out to Dumba who stepped into a one-timer that caught the post and went in.  1-0 Wild.  The pace of play continued to make it difficult for the Wild to do much of anything; especially the offensive zone as time and space disappeared quickly.  The line of Jason Zucker, Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund finally caused a little trouble as Zucker managed to get a step on Colin Miller and then skated out towards the top of the Vegas crease only to have his stick slashed in half by Paul Stastny.  The Wild would get a power play, but Minnesota couldn’t even get set up in the offensive zone and they didn’t even register a shot on goal during the man advantage.  The 4th line of Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks and Marcus Foligno was painfully slow and I am not sure how the Wild can expect them to really be able to hold their own against the speedy lines of the Golden Knights.  It just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.  The Wild mustered just 5 shots on goal, none of them from up close on Marc-Andre Fleury and while Minnesota had the lead its hard to expect 1 goal to be enough to win this game.  Minnesota must find more ways of generating scoring chances from in close.  I thought the 3rd line was ok, but they don’t seem to have a lot of synergy.  It looks kind of like a line where no one is sure what they’re really supposed to do in the offensive zone besides cycle the puck.  Vegas’ best chance came off the stick of Erik Haula who rang a shot off the pipe.  Minnesota is very fortunate to have a lead going into the 2nd period.
2nd Period Thoughts:  The 2nd period was great if you enjoy spending over 10 minutes chasing around the puck in your own zone watching your goaltender contort himself to come up with big save after big save.  When Dubnyk wasn’t dazzling with great saves, he was getting good help from some timely sliding blocks by Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon.  Yet the theme was consistent.  Wild unable to handle the Golden Knights’ speed, Minnesota appeared disorganized and frazzled as they gave away pucks with blind clears out of their own zone.  Vegas was patrolling in the neutral zone waiting to transition against these lazy clears and Minnesota was playing with fire.  The pressure also drew two power plays. Down a man, the Wild actually did a fairly good job at keeping Vegas to the perimeter but this is not a formula for success.  Without Dubnyk’s saves and some lucky bounces the Wild could be down 3-1 or 4-1 easily.  Ryan Reaves made his presence felt with some big hits as well as two terrific scoring chances from in close as Minnesota continues to be unable to handle opposing forwards who will charge into the high traffic areas of the ice.  Minnesota generated a few token shots of their own, but mostly off the rush and without the benefit of screen or support to take advantage of rebounds.  The 3rd line of the Wild continue to be problematic because they’re not strong enough defensively to be used in a shut down role, and they’re not strong enough on the puck to allow them to generate offensive pressure by working the puck down low in the offensive zone.  Towards the end of the period, Boudreau deployed Greenway along side Foligno and Coyle.  It still wasn’t that great of a line.  I am sure Vegas is frustrated a bit as they should be ahead in this game, but if they keep generating opportunities like this its only a matter of time.  The Wild better dig deep or this one is going to get away from them.
3rd Period Thoughts:  This was far and away their best period of play this season which is interesting when you consider this is where the opportunity for two points would slip away from them.  The Wild seemed to be skating a bit better and showing a bit more determination in the offensive zone.  Minnesota worked pucks closer to Marc-Andre Fleury and forced him to make some quality stops.  The Wild’s willingness to counter attack prevented them from simply playing rope-a-dope in their own end.  Unfortunately the Golden Knights would take Minnesota out of its game with one hit as Ryan Reaves leveled Greg Pateryn into the boards on a late check.  Marcus Foligno would challenge Reaves rather reluctantly and Reaves easily dominated the Wild tough guy before wrestling him to the ice.  Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was annoyed there was no call for the needless and very late check but Minnesota couldn’t bury the chances they were being given.  Vegas would pull their goalie late in the game to give them a 6-on-5, and they’d tie the game with a little under 2 minutes left as Max Pacioretty ripped a one timer by Dubnyk from just inside the left faceoff circle.  That would send the game to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts:  The Wild started overtime with almost a 1:30 in power play time to work with.  Minnesota sent out Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Matthew Dumba in search of the game winner.  The resulting combination was amazingly slow and predictable.  The line seemed to be committed to setting up Matthew Dumba for one timers from the left side ala Alex Ovechkin.  Dumba has a great shot, but considering no one else on the line seemed to be the least bit interested in shooting the puck.  The Golden Knights penalty killers gave Suter at least 20 feet of space to take a shot of his own but they knew he wasn’t going to pull the trigger and it was simply a matter of waiting for the Wild to turn the puck over on their own.  Koivu would ring a shot off the post on the power play but that was as close as Minnesota would get to winning this game.  The Wild had little rhyme or reason to their additional personnel groupings in overtime and no one seemed to really know how to utilize the time and space overtime gives you.  The team seemed to be more worried about defending than going on the attack and the game would go to a shootout.
Shootout Summary:  Minnesota decided to shoot first and their first shooter was Zach Parise.  Parise would move in where he’d try to beat Fleury with a wrist shot going 5-hole but he kicked it aside.  The Golden Knights sent out William Karlsson would go left to right, staying on his backhand a long time before trying a backhander that was stopped by Dubnyk.  Minnesota’s next shooter was Jason Zucker.  Zucker would go forehand to back hand but he’d lift his shot up and over the goal.  Vegas’ next shooter was Jonathan Marchessault would go wide left and then take a slow approach to the middle of the ice before firing a wrist shot that Dubnyk gloved.  Minnesota’s next shooter was Mikko Koivu who actually made a decent backhand to forehand move but he’d lose control of the puck and failed to get a shot off.  Vegas’ next shooter was Erik Haula who moved in and beat Dubnyk with a wrist shot giving the Golden Knights a 2-1 win over Minnesota.
Devan Dubnyk was mostly excellent as he had 41 saves in the loss.  At times he was spinning and twisting to make saves, and while at times he was helped by some desperate shot blocks by Seeler, Spurgeon and Suter but overall he kept the team in the game far longer than it deserved to be.  The penalty kill ended up perfect for the night.
The offense again did little to nothing for the first two periods of the game.  Minnesota’s lack of team speed, a viable 3rd line makes it tough to generate much in the way of offensive pressure and shots on goal.  They certainly did a better job in the 3rd period, working their way closer to the net but it was too little too late.  The truth is, this team has scored 2 goals in 2 games.  Nino Niederreiter looks absolutely lost on a line with Koivu and Parise.  The team cannot afford a valuable goal scorer like Nino to be that lost and aloof offensively.  Staal looks slower and dare I say it weaker on the puck.
For a 2nd straight game, the team’s skating was a major disadvantage and it is difficult to be hopeful when you consider this club has to be fairly fresh considering its just game 2 of an 82-game regular season.  I’d be really concerned if I were the coaching staff and management.  Unless something changes the signs of decay among the veteran group are pretty tough to ignore.  The Wild get another 4-day layoff before playing Chicago on Thursday, so they’ll have a chance to recharge and hopefully they’ll look faster.  If they don’t, yikes folks…this could be a real rough season.
Wild Notes:
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Charlie Coyle, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, Matt Hendricks, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn.  Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Nate Prosser and J.T. Brown were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Marc-Andre Fleury, 3rd Star Matthew Dumba
~ Attendance was 19,077 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the pesky centerman has picked up where he left off last season for the Silvertips as he had a goal and an assist in Everett’s 2-1 overtime win over in-state rival Seattle.  Dewar has 4 goals, 7 points, 6 PIM’s in 5 games this season.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the Wild’s most talented and highly awaited prospect had a helper in a 2-0 win over Novosibirsk on Friday night.  Kaprizov has 5 goals, 8 points and is a +5 in 14 games this season.


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