Category Archives: Wild Game Recaps

Wild Recaps – at the Anaheim Ducks – December 8th, 2017

After a disappointing loss in Los Angeles on Tuesday, how would the Minnesota Wild come out against the Anaheim Ducks? The Ducks are kind of in the same predicament the Wild have been in, a team with a lot of injuries trying to hold on in the race for the playoffs early in the season. They had big injuries to two bigger players though. Both Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have been out for all or most of the season. The Wild are in no position to think any game will be easy, either. They have to figure out how to play now.

In Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Wild led 2-1 going into the 3rd period and they allowed the Kings to score 4 goals in a 5-2 loss. That, of course, didn’t go over well with the coach. They looked like they were afraid to play with a lead and all they wanted to do was protect it. They were trying not to lose instead of trying to win the game.

Every team will have moments like this throughout a season that will help them improve and be the team that reaches their potential. The Wild have had too many of these moments so far this season. Is that because the roster changed so much or the injuries they’ve had to endure? Who knows but, regardless of the reason, they need to figure things out quickly because points will be at a premium for the 54 games remaining this season. Last season, it took 94 points to make the playoffs in the Western Conference (95 points in the Eastern Conference.)

This season, it might take more than that because of the number of good teams who will be in the chase. The Wild have 29 points in 27 games with a record of 13-11-3. At roughly a point per game, that would leave them around 87 points. Winning 35 of the remaining 54 games would put them at 99 points. I’m sure they don’t want to be a Wild Card team but, Nashville was a Wild Card team last season and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals so there’s something to be said about just making it to the dance. Obviously, to do that, they’re going to have to figure out how to play the game the right way with confidence and consistency against any and every opponent on the road and at home.

Did they take a step in that direction tonight? It was a pretty even game in the 1st period but Anaheim would get on the board first with a goal that Wild G Devan Dubnyk said was “gross” as he felt he should’ve stopped the sharp-angle shot from Kevin Roy (Wah not Roy) that squeaked through his five-hole just after a power play ended.

On the highlight above, the announcer says Dubnyk doesn’t battle to see the shot but you can tell he’s peaking around Antoine Vermette to see the shooter. It just gets through his five-hole. The key is where his goalie stick is located. The position of a goalie’s stick is forgotten about when goalies go down or when they move from side-to-side. It’s not easy because of the length of the paddle of the stick and because of where a goalie wants his blocker positioned.

The puck slides just under the heel of Dubnyk’s stick.

Devan Dubnyk didn’t like that he let that goal in. You have to wonder if Vermette standing in front of him played a part in his save attempt. Do goalies try to adjust knowing a player is in position to tip a shot? That has to be very difficult to do so we would imagine they’d focus on the puck and try to make themselves as big as possible to take away a tipped shot. Could Dubnyk’s defense have helped him out on this goal? Maybe.

Angle 1

Angle 2

The biggest thing here is the position of Wild D Matt Dumba’s stick. He’s taking away the passing lane to Anaheim Ducks F #25 Ondrej Kase in the slot but Wild F #26 Daniel Winnik is right next to him so Dumba could put his stick in the shooting lane instead and take away the shot. Can the Wild penalty-killers, or specifically Winnik, talk during the play and tell Dumba to take away the shooting lane? It’s basically 4-on-4 with Bieksa not being much of a threat at the point and the Wild should be able to adjust quickly if the puck is moved there.

The theory is to take away the more dangerous shot which is the player in the slot so this certainly isn’t terrible coverage. You’ll gladly take a sharp-angle shot over a shot from the slot and Dubnyk is probably going to stop that shot the majority of the time. He & the Wild have to figure out how to get rid of the soft and/or flukey goal that seems to happen to them almost every game.

The Wild tied the game after giving up a scoring chance in the 2nd period where Nino Niederreiter covered the wrong player on the backcheck. The replay starts at 2:59 of the video at the top of this article. Nino goes to the puck carrier and Kevin Roy gets the puck with nobody defending him and he tries to pass for the tip-in instead of shooting. That pass goes wide & wraps around the corner to Nino. He passes to the puck up to Mikael Granlund, who’s able to skate through left side of the neutral zone unchecked because of a lazy change by 2 Ducks (the Grey Duck & the Goose.)

When Granlund enters the offensive zone, he has Staal wide to his right & #6 D Ryan Murphy skating underneath him & then heading down the left side. Give credit to Murphy for skating down the left side. Anaheim D #26 Brandon Montour has to account for him and that gave Granlund time and space to find Jason Zucker coming off the bench and Montour didn’t have enough time to react to Zucker receiving the pass, holding it for a second and then go around Anaheim G John Gibson and shooting backhand into the upper right to tie the game at 1-1.

Nino passed to Granlund then changed for Zucker so….2 assists on that play?

So, Nino Niederreiter was credited with the 2nd assist on Jason Zucker’s goal because he passed it to Granlund. The great thing though is he wasn’t even on the ice when the puck went in the net AND….when he went for the change, Jason Zucker was the player that came on for him. Shouldn’t that be 2 assists or at least a +2 for the play?

The scoring shows the players on the ice for the Wild as Murphy, Staal, Zucker, Dumba, Granlund and Dubnyk so how is that scored for the +/-? Do 6 players get a +1 on that play? Goalies don’t accumulate plus/minus stats.

Anyways, sorry for the sidebar, back to the game. Just 2:09 later, Wild F #59 Zack Mitchell* gave his team a 2-1 lead by putting in a rebound off a Nate Prosser shot from the right point. Mitchell was in on the forecheck behind the net and Daniel Winnik picked up the loose puck and send it back to Prosser at the right point. When Mitchell saw that happen, he did what any good offensive player does, he went to the front of the net. He tried to tip the shot but missed but he kept battling, along with F #17 Marcus Foligno, found the puck and put it in the empty net. He battled for position with Cam Fowler, who hooked him the entire way, and won.
*If you didn’t know, Zack Mitchell was a helluva player in the Guelph Storm of the OHL for 5 seasons and he has 16 points (5 G, 11 A) in only 11 games for the Iowa Wild this season so we shouldn’t be too surprised to see him playing well.

So, here the Wild were with the same situation they had in their previous game, a 2-1 lead heading into the 3rd period. Did they learn from their mistakes? Well, they certainly didn’t sit back and rely on their defense in this 3rd period. They stayed aggressive on the offensive end, trying to increase the lead instead of just protect it. Low and behold, the fluke goal would hit them again when Adam Henrique scored on a great pass by Corey Perry while he was lying on the ice.

Corey Perry was taking the puck to the net and he got a step on Wild D Ryan Suter. At the same time, Matt Dumba was battling recently acquired F Adam Henrique for position as Henrique was driving to the net. Dumba saw Perry get around Suter so he abandoned Henrique at the side of the net and went to Perry. Suter was still able to get to Perry and knock him down but Perry slid into Dumba knocking him down. The puck was still close enough to Perry’s stick so he could still hit the puck off the wall behind the net to Henrique, who had skated around to the other side of the net, and he was able to grab the puck on his forehand behind the net and move it to his backhand in front of the net and sneak it in past Dubnyk and the reach of Joel Eriksson-Ek. There was a little puck-watching there by Ek as well.

Once again, the Wild gave up the lead in the 3rd period but this time it would be a different outcome. They responded with some chances of their own and the game went to overtime. The Wild have started 1 forward and 2 defensemen in overtime in an attempt to change things for the better and it’s been working. Matt Dumba would score his 2nd straight OT Game-Winning Goal with a great play to fake a one-time and then skate in on Anaheim goalie John Gibson, go around him and put the puck in the net for the 2nd point and another Wild victory:

Can the Minnesota Wild keep it going against Brent Burns and the San Jose Sharks? They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 including a 5-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators last night. Brent Burns hasn’t been the same player from last season, either. He has 16 points on 2 goals and 14 assists and he’s a minus 9 in 28 games so far this season. He’s shooting just as much but they aren’t going in nearly as often as his shot percentage is only 1.8% compared to 9.1% last season. That doesn’t mean the Wild should go easy on him, though. He does have 4 points (1G, 3A) in his last two games.

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Wild Recaps – What Happens vs Vegas – 11-30-2017

A Golden Night against the Golden Knights.

The Minnesota Wild had lost 2 consecutive games to 2 of the best teams in the NHL and in the Western Conference. Now they had to face another very good Western Conference in expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. In years past, “expansion team” usually meant a relatively easy game and a definite opportunity to get 2 points. Those days are over. These Knights have been lights out at home at 9-2 but not nearly as good on the road, although, still very good at 6-5-1 before the game on Thursday night.

It’s usually not good to face a team coming off two bad losses, especially if that team has had a couple days off and some time to practice and adjust their game and you know with a very good opponent facing them, this Minnesota Wild team was going to do everything in their power to make those adjustments as quickly as possible so they’re ready for the next game. Points are at a premium when you’ve struggled in the first quarter of the season.

The Wild make some roster changes before the game by putting D Kyle Quincey on waivers and claiming former D Nate Prosser off waivers from the St. Louis Blues. They had previously called up D Ryan Murphy from their AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild, since D Jared Spurgeon was out due to a groin strain. That meant the Wild were going to go with the youth of D Mike Reilly & D Gustav Olofsson on the bottom defensive pair.

Neither player has played very well so far this season but they’ve both shown that they are ready to be NHL players. They’ve done well enough in the minors to earn identical 1-way contracts in the offseason. Defense is the toughest position in the game to learn. Development of young defenseman takes time. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said he’s learned, “it takes approximately 300 games to become a solid NHL defenseman.” Before Thursday night’s game, Mike Reilly had played 63 games in the NHL & Gustav Olofsson had played 30 games in the NHL. They’ve both played plenty in the minors, Reilly has 103 games in the AHL while Olofsson has played 120 games in the AHL.

Reilly is the more offensive defenseman while Gustav is better defensively which means they should actually make for a pretty decent combination with the exception being they don’t have a ton of experience and learning against the best players in the world can be a bit daunting. The Wild know they have to put them in games so they can experience playing at this level to develop into NHL defensemen. There’s no, “…I’m sorry. You don’t have enough experience” in hockey. It’s more of you don’t have the right experience. They’ve played a lot of hockey but, it just gets harder as you move up.

Let’s be honest, though. The problems the Wild were having were defensively but it wasn’t just the defensemen that were the problem. It was the forwards. After waiving Kyle Quincey, GM Chuck Fletcher said, “…until the forwards start playing the right way, we will not win.” He was mostly talking about getting the puck deep when the play calls for that.

If the opponent’s defense is standing up at the blueline, trying to stickhandle through 3 players is very rarely going to work and is definitely not a play they should be trying on a consistent basis. It’s a turnover waiting to happen. Throw the puck behind the defense and get the forecheck going. Get to Work!

The first forechecker (F1) is in on the puck while F2 reads the play so they can meet the puck when it gets to the next player. F3 stays high paying attention to the breakout options to prevent odd-man rushes. Consistently doing this with speed and physicality will affect the game* because those defensemen will want to move the puck quicker and that will cause mistakes. Mistakes cause turnovers and turnovers cause scoring chances. It’s not rocket science (is it Puck-et Science?)
*There’s a great quote from Brian Burke about checking in the National Hockey League:

“…hitting is designed to separate a player from the puck, primarily, and secondarily, to discourage enthusiastic participation by that player in the later part of the game.”

This game started with both teams playing defensively, not wanting to take too many chances and feeling out how the game was going to go. The Golden Knights played that way because they were on the road and the Wild because they were coming off two bad defensive games. Both teams still had their chances but the game would be scoreless until late in the 2nd period when Mike Reilly made a great play to get the puck over to Mikael Granlund for a one-timer:

Mike Reilly threw an apple at Mikael Granlund from across the rink then a 1T & a Wild 1-0 lead!

This is a great goal set up by a great pass from #4 D Mike Reilly. It shows his vision but it also shows him taking advantage of a player out of position. #64 F Mikael Granlund shows great work ethic to battle for position and to get open while playing without the puck.

Reilly dumped the puck around the left boards behind the net to #16 Jason Zucker, who then tried to hit #9 Mikko Koivu in front of the net but he blindly threw the pass to where he thought Koivu was so the puck comes back to the point and Vegas F Brandon Leipsic (#13) lunged to try to tip the puck. This took Leipsic out of position to defend Reilly. You can see this in the screenshot below.

The play before the play - Mikael Granlund from Mike Reilly

Looking at this screenshot, you also see Granlund behind the net but he’s coming out in front of the net and getting open so he’s an option on the play. Mike Reilly isn’t even on the screen yet and still doesn’t have the puck but he knows he’ll be to able to take advantage of Leipsic being out of position by going around him to the outside and to the left half-wall.

Mikael Granlund one-timer goal off great pass from Mike Reilly

#4 Reilly has a few options here. He has speed so he can keep moving towards the goal line to see if anything opens up. He could shoot because Zucker has created a screen but he does have a player in front of him and his angle will get worse as he gets lower in the zone. He also has Granlund as an option and there’s a clear passing lane because Vegas D #5 Deryk Engelland let Granlund have some space for some reason. It’s 5-on-5 and that’s his man. You see Granlund starting to give Reilly a target and he puts the puck right on his tape so he can just catch and shoot all in one motion and the shot hit the right post up high and went in the net for the 1st goal of the game.

Vegas tied it up on a play where I thought Wild F #3 Charlie Coyle should’ve shot the puck. The play starts at 4:20 in the condensed version of the game at the top of this article. He tried to pass it to Matt Cullen but Vegas D #3 Brayden McNabb was able to poke check the pass away and start the odd-man rush. He would be the odd-man open and get the one-time slapper to go past Devan Dubnyk to the upper right corner and tie the game at 1-1. Cullen fell down, which made a pretty big difference on the play.

A little less than 2 minutes later, Vegas would take the lead on a nice play by F #71 William Karlsson (at 5:10 of the attached video.) Karlsson received a pass from F #81 Jonathan Marchessault and he had the time and space to move toward the defense and drop a pass back to Marchessault, who made one move and then shot it bardown for a 2-1 Vegas Golden Knights lead.

The key to this play is Wild D #20 Ryan Suter giving too much space to Marchessault. That happened because he stayed with Karlsson even though Matt Dumba was right there to defend Karlsson. This is where communication could’ve helped stop this goal and given Ryan Suter more time to get his stick (or himself) in front of the shot or to force Marchessault to take the play further outside and maybe look for a different option other than a shot. I also think Dubnyk could’ve come out further from the crease to cut the angle down.

The Wild respond 48 seconds later and tie the game at 2-2 when Jonas Brodin scored his 2nd goal of the season with a shot from the left point that deflected off Vegas D Brayden McNabb’s stick as he was trying to keep Nino Niederreiter from getting in front of the net to do the same thing.

Jonas Brodin scores off the stick of VGK D #3 Brayden McNabb

This Game Is TIED!!!

Tying the game up so quickly gave the Wild some life and allowed them to play their game again. Dubnyk was playing well so they could just play and not have to push or take some risks to tie the game. They did get back to their game and took the lead when their forecheck forced a turnover and the puck got back to Matt Dumba at the right point. He made a move around #92 Tomas Nosek and then took a quick half-swing slapper that got past #41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and hit #5 Deryk Engelland in the right wrist and deflected right to #12 F Eric Staal for an easy shot into the empty net. Eric Staal caused the turnover by reading the play and getting to Bellemare and forcing him to make a quick play.

You can see this on the condensed version of the game (6:53 in) as opposed to the highlights version that, more often than not, doesn’t show the entire play and everything that went into how a goal happened. The highlight of the game-winning 3rd goal from Staal edits the play down to the point where Dumba gets the puck. The first replay shows Staal coming in on the forecheck but not enough to know what happened to force the turnover.

Devan Dubnyk had to make a great save with the paddle of his goalie to stick to keep the Wild ahead with just over a minute left in the game:

Devan Dubnyk makes a sprawling save with the paddle of his goalie stick vs the Vegas Golden Knights - 11-30-2017DUUUUUUUBS!!!

Eric Staal would score an actual empty-net goal with 6 seconds left in regulation to seal the win for the Minnesota Wild. It was a pretty big win over another Western Conference team and it will hopefully give the Wild some confidence as their next opponent is the St. Louis Blues.

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Wild Recaps – The Wild Flew Right Through Winnipeg’s Jetwash

They are in a flat spin heading out to sea.

Looking for a rebound from a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, the Minnesota Wild had a great start to last night’s game in Winnipeg against the Jets. They could’ve been up 3-0 if a goal wasn’t overturned because it was ruled offsides when Charlie Coyle’s skate came off the ice just a split second before the puck crossed the blue line. They scored about 2 minutes later to make it 2-0 and then the wheels came off and the Winnipeg Jets scored 7 unanswered goals and won 7-2.

It doesn’t make any sense. The Wild got the start they wanted. They got a 2-goal lead. Say what you want about a 2-goal lead being the worst lead in hockey but this team has no reason to relax with any lead. They looked confused about how to even play the game defensively, like they weren’t sure where to be or who to cover. They stopped competing and winning battles. I don’t care what the score is. You have to keep competing in this league because no lead is safe. Look at what happened in the playoffs. How many multiple goal comebacks happened last season in the playoffs?

Maybe a good beatdown is what this team needs. Maybe it will show them they aren’t doing enough and they need to prepare more and better to win in the 2017-18 season of the National Hockey League. They are no easy wins anymore and they aren’t in a place to overlook anybody anyways.

You can’t tell me this team is as bad as they’ve played in the last week. They’ve had stretches against some of the best teams in the league where they’ve made them look lost. They came back against a very good Nashville Predators team to win in the 3rd period. They even had stretches against St. Louis where it appeared they had them on the run and scrambling to get the puck and clear their zone. Look at their 3rd period production and that they never quit. Before this stretch of bad defense, they shutout 3 teams in a row.Those teams were the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers twice. The Habs were a mess and the Flyers have now lost 8 games in a row.

Sure, the defense isn’t as deep and they’ve had a lot of injuries to their top players but that’s hockey and that’s sports. Find a way to get through it & move on. They don’t trust each other and aren’t playing as a team. They are trying to make plays individually instead of making the good team play.

Making a pass at the blue line to a player standing still is not a good play. The puck has to get deep so you can get your forecheck going and that forecheck has to work together to make it work. The Wild has speed and some physicality to make things happen on the forecheck. F2 & F3 have to read the play and switch depending on where the puck is and where it’s going. Sometimes a defenseman will be F1 and then a forward will cover for him. It’s about working together as a team.

Defensively is the same thing. They have to work together. Communicate, switch and backcheck. Backcheck to get even with the offensive player not just so they can barely reach them with their stick. It’s somewhat amazing to see players struggle with how to play the game on both ends of the ice. If you’re a good offensive player, you have the ability to be a good defensive player. You’re offensive instincts can help on the defensive end because you know what the offensive player is trying to do. If they want time & space then you take away time & space. If they are driving towards the net, you drive towards the net. If a player can change the game with their speed offensively, they can change the game with their speed defensively.

Looking at the big picture, the Wild are only 2 points out of a playoff spot. There’s actually 7 teams with 24 to 27 points battling for the Wild Card spots. It feels too early, with 57 games to go, to be talking about Wild Card spots and the playoffs but this will be a battle all season long, especially in the Western Conference. There are a lot of teams struggling right now and really, with so many games to go, there isn’t one team that should feel safe or comfortable with their place in the standings.

Obviously, the Blues, the Jets, the Predators and the Vegas Golden Knights should feel good about how they are playing but they aren’t that far ahead that they should feel comfortable by any means. The Blues have the Jets right on their tail. The Jets have the Predators hunting them. Vegas are only 2 points ahead of the Kings and the Calgary Flames are only 2 points behind them.

The Chicago Blackhawks are in the first Wild Card spot and have started to play a little better lately. The Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks have had just as shaky of a start to the season as the Wild. You’d be crazy to think those teams aren’t going to play a role in how the standings shake out by the end of the season. Trades will happen and injuries will happen. There’s a long way to go to get to the postseason. This season might be like no other with the mix of teams in the Western Conference.

The Wild have to keep working on fixing the problems and get to playing a consistently good game for a full 60 minutes so they’re in the thick of things as soon as possible. They have the talent and the players to make it happen. It’s hard to see now because we are judging them at the lowest point of the season so far. It’s the same as judging the Blues as the best team in the league. They might be the best team right now but they will have everyone coming for them every game because they are the top team in the West and one of the top teams overall.

The Wild have 2 days before they play at home against Vegas for the 1st time and reunite with former teammates, Erik Haula & Alex Tuch. You’d think it’d be good to have 2 days between games but one of them is a mandatory off-day so they won’t get the practice time they need to fix their current problems. They’ll have to get most of it done on Wednesday. We’ll see on Thursday if we want what happened on Wednesday will change this team. Hopefully, it’s a Golden Night for the Minnesota Wild!

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Wild Get The Blues in St. Louis – November 25th, 2017

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.

Should Ryan Suter have his stick in the shooting/passing lane to Stastny instead of the lane to Blais in the middle?

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’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.

Daniel Winnik to Zack Mitchell to get the Wild within 2 again 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 &…

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

Alex Stalock Can’t Save Everything Wild Lose 3-1 at Capitals

Alex Stalock stood on his head but the Caps wanted this one after 2 bad losses & facing their old coach

Very rarely is it a good thing to face a good team after they’ve lost 2 consecutive games, especially if those losses were bad losses where they gave up a lot of goals. When that happens, a good team will fix the problems and come out ready to play the next game. Washington lost 6-3 in Nashville and 6-2 in Colorado before facing the Minnesota Wild. The were also sure to be pumped up to play against their former coach in Bruce Boudreau and their former teammate in F Daniel Winnik and, of course, they’re at home so you knew they were going to play a lot better defense and they always shoot the puck, A LOT!!!

The Wild went with the same lines that were a key part of the great 6-4 comeback win against Nashville on Thursday night. This game wasn’t as fun but it had it’s moments. Most of those moments happened on the Wild’s end of the ice. Backup goalie Alex Stalock got the start since the Wild are beginning a stretch of 5 games in 8 days alternating between being on the road and at home and Alex hadn’t played since November 6th at Boston and hadn’t started a game since October 31st vs Winnipeg.

Alex has played great all season. There isn’t any step back when the Wild go to him to give Devan Dubnyk a breather or to keep giving the backup a start to keep him ready. The team doesn’t have to play any different when he’s in goal where in year’s past, that may not have been the case. Strangely enough, former Wild backup goaltender pitched a shutout for his new team, the Los Angeles Kings, tonight.

Washington took the lead a little over halfway into the 1st period when they received a power play due to a boarding penalty committed by Kyle Quincey on T.J. Oshie. The Washington Capitals power play is one of the most fearful in the league. Alex Ovechkin is the main reason for that but they also have Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeni Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson on their 1st Power Play unit. That’s a lot of firepower and playmaking to defend against.

On the Caps first power play, they set up with Ovechkin in his familiar spot on the left faceoff circle with D John Carlson playing the point, Backstrom at the right half-wall, Kuznetsov to the right of the net and Oshie in the right slot (from the point-of-view as if you’re looking at Wild goalie, Alex Stalock):

The Wild have this defended pretty well with a diamond setup with Daniel Winnik up high, Ryan Suter defending the right side, Eric Staal in position to defend the left side and Jared Spurgeon in front of the net.

Looking at the next shot with Backstrom having the puck at the half-wall, it’s basically pick your poison once they get set up. What do you want to take away depending on the location of the puck?

Backstrom only has two options. He can only really pass to Kuznetsov by the net or Oshie in the slot but he has time and space. There’s no pass available to the point or a good angle to get the puck to Ovechkin. He could shoot but there’s really nothing to shoot at with Kuznetsov and Stalock covering the entire net.

Ryan Suter is too far away to effect either pass and if he passes to Kuznetsov (which ends up being the play), Suter will likely follow the puck and turn towards Kuznetsov and turn his back on Oshie. The Wild have been great on the Penalty Kill this season and had killed 17 straight before this power play so they are confident and it’s very easy to second-guess a play after looking at the replay multiple times from multiple angles.

On this play they had really eliminated all but the two options of Kuznetsov by the net and Oshie in the slot. The easy choice is to give them the pass to Kuznetsov but they left a slight opening for him to make a one-time pass to Oshie who then made a one-time shot to the upper left corner that Stalock really had no chance to save.

What could they have done different? Again, this is second-guessing, not actually covering a play with two passes and a one-time shot that happen in less than a second. Pass, pass, shot, GOAL! That’s really fast. That being said, I believe it comes down to trusting your teammates and talking during the play. Suter should trust that Stalock and/or Spurgeon have Kuznetsov and instead of turning towards Kuznetsov, back up and take away Oshie as an option, taking away the most dangerous shot available. Spurgeon could have trusted Stalock to cover Kuznetsov and instead of going in front of his own goalie and maybe screening him, he could’ve taken away the far side of the net. All of them can talk during the play, too.

Stalock could save he’s got Kuznetsov or tell Suter to cover Oshie and tell Spurgeon to take away the cross-ice pass to Ovechkin. Staal could say he’s got Oshie and tell Suter to take away the pass down low and tell Spurgeon to take away the pass to Ovechkin. Winnik could move down and say he’ll get Oshie and cover the pass to the point, too. Again, this is all easy to say and I’m sure they are talking on the ice and have a plan on what they want to do. Reacting to a play instead of reading it doesn’t usually work very well.

Sorry. I may have rambled on that one and that goal happened very quickly.

The Wild would come back to tie the game at one with a power play goal of their own on a Nino Niederreiter goal off a rebound. Mikko Koivu throws the puck at the net with Mikael Granlund in front of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. Granlund tips the shot and gets another shot on a rebound then another rebound goes to Nino and he puts in the back of the net while falling to the ice in a battle for position. A goal is a goal. Dirty or pretty, they all count the same.

Unfortunately, the Capitals would take another 1-goal lead only 44 seconds later on a one-time blast from the point from Dmitry Orlov. Niklas Backstrom skated right in front of Alex Stalock as the shot was being launched and it went upper left. That shot needs to be blocked or the D-to-D pass needs to be taken away. Chris Stewart really did nothing on that play. He allowed the pass to the left defenseman that he’s supposed to be covering and he also allowed the pass over to the right defenseman for the one-time. Tyler Ennis could probably have been higher and closer to his defenseman, too. He could help take the D-to-D pass away, too. Neither of them really affected the play in a positive way.

Shots were 43 to 31 in favor of the Capitals and 22-10 in the 3rd period, also in favor of the Capitals. The Wild had their chances to tie it up, a point-blank shot from Kyle Quincey headed to the upper right corner is barely stopped by the catching glove of Braden Holtby,

So close….

and a Suter had a shot that went off Holtby’s shoulder and hit the crossbar but they couldn’t tie it up and Washington would score another Power Play Goal to give them a 3-1 lead late in the 3rd period. That goal was another crazy goal that seem to happen to the Wild way too often for some reason. Call it Puck-Luck or whatever but it’s crazy how many goals the Wild have scored against them that go off their skates or sticks into the net or to the opponent for an easy shot in the wide open net.

This one was a shot from Ovechkin from the left point that may have been a pass. Anyways, to goes off of Jonas Brodin’s stick then hits Kuznetsov’s right skate up to his stick and in.

They were, as always, some questionable calls by the officials. There was a play in the 2nd period where Nino was hit from behind and seconds late Staal looked like he was hooked while battling for the puck along the boards and there was no-call on either of them. Then, the Capitals were given a 4-minute power play when Ryan Suter was called for a double-minor for high-sticking Lars Eller in the face.

Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was telling the official that it was a follow-through from Suter trying to clear the puck and it shouldn’t be a penalty. Boudreau backed off his initial thoughts in his postgame interview but I think he has a good case. A shot went through to Stalock. He stopped it but left a small rebound and Suter was going to clear the puck away as Lars Eller was coming in to jab at the loose puck. Eller’s stick gets under Suter’s stick and Suter sticks rides up Eller’s stick into his face. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a replay of it. Here’s the rule from the 2017-18 NHL Rulebook:

NHL Rule 60 - High-Sticking Penalty from the 2017-18 NHL Rulebook

He was, in my opinion, clearly trying to clear the puck. He doesn’t even know Lars Eller is coming for the rebound. He can assume that, yes, but he doesn’t know where he’s coming from to get at the rebound. Ryan Suter only knows he doesn’t want a puck loose in front of his own net and his own goalie. Is he supposed to anticipate and read the mind of his goalie and know he’s going to cover it up? That’s almost impossible and nobody really wants to be in the mind of a goaltender anyways.

In the end, the Wild played well but could’ve probably played better in front of their goaltender who saved 40 of 43 shots and kept them in the game. They need to shoot the puck more, especially on the power play. Shoot the vulcanized rubber at the net. That’s where it wants to be. When you shoot, hit the net and be ready for rebounds and deflections so you are the first player there and you can keep the puck in the offensive zone.

Alright, that’s it. The Wild face the New Jersey Devils tonight at home at 7pm at the Xcel Energy center so…

#BeWild &…

Bring The Clutter….