6-3 the difference of a confident Blues team & an inconsistent Wild team
Coming off a shootout win at home against the Colorado Avalanche, the Minnesota Wild were looking at a measuring stick game against the top team in the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues were 16-6-1 in their 23 games including 8-3 at home before facing the Wild last night, leading the conference in goal differential and goals for so this was definitely going to be a challenge for the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild received an early power play but that was quickly nullified by a bad penalty from Nino Niederreiter 6 seconds in when he pushed over Alex Pietrangelo in front of the net. Jonas Brodin took a tripping penalty and even though the Blues power play hasn’t been very good so far this season, they certainly have the weapons to get hot at any time. Paul Stastny is one of those weapons and he’s played many a game against the Wild. He scores with a tip-in off a pass to him while he’s standing in front of Devan Dubnyk on the power play.
This is one of the league’s latest plays with the man-advantage. Teams are employing this play a lot now. They put a player or have a player skate in front of the goalie and pass to him and he tries to tip the pass by the goalie. On this play, Paul Stastny tips the pass trying to get the puck to go through Devan Dubnyk’s 5-hole. Dubnyk doesn’t allow that to happen but the puck goes up his stick, over his right pad and into the net and the Blues are up 1-0 early.
A PK unit will sometimes give a shot to the opponent and trust their goalie to make the save most of the time. A tip play is probably not be one of those times, though. They are harder to save for the goalie because they are tracking the puck from a shot from further out and reacting to a tip happening a foot in front of them is almost impossible considering the speed of the shot, how much the puck will change directions and they have no idea which way it’s being tipped.
The Wild don’t look like they are trying to keep it from happening in this instance, though. They set up in a diamond formation to stop the Blues 1-3-1 power play setup and from the above screenshot, it looks like a good setup because every player is within reach compared to where the puck is. Jared Spurgeon can get to Stastny. Eric Staal can get to #20 Alexander Steen at the point. Ryan Suter & Daniel Winnik can get to #64 Sammy Blais in the middle and Winnik and Spurgeon and move over to either get to or block a one-time from #55 Colton Parayko on the weak side.
Suter, being left-handed, has his stick in the passing lane to the middle and he’s leaving the shot/pass lane to Stastny and the net open. Limiting shots and chances is really your #1 goal so why allow one of the more dangerous shots? He could move to his left, switch his stick location to the left and/or pressure the puck. With his stick where it is, he’s not really covering much since Daniel Winnik can get to Blais in the slot.
Obviously, you’d like Dubnyk to make that save and, most of the time, he probably does but he seems to allow a soft goal way too often. Your goalie usually has to be the best penalty killer to have consistent success. Unfortunately for the Wild, Dubnyk is nowhere near consistent right now.
A bad turnover in front of the Wild net from Kyle Quincey made it 2-0. Kyle Quincey might need to worry about having a job here soon. According to TheAthletic.com’s Michael Russo (Subscription Required & Recommended), the Blues might soon have to waive former Wild defenseman Nate Prosser but after hearing the Wild might place a waiver claim in, they decided to hold off and try to trade Prosser first. A good play by the Blues top line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn where Tarasenko shot then there passed it from the corner on a reverse move to a driving Jaden Schwartz made it 3-0.
The Wild had some great chances of their own to score in the 1st period and could’ve easily lead the game by 1 or 2 goals a couple of times but they just didn’t capitalize on them. Is that because they aren’t the most confident team right now? While St. Louis seemed to score on every chance they got.
Down 3-0 after 20 minutes, the Wild had to play better in the 2nd and they did. Dubnyk was excellent, making 19 saves and giving his team a chance to come back. Charlie Coyle scored shorthanded with the help of an aggressive forecheck by Jason Zucker and a turnover by Sammy Blais at the Blues defensive blue line. Charlie fired a wicked snap shot past Jake Allen to get the Wild on the board and within 2 at 3-1. That would be the score after 40 minutes and the Wild needed a great 3rd period to have any chance in this game.
The Wild are one of the better 3rd period teams in the league and will never quit on a game. Jared Spurgeon draws a penalty and appeared to have brought his team to within 1 early in the 2nd period but the puck went off the crossbar and never went in the net. Then, on the ensuing power play, a pass to the feet of Spurgeon springs former Wild player Kyle Brodziak on a breakaway and he puts the Blues up 4-1 with a shot that went off the crossbar and in over Dubnyk’s glove.
Just moments later, the Wild scored, on the same power play, off the rush on a great play from Tyler Ennis, Daniel Winnik and Zack Mitchell. Ennis fired a pass to Winnik, who was coming down the left center of the ice. Winnik showed some great patience with the puck waiting for an opening to get Zack Mitchell the puck in front of the net then hitting his stick for an easy tap in by the most recent Iowa Wild callup. Either Boudreau was not happy with the other power play forwards or he threw them out there because the power play was almost over or maybe even both but it was a great play and a great response to once again get within 2 at 4-2.
The Wild kept battling and would score on the power play again after an interference penalty for a big hit on Zack Mitchell by Scottie Upshall. This time it was the Wild making the pass to the stick of a teammate tip play in front of the goalie with Matt Dumba hitting the tape of Eric Staal’s stick. The tip didn’t work but the rebound came right back to Staal and the Wild were within 1 at 4-3.
Uncharacteristically, the Wild kept taking penalties and the penalty-killers were maybe a little anxious to try to make a play while shorthanded. Both of the penalty-killing forwards were making a break to clear the zone when a loose puck went to Dumba behind the net. Unfortunately, he tried to send it up the boards but it was intercepted by Colton Parayko and he hit Jaden Schwartz who was all alone in front of the net and he just waited for the aggressive Dubnyk and made a move around him and it was 5-3 Blues.
Another penalty gave the Blues another power play and they struck for their 3rd power play goal of the night on a quick pass for a one-timer by Sammy Blais for his 1st NHL Goal for a final score of 6-3. The Wild were plagued by mistakes and misfortune but that’s been the case for a lot of the games this season. They’re not going to get consistent play until they fix the mistakes and start playing better team hockey.
After the game, Bruce Boudreau said “I think they’re (the Blues) a really good hockey club. I just don’t think we played anywhere near the capabilities that we’re capable.”
Next up, the Wild return to Winnipeg to face another Central Division foe in the Jets, who’ve been one of the hottest teams in the league and are currently 3rd in the Western Conference with 31 points with a 14-6-3 record (7-2-1 at Home, 7-4-2 on the road) and 7-3 in their last 10 games. Then they’ll head to Vegas for the first time to face another hot team with a great home record in the Golden Knights, who are surprisingly 2nd in the Western Conference with 31 points with a 15-6-1 record overall (with a 9-1 record on their home ice).
This is the new Central Division and the new Western Conference. There really are no easy games and for the Wild right now, they can’t think about who the opponent is anyways. They have to play their game and get to it right from the start and play a full 60 minutes and limit the mistakes. If they can do that, this team can go on a run just like they did last season when they won 12 in a row but that starts with one game and one win.
Alright, ClutterPuckers. #GetWild &…