Category Archives: Wild Game Recaps

Wild Recaps – at Ottawa Senators – December 19th, 2017

Can the Wild get back in the win column in Ottawa?

The Minnesota Wild have lost 2 games in a row and face an Ottawa Senators team that has struggled for the majority of the season but they just got their captain D #65 Erik Karlsson back and have won 2 straight. That doesn’t matter. This is the National, the Hockey League with the best players in the world. There are no easy wins. There isn’t a coach in the league that would ever tell their team they can take it easy in a game because the opponent is weak or having a bad season.

Also, every opponent is pumped up to play against the best teams. No team is okay with losing. They want to win just as bad as any other team. It doesn’t matter to them if they might not have the right players or if they haven’t played well so far. They play the game to compete, knowing they have to go earn a win and actually beat the other team, not just show up. The Wild are not even close to being a team that can think any game will be easy, either.

There’s a hockey saying that says:

Hard Work Beats Talent
When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard!

That means just being a player with great talent doesn’t mean you won’t have to put the work in to win a puck battle, a shift, a period or a game. I like to think you can take the “Hard Work” saying a little further and say:

If Hard Work Meets Talent,
Together They Can Be Unbeatable!

This is what happens when a team plays their game without a care of who’s on the other side of the ice. Victories Are Earned! Teams have to go take a victory away from their opponent.

This Minnesota Wild team has the ability and the players to become one of the best teams in the NHL this season. You won’t find a lot of people who think that’s the case. That doesn’t matter. The only people who have to think it’s possible are the players and coaches in the room. In order to become one of the best teams, they have to stop messing around and get to their game as soon as the vulcanized rubber hits the ice.

We may have caught a glimpse that Minnesota Wild team tonight in Ottawa. It, apparently, took getting down 3-1 in the 2nd period for them to figure out if they wanted to get back in the game, they were going to have to play a certain way and it had to happen right then and there. We finally saw a response from this team. They started buzzing. They were forcing turnovers and creating scoring chances off of those turnovers and low and behold, they started putting the puck in the net. We’ve seen them respond before but this lasted pretty much until the end of the game. They were relentless!*
*Is this an after effect of having Zach Parise back with the team? He’s known for not relenting.

In the first minute of the game, Jason Zucker took a shot from the far left point after a pass from Matt Dumba and then Dumba went to the net. Ottawa Senators G Craig Anderson left a small rebound and Dumba was there to take a few whacks at it. That was a good sign that the Wild may have had a shooter’s mentality from the get go.

Stellar Ottawa defenseman #65 Erik Karlsson scored 2:08 into the first period off a wrist shot from the right point. Wild G Alex Stalock was screened on the play by his own player in F Matt Cullen and Ottawa Senators F Ryan Dzingel. The puck appears to go off of Matt Cullen’s stick and he reacts like that’s the case but he’s also being pushed from behind from Dzingel which may have affected the play.

It’s very difficult to stop something you can’t see.

The Wild responded with a few scoring chances and they’d finally get one to go in the net at the 8:49 mark of the 1st period when Eric Staal tipped a Ryan Suter point shot that was he shot in front of Staal to give him (or Charlie Coyle) a chance for a tip since it’s shot at the dot and clearly going wide. The best views of this goal are on the Condensed Version of the game about 2:00 into the video. That is also the video at the top of the article.

Don’t forget to tip the waitress! More than 15%, too!

The first period would end with the score tied at one and with the Wild ahead in the shot department at 10-9. It was a good period by the Wild as they outchanced the Senators and it felt like they should definitely take some momentum into the 2nd period. One other thing to note about the 1st period for the Wild was they didn’t take any penalties.

14 seconds into the 2nd period behind the Ottawa net, Jason Zucker pushed Erik Karlsson’s leg and knocked him down but the official saw it as a trip. Was it a bad call? Probably but it did look like a trip and it’s doubtful anyone saw it as a bad call until they saw the replay. Well, the officials don’t get the luxury of seeing a replay before deciding if it’s a penalty or not.

Anyways, that would put the Wild Penalty Kill to the test and Erik Karlsson struck again from the point for his 2nd goal of the game. Just like his first goal, this one also goes off a Minnesota Wild player. This time, it’s D Jared Spurgeon and all you need to see to know that’s what happened is to look at his reaction after he realizes the puck went into the net:

Not again! Jared Spurgeon reacts after a Karlsson one-timer goes off his skate into the net.

Those are the breaks. Let it bother you or move on. There’s nothing you can do about it.

After killing a Spurgeon tripping penalty, the Wild had 3 defensemen out on the ice. This may have caused some confusion about who was defending who but they were also puckwatching and that left J.G. Pageau wide open in front of the net to put the Senators up 3-1 with 14:16 left in the 2nd period. Once again, you could see the players’ frustration on the ice and on the bench afterwards, particularly Ryan Suter.

Those are the types of goals that have killed the Wild this season and they’ve let their frustration from these goals and not scoring many goals of their own get in their heads but, for some reason, on this night, they responded and played some pretty dominant hockey for the rest of the game. Jason Zucker was thwarted by Craig Anderson. With his speed, Zucker created a mini-breakaway for himself. Coming from the right side, he was able to pull the puck to his forehand around Anderson but the goalie was able to make the save with his outstretched right pad. Ottawa D Johnny Oduya was clearly being careful of Zucker’s speed as he made sure he couldn’t cut back behind him as he chased him down. He also appeared to be worried about putting his stick somewhere that might draw a penalty.

It’s amazing how many goals get taken away by goalies stretching out at the last second because the offensive player thinks all they have to do is slide it into the net. If only they’d lift the puck up, it should be a goal every time. They usually think they don’t have enough time to lift the puck or feel they can sneak it past the goalie before they get their pad over there. Work on that, young players. Lifting the puck when you’re close to the net would be a very useful skill.

A few minutes later, promising young Wild F Joel Eriksson-Ek made a great play to get his team within 1 goal when he made a pass to Chris Stewart as he was driving to the net and Stewie didn’t waste any time putting the puck into the back of the net. In the replay, you can see Eriksson-Ek* battle (and get held) for position to get to the puck that Stewie wrapped around the boards then he took a peak right before he made the pass and put it right on the tape. That’s how you make apples, people!!! That was Chris Stewart’s first goal since November 27th.
*Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that he thought “Ek was great…the best player on the ice, tonight.”

Then with just under a minute left in the 2nd period, just as their power play expired, Ryan Suter took a slapshot from the center of the blue line with both Jason Zucker and Mikko Koivu set up in front of the net for the tip and the Kaptain got his stick on it and broke an 11-game pointless streak and a 24-game streak without a goal that goes all the way back to October 28th. It’s good to have that monkey off his back but there was still more work to do.

Koivu deflects a Suter point shot in to tie the game at 3 & snap his goal-scoring drought.

In between periods, Fox Sports North’s Kevin Gorg interviewed Mikko Koivu and, of course, he asks him how it feels to finally score a goal. The Minnesota Wild Captain didn’t miss a beat as he said it feels good and quickly moved on to saying how important it was to keep playing the way they have been so they can get the win. It’s not about him scoring. It’s about winning and finding any way possible to do it.

The Wild now had momentum going into the 3rd period as they rallied from the 3-1 deficit. Would they take that momentum into the 3rd period? You bet they would. This time the goal came from the one & only Nate Prosser. Mike Reilly took a slapshot from about left center and in about 5 feet from the blueline that leaves a rebound and J.G. Pageau tries to clear it out by hitting the puck the middle but he doesn’t get a lot on it. Nate Prosser is able to keep it in the zone and while backpedaling towards the puck and to the left he shoots back against the grain and scores to the middle to upper right corner. That was Nate Prosser’s first goal since last April.

It’s hard to stop what you cannot see.

About 3 minutes later after Wild G Alex Stalock absolutely stones Bobby Ryan (6:17 of the highlight video at the top),Jonas Brodin gets on the board with his 3rd of the season off his own rebound that also came off a failed attempt to clear the puck out from in front of the net by Ottawa D Cody Ceci. Alex Stalock made a number of huge saves to give his team a chance to come back and get this victory.

The Wild had the Senators scrambling just trying to throw pucks to get it out of the zone. Those are the moments when the offense can really take advantage of a team because as they are scrambling, the offensive players are calm and looking to get open or trying to find the puck to shoot again. The Wild have “exorcised the demons” with the goals in this game! Who’s next?

With the Wild up 5-3, they didn’t hold back. They kept being aggressive in the offensive zone, trying to expand the lead instead of just protect it. They ended up extending the lead to 6-3 on Eric Staal’s 2nd goal of the night off a rebound. Ottawa would get one back on their own power play with 1:26 left in the 3rd period so the final score was 6-4 but that’s a heckuva response from a Wild team that was down 3-1 in the 2nd period where 2 of the goals against went off of Wild players.

We haven’t really seen that kind of consistent play from the Wild very much this season. Now, hopefully, they keep up that kind of effort and keep shooting the puck, especially since those shots started going in. We’ll find out when they face the Florida Panthers at 6:30pm on Friday night on Fox Sports North!

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Wild Recaps – at the Chicago Blackhawks – December 17th, 2017

Some response to a loss against a big rival for the Wild?

The dream of a consistently competitive Minnesota Wild team within their reach but they still have some obstacles to get past to get to the point of playing well every game regardless of the opponent. A great team loves winning and battles through everything to win any and every game. The thing that makes a great team stand out, though, is how much they hate losing and how they respond to a loss and/or how they respond to playing bad.

I’ve been laughed at for saying, “I hate losing more than I love winning.” I’m not sure why that’s funny but I’ll explain what I mean. Losing sticks with you because of the mistakes that were made and chances that could’ve made a difference weren’t capitalized on. Maybe a shot went off the post, or an assignment was missed, or you were a split second late to cover the guy who scored or many other things that may have turned the game in your favor. That will stick in your mind and just gnaw at you until you get the chance to go back out on the ice and change it.

That’s why it’s sometimes nice to have a game right away the next day. You now have a chance to respond to the challenge of a competitive game of hockey again. Then make it against probably your biggest rival, the team that has ended your postseason more than any other team and everything is there for you to get up for that game and to do all you can to go get a victory together, right? You’d think so but, the Minnesota Wild didn’t really perform like that was the case last night in Chicago.

They came out with a lot of energy and had 5 shots within the first few minutes and ended up outshooting the Blackhawks in the first period at 13 to 9. The Blackhawks haven’t looked like THE Blackhawks for most of this season so it was hard to know what to expect coming into this game but they were on a 4-game winning streak and they still have Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford. Those guys are getting older but they can still get it done. Patrick Kane seems like he’s having an off-year, at least, by Patrick Kane standards. Maybe it’s because we aren’t seeing the nightly highlights or something or maybe it’s because Chicago has gone through so many ups & downs this season or because he doesn’t have the “Bread Man” on his line anymore since Artemi Panarin was traded in the offseason. Whatever it is, he’s still Patrick Kane and the last thing any team wants to do is give him a scoring chance. He’ll usually bury it and then get better as the game goes along.

Mikael Granlund is a very gifted offensive player. He enjoys passing the puck, maybe even more than shooting. That can sometimes be a problem. There’s nothing wrong with passing, obviously, but a player should also know when it’s time to shoot the puck. Mr. Granlund, because he enjoys passing the puck, sometimes tries to make too much out of a play when the simple play might be the right play. This may have caused the first goal against the Minnesota Wild last night.

Granlund has the puck in the corner. Where should this puck go?

The simple play is back to the point because all 5 Blackhawks players are at or below the dots. Staal isn’t open unless the puck was wrapped around boards. Eriksson-Ek could get the puck behind the net but instead he decides to come out in front of the net to be an option for Granlund.

Granlund decides to pass the puck to the player with the most players around him.

Joel Eriksson-Ek isn’t even in that great of a position to do anything with a pass other than maybe give it right back to Granlund but Artem Anisimov is right on him, takes the puck from him and the Blackhawks head down the ice on a 4-on-2. Granlund gets back to defend on the play but who do they leave open on the weakside? None other than #88 Patrick Kane just waiting to one-time a Nick Schmaltz pass into the net to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Granlund came very close to getting his stick on the pass to Kane but missed it. It’s amazing how quickly one little play can turn a game. That Granlund pass caused the odd-man rush and then it’s split second decisions on who/how to defend the play. Granlund had other options in going to either point or behind the net to Staal. Get the puck to a player that will have time & space to do something with it or is in a shooting position and doesn’t have 3 defenders within reach of him. Make the defense turn to find the puck, which will then open you up to go to the net as they all watch the puck.

The Wild did get some chances but, of course, didn’t capitalize on any of them and then came the 2nd period and they went back to mistakes at the offensive blueline, trying to make plays instead of just getting the puck deep and getting the forecheck going. They were outshot 22 to 6 in the period. They took 3 penalties including a too many men penalty that just shouldn’t happen.

Another bad change gave them a 2-0 deficit when Patrick Kane got behind the defense and went in all alone on Alex Stalock and beat him through the 5-hole.

Chicago D Jordan Oesterle sees Saad changing & both Wild players changing and is already looking for that pass to open up.

There’s a pass available to Saad as he’s changing. He’s wide open and would’ve had more of a breakaway than Kane did. Brodin knew Saad was changing and in the replay of the goal you can see him adjust to the middle but he obviously didn’t adjust enough because the pass still got through and that’s 2 for Patrick Kane and a 2-0 lead in the 2nd period.

Patrick Kane's second of the night 2 - MIN at CHI - 12-17-2017 - NHL com

How wide were Jordan Oesterle’s eyes when he saw Patrick Kane behind the defense and open for the long pass?

Going into the 3rd, you had to believe the Minnesota Wild would bring a push to get back into the game. They did but they are struggling to put the puck in the net and the frustration of those struggles is showing. Just 1:41 into the 3rd period, Chicago F #38 Ryan Hartman put the Blackhawks up 3-0 with a nice play from a bad angle, shooting high once he saw Alex Stalock going for the pokecheck. So, now the Wild are down 3-0.

Matt Dumba scored with 14:04 left in the 3rd period to get the Wild on the board and maybe get them some momentum when he fired a laser from the right point into the upper left corner. It was a blast from Dumba, too. It wasn’t one of those Knucklepucks. Corey Crawford was screened by two of his own players so didn’t pick it up until late. Queue up The Imperial March (the Darth Vader theme)….Dum, dum, dum, Dumba-dum, Dumba-dum…

The Wild did get some momentum from Dumba’s goal but Charlie Coyle and Joel Eriksson-Ek were foiled by Corey Crawford to keep the Blackhawks ahead 3-1.The Wild received a power play with 5:25 left in the 3rd period and Bruce Boudreau decided to pull the goalie so they’d have a 6-on-4 advantage and hopefully get the game within 1 goal so they could push to tie it up with 3+ minutes to go. Unfortunately, Ryan Suter whiffed on a pass and the puck went to Tommy Wingels and since the Blackhawks were killing a penalty he sent it down the ice right away and it slowly, painfully went into the Wild net and the Blackhawks had their 3-goal lead back at 4-1. That would be the final score.

Boudreau Postgame Interview
Wild Coach Bruce Boudreau said in the postgame press conference that the Wild are getting frustrated because they aren’t seeing results from their hard work. Then he made a really good point about frustration:

“Frustration is the most useless emotion you can have. It does nothing but hurt you.”
– Minnesota Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau

He’s right because the frustration and not seeing results makes the team and the individual players think they aren’t good enough or that they have to change what they’re doing to get results. What they actually have to do is stick to their game and trust it. That means trust their teammates, trust their shots and trust the system. Trust that what they are doing works and keep working at it.

It’s exciting to see what a team does when they aren’t having success. How will they respond the next time they’re on the ice, the next time they get a scoring chance, the next time the same situation comes up where they’ve been scored on recently. It’s an 81-game season and every team goes through some ups and downs. The great teams find a way to get through the downs quickly and get back to playing their game.

We’ll see if the Wild can do that tomorrow night when they face the struggling Ottawa Senators in Ottawa at 6pm on Fox Sports North.

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Wild Recaps – vs Edmonton Oilers – December 16th, 2017

The Wild take on the Oilers. Can they keep shutting down Connor McDavid?

Have the Minnesota Wild turned things around this quickly? It was only 3 weeks ago when they lost two games in a row to the St. Louis Blues (6-3) & the Winnipeg Jets (7-2) and fans & writers were putting a fork into them saying the problems were too hard to fix. Then they got on a roll of sorts and won 6 out of their next 7 games including a 4-game winning streak going into the game against Edmonton. Since November 9th, they are 12-4-1. 3 of those 4 losses were blowouts and the overtime loss was to the New Jersey Devils.

Those losses (and some of the wins) showed the Wild they had problems to fix with their defense and in how they play in Overtime. They’ve improved in those areas as shown by not losing a game that’s gone past regulation, 3 in overtime and 2 in shootouts. But, just because a team is winning doesn’t mean they are playing great. They’ve allowed too many comebacks in the 3rd period and still have yet to play a full 60-minute game of good hockey. They played pretty well against Toronto the other night, though.

The Edmonton Oilers activated their #1 goaltender, Cam Talbot, off injured reserve for yesterday’s matinee game so the Wild should’ve been shooting quickly and shooting often, right? Well, they should have but for some reason this team doesn’t seem to want to shoot the puck. There’s a time to shoot and a time to look for a pass or a better angle for a shot but way too many times nowadays, players love to get closer to the net to shoot. It doesn’t make any sense. These are NHL players with NHL shots and the closer you get to the NHL goalie, the harder it is to score. Here’s one example:

Tyler Ennis after an Edmonton turnover at their own blueline.

Tyler Ennis gets the puck at the offensive blueline and he has the time and space to skate into a prime shooting area as show in the photo above. Chris Stewart should have gotten the puck deep but he tried and hit the Edmonton d-man with the puck as he was entering the zone. He’s now on the right half-wall. Daniel Winnik is coming out of the right corner. Ennis has the puck and has speed skating through the slot. He could take a shot and maybe even use the Oiler player as a screen. He decides to keep the puck and skate all the way around to the left and take a shot from a terrible angle at the bottom of the faceoff circle and, of course, it’s right into the goalie’s chest.

Why not take a shot earlier from the slot? The shooting angle is better. He can aim for a corner and if it misses the net, he has the speed to be the first one to get there or he can get behind the net and set up a play. I’m sure after that shift the coach on bench told him to shoot it right away. Get pucks on the net early in the game. This play was 3 minutes into the game.

Edmonton F #93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the first goal while shorthanded when Matt Dumba gets a little too aggressive and there’s 4 Wild players below the dots. It’s a power play and yes, you’re trying to score, but you can’t be careless.

4 players below the dots all looking for a rebound, not worrying about defense.

The shot was saved and the rebound squirts out to the right boards and Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins get a 2-on-1 with Ryan Suter as the loan defenseman for the Wild. The usual rule on a 2-on-1 is to take away the pass and let the goalie take the shooter so he doesn’t have to try to get across his crease to make a save. For some reason, Suter doesn’t try to do that and Nugent-Hopkins gets an easy goal to put the Oilers up 1-0.

Angle 1

Angle 2

In Angle 1, Suter is maybe giving up too much of a gap because the pass is already available then for some reason, he moves closer to the shooter basically forcing a pass. Nugent-Hopkins was able to catch the pass and pretty easily shoot it past Alex Stalock. Was Suter counting on Mikael Granlund to get back into the play or did he think Stalock could get across his crease quicker? Did he think Kassian would hold the puck longer?

Matt Dumba would redeem himself rather quickly when a little over 4 minutes later he would score off a one-timer from a Mikael Granlund backhand sauce pass. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest sauce pass because the main reason it turned into a goal was probably because it turned into a KnucklePuck because Dumba didn’t get all of it.

The tie game would only last a few minutes when a deflected puck goes right to Milan Lucic’s stick and he buries it to the right of Alex Stalock. Ryan Suter makes a great play to separate Connor McDavid from the puck with some physical play but Leon Draisaitl sees a loose puck and gets his stick in there before Suter can pass it away and Milan Lucic wastes no time getting the shot off, surprising Stalock.

Matt Dumba and his aggressiveness would be the main culprit again. On a faceoff in the Oilers zone, Eric Staal wins the faceoff but Charlie Coyle was tied up by Jesse Puljujarvi leaving the puck free for Milan Lucic to grab it and start down the ice. Dumba would’ve been fine if he had just started skating back on the play instead of trying to check the 6’3”, 236-pound power forward but he thought he could make a play and Lucic showed him just how hard he is to move off the puck, causing Dumba to fall down and making the play into a 2-on-1 with Charlie Coyle backchecking hard to try to break it up.

Look how far away Dumba is from the puck. Just play good solid defense with 11+ minutes left down 2-1 in the 3rd period.

There were some other things that played into this goal. Ryan Suter, who is usually one of the best at getting the blade of his stick in the way of the puck when defending, either took his eye off of it for a split second or was maybe more worried about Lucic shooting then passing and that allowed Lucic to make a slight adjustment to get the pass over to Puljujarvi. Charlie Coyle got on his horse after losing a battle for position on the faceoff and he actually gets his stick on the pass from Lucic but the puck then goes off of Puljujarvi’s right skate, off the toe of Alex Stalock’s right leg but right back to Puljujarvi and he just taps it into the empty net.

That’s two 2-on-1s where Suter went to the player with the puck instead of taking away the pass. Is he just overconfident that he can break up that play or is there something about the Oilers they saw to do that on 2-on-1s?

Matt Dumba would redeem himself once again with another one-timer Knucklepuck to bring the game within 1. This one also came off a backhand sauce pass although this time it was from Chris Stewart and it knuckled into the upper right corner over a waving Cam Talbot catching glove.

The Minnesota Wild brought a big push to tie the game up and Connor McDavid, who is not known for his defense, made a great defensive play to break up a Nino Niederreiter wraparound with 50 seconds left that very well may have tied the game and forced overtime.

97 preventing goals, too!

Well, the Wild get right back at it tonight with a game in Chicago to start a 4-game road trip. Will this be the night Mikko Koivu breaks out of his slump? He’s been getting chances, hitting posts but has just been snakebit when it comes to scoring. The Wild should get up for this game and they played a whale of a game the last time they were in the United Center so, hey, Let’s Go WILD!!!

THANKS for reading some Clutter. We’d love to see your thoughts on this game, the Wild or anything else hockey-related so….

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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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