Category Archives: NHL Hockey

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….
EVERY DAY in EVERY WAY!!!

2017 Minnesota Wild – The 17th Wild Training Camp Begins…

The 17th Minnesota Wild Season - Another Wild Training Camp Begins...

Will this be the Minnesota Wild’s greatest season?

The Minnesota Wild took to the ice for the first time today and we’re off. The 2017-18 season is here. The players had Media Day yesterday, got to throw on the new sweaters and get all of the photographs and media stuff taken care of. Then today, they went through coach Bruce Boudreau’s dreaded skate conditioning test where they have to skate 2 ½ lengths of the ice in under 40 seconds then have 2 minutes to rest before they do it again, 2 more minutes of rest and then do it one more time. If they fail, they are penalized by doing it two more times! Hey….Welcome Back, fellas. I hope the offseason training went well.

Most of the veteran players did better than the young bucks, maybe because they’ve been through it before but it is a testament to how good of a skater you have to be to play in the best hockey league in the world. It might say something about how long your shifts should be, too. Anyways, conditioning is a must to start off training camp. They may have a great offseason workout plan and program but that doesn’t mean they are in hockey shape or, at least, NHL ready hockey shape.

2017 Minnesota Wild Preseason Schedule

Monday’s game is listed on NHL Network at 8:30 pm
(which must be joined in progress because the start time is listed as 7pm)
The full game replays at 5am Tuesday morning so set those DVRs!

They now have 20 days and 7 preseason games to look at everyone on the 58-man training camp roster, find out who plays well together and set up everything for the beginning of the regular season on Thursday, October 5th at the Detroit Red Wings at 6:30 pm on NBC Sports Network.


D  R  A  F  T
*

General Manager Chuck Fletcher had some work to do to get his team ready for the 17th Minnesota Wild season. He had to prepare for the Expansion Draft, the 2017 NHL Draft, the Frenzy of Free Agency and he also had a few restricted free agents to re-sign.
*Get it? That’s an expanded draft! What? NEVERMIND!

First on his offseason hockey-do list was to figure out who to expose in the Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft. Fletch was basically forced to deal F Erik Haula and one of his team’s top prospects in F Alex Tuch to guarantee Vegas wouldn’t take F Eric Staal, D Matt Dumba or D Marco Scandella. The good news is he also got back a 2018 3rd-round pick from Vegas. Erik Haula most likely was not going to be re-signed anyways and they still have a lot of good prospects even after losing the promising big power forward.

2O17 NHL Draft

During the NHL Draft, most Wild fans were probably watching anticipating (or hoping) for some kind of a trade since they didn’t pick until the 3rd round. No trade came but the Minnesota Wild picked 6 players (2 wings, 3 centers & 1 defenseman) we won’t likely see for awhile. 4 of them are in Canadian Junior Leagues, 1 is a big Russian center whose already playing in the KHL and 1 is a 20-yr-old forward Nick Swaney from Burnsville, MN, who played at Lakeville South HS, just finished his career in the USHL scoring 115 points & 66 goals in 120 games player with 51 of those points (26G) coming in 47 last season with the Waterloo Blackhawks AND who’s starting his college hockey career this season with the UMD Bulldogs.

We Have a Trade to Announce!*
Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella traded to Buffalo Sabres, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno traded to Minnesota Wild
*BOOOO!!! GET OFF THE STAGE, BETTMAN!!!

Maybe feeling like he had to cash in on his team’s defensive depth just before free agency began, on June 30th, Fletch (the Brown Fox) made a deal with the Buffalo Sabres to acquire F Tyler Ennis, F Marcus Foligno and a 2018 3rd-round draft pick for D Marco Scandella, F Jason Pominville and a 2018 4th-round draft pick. This trade freed up some salary cap room by ridding the Wild of Jason Pominville’s contract and it increased their forward depth by getting a small, speedy forward in Tyler Ennis, who just happens to be defenseman Jared Spurgeon’s best friend (Awww…), and big power forward, Marcus Foligno, who, at 6’3, will use his body physically, having ranked 5th in the NHL last season with 279 hits.* What this trade may have also done is taken away one of the few, if not only, defenseman the Wild had that would bring some physicality to the lineup.
*Ahh…some Clutter back in the Wild’s lineup. I like it!

Not So WILD Free Agency
2017 Wild Free Agency

So…with Scandella traded and all but maybe 2 forward spots filled, the Minnesota Wild set out to sign some free agents. They weren’t going to go get any of the big boys available but they did a good thing by grabbing a lot of players who are very close to taking that last step to making it in the NHL. Players like F Kyle Rau, F Landon Ferraro, D Ryan Murphy, F Cal O’Reilly, G Niklas Svedberg and D Kyle Quincey. This means whoever gets those last few available roster spots will have had to compete their butts off and earn it, and that includes Joel Eriksson-Ek or Luke Kunin. Competition makes everyone better. Even G Alex Stalock will have to compete to hold the backup goaltender spot.

Could You Sign This Again, Please?

So, one of the last things Fletch had on his offseason hockey-do list was to get his restricted free agents re-signed and, of course, keep his team under the $75M salary cap in the process. Both F Nino Niederreiter and F Mikael Granlund filed for arbitration so they knew they’d be signed before training camp started but they did not need arbitration as Fletch and the Minnesota Wild signed both Niederreiter and Granlund to contracts during the week of July 30th. Nino Niederreiter agreed to a 5-year/$26.25M ($5.25 AAV) contract on July 30th and Mikael Granlund agreed to a 3-year/$17.25M ($5.75M) contract 2 days later on August 1st.

Anyone Else?

The Wild still had some room under the salary cap and a veteran player would fit in very well, and most likely be preferred over a young player who has yet to figure out how it works in the NHL. They were talking to a bunch of free agents, trying to gauge what the best fit could be but, all along they had a player in mind they wanted to add to this team, a certain former Wild player (also, one of us Minnesotans.) The Minnesota Wild had to wait to see if he would consider coming back for another year of pro hockey after just finishing his 19th NHL season and winning his 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup.

Then, on August 16th, F Matt Cullen made the decision to come back for another season of NHL Hockey and to put the #7 Wild jersey back on* and help his home team get over the hump and show them how to get to the promised land. How ‘bout that for a feel-good story, huh? Cully’s back, baby!!!
*Chris Stewart gave Cullen the #7 back and will wear #10 this season.

The Wild also signed a couple of other veterans to player tryout (PTO) contracts in F Ryan Malone, who hasn’t played since 2014-15 and F Daniel Winnik, a 10-year vet who played with the Washington Capitals last season. He has also played for Bruce Boudreau for 2 season in Anaheim.

Yesterday, the Minnesota Wild and GM Chuck Fletcher took care of the last thing on their list and that was to get restricted free agent F Marcus Foligno re-signed. He signed a 4-year/$11.5M ($2.875 AAV) deal and he was able to take part in today’s first skate.

StoryLines

You are all caught up and ready for Wild Training Camp. What are some of the storylines for Training Camp and this season. Zach Parise missed today’s ice time because he tweaked his back the other day but it’s apparently not serious.

There aren’t a lot of big storylines other than the usual stay healthy, who’s playing together, can they come together as a team things. There are only really 4 spots available on the roster and they aren’t really that available considering players who have 1-way contracts and already have NHL experience.

Who will grab those last 2 forward and the last 2 defenseman spots available? Can F Joel Eriksson-Ek grab one of those spots and be the 3rd line center? Will either player, Ryan Malone and/or Daniel Winnik, grab one or two forward spots? What about young Luke Kunin?

Can Gustav Olofsson grab one of the available spots on defense? Will it come down picking 2 of Gustav, Mike Reilly and Kyle Quincey? Does Kyle Quincey’s experience give him the automatic lead? Will D Ryan Murphy start to realize his potential and make this team?

Can Eric Staal improve on his huge comeback season? Will Tyler Ennis have a comeback season like Eric Staal did in 2016-17? Will playing on a winning team allow Marcus Foligno to produce more?

How will the Wild’s defense be this season? Can they bring a physical element?

Will we still see increased point production from Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund? How will the lines play out? Will the Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker be together again? Who will be on the top line with Eric Staal? Zach? Nino? Ennis?

We’ll see over the next 20 days how this team evolves in training camp. We can only hope they stay healthy throughout the whole preseason but, Bruce Boudreau believes they have the depth to make up for anything.  

Hey! THANKS for reading! Bring The Clutter in the comments. We want to see what you think, ClutterPuckers! You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+!

As always….

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

Did the Minnesota Wild make a Scandellous Trade?

Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella traded to Buffalo Sabres, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno traded to Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild’s Salary Cap might have been a little too tight after trading F prospect Alex Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights so they would take Erik Haula in the expansion draft instead of any of their available defenseman. They still had to sign Restricted Free Agent forwards Nino Niederreiter & Mikael Granlund with only about $15.2M available under the cap.

34-year-old F Jason Pominville had 2 more years & $12.2M left on his contract ($5.6M Cap Hit) and Marco Scandella had 3 years & 12M left ($4M Cap Hit) so it was going to be difficult to sign both Niederreiter & Granlund and try to do anything in free agency. The Minnesota Wild have had depth at the back end for a while now and they dealt Marco Scandella from that depth in order to free up some cap room.

It was good to get rid of Jason Pominville’s contract. He’s been underperforming for a few seasons. He came to the wild in the strike shortened season of 2012 known as a goal scorer because he had scored 20+ goals for 6 consecutive season in Buffalo scoring 157 goals in 483 games (a 26.7/season average.) The majority of Minnesota Wild fans were excited to get a goal-scorer on their team. He scored 30 goals his first full season in Minnesota in 2013-14 but since then he’s only scored 42 goals in 317 games. That’s an average of only 10.8 per season.

Now, Marco Scandella is a different story and, of course, the principle player in this trade for the Buffalo Sabres. Marco probably deserved to play a larger role in Minnesota including spending more time on the power play so he could unleash that heavy slap shot more often and drive up those goal totals. He may have also been their best defensive defenseman because he would be physical along with being able to skate with most forwards in the National Hockey League. He was the Minnesota Wild’s best defenseman in the playoffs.

At the time of the expansion draft, I felt the Wild could somewhat afford to lose any of the defenseman they had to expose to the Vegas Golden Knights. If they lost Jonas Brodin, Gustav Olofsson could fill in or step into that spot. If they lost Matt Dumba, Mike Reilly could step up and if they lost Marco Scandella, I felt Christian Folin could replace the physicality that was one of the better parts of Scandella’s game. The Wild failed to re-sign Christian Folin so he ended up signing with the Los Angeles Kings as a free agent.

So, the Minnesota Wild have Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Mike Reilly, Gustav Olofsson, Kyle Quincey, Ryan Murphy, Carson Soucy and, maybe, Nick Seeler vying for the 6 or 7 defense spots available. The only players that can or will be someone to count on bringing some sort of a physical element on the back end are Matt Dumba, Kyle Quincey, Carson Soucy and Nick Seeler. 2 of those 4 players most likely will have a pretty difficult time making the roster out of training camp and I don’t believe Olofsson, Reilly or Murphy bring much of a physical element at all.

That exposes the Wild’s defense to a physical forecheck. They can all skate very well so they may be able to evade that kind of a forecheck but they also have to be physical to clear the front of the net and protect their goalie. Most of them have decent size but size doesn’t always matter (careful!)

They did add Marcus Foligno, though. The big power forward acquired from Buffalo, 6’3″ and 228 lbs. was 5th in hits last season with 279. They still have some big bodies up front in Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, and Chris Stewart. Charlie Coyle is a beast of a man but he really doesn’t play all that physical. Hopefully, he’ll start to realize how good of a player he can be if he plays physical and shoots the puck more, A LOT MORE.

So, keep an eye on the defense when Minnesota Wild players report for training camp next Thursday, September 14th.

THAT IS JUST 6 DAYS AWAY!!! SIX DAYS!!!

Thanks for reading and hey…
Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

The 2017-18 Minnesota Wild – Expansion Clutter

Who will the Minnesota Wild protect in the 2017 Expansion Drafat?

To protect or not to protect? That is the question.

For the Minnesota Wild, the expansion draft offers a bit of a dilemma as they have to leave some good players available when the expansion draft begins for the NHL’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, on Sunday morning.

Every NHL team has to submit a protected list of either 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie or any 8 players regardless of position & 1 goaltender.* The Minnesota Wild are likely choosing the former of protecting 7 Fs, 3 D-men and 1 G. This allows them to protect more forwards but only 3 defensemen. This is where the dilemma begins.
*To see all the expansion key times, dates and rules, click 
HERE

Any player with no-movement clauses must be protected unless they agreed to waive that right by Friday at 4:00 pm CST. That means the Wild have to protect Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, and Ryan Suter taking up 3 forward spots and 1 defenseman spot. Jason Pominville would be an obvious choice to leave unprotected so they could protect another forward but, as of Friday night, we had not heard yet if Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had asked Mr. Pominville if he would waive his no-move clause. We may not find out until the lists are released to the teams on Sunday morning at 9:00 am CST.

Minnesota Wild Forwards from CapFriendly.com

Minnesota Wild Forwards from CapFriendly.com

They can only protect 4 more forwards from the above list excluding Martin Hanzal and Ryan White as they are going to be Unrestricted Free Agents as of July 1st.* There are no-brainers like Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Niederreiter who are all just 24-25 years old. Of the rest, the players you’d think the Wild would want to protect are Erik Staal and Jason Zucker. *Players with 2 or fewer years of NHL/AHL experience are exempt so they don’t have to protect Joel Eriksson-Ek.

So they either have to expose rising star Jason Zucker or their #1 center Eric Staal. Jason Zucker had a career year last season scoring 22 goals while dishing 25 assists in 79 games. He also took a big step defensively, leading the league in plus/minus (in a tie with teammate Ryan Suter) with a +34. So, he’s now a responsible player who Bruce Boudreau can count on in all situations.

Eric Staal could easily be the comeback player of the year as he helped the Minnesota Wild solidify the center position while scoring 65 points (28 goals, 37 assists.) He regained his love for the game in the State of Hockey after winning the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in his 2nd NHL season in 2006 then making the playoffs in only 1 of the next 10 seasons before being traded to the New York Rangers near the trade deadline in 2016.

So, do the Wild protect the up-and-coming sniper who is a threat with his speed any time he’s on the ice in Jason Zucker or the steely veteran who was a big reason why they were the 2nd-best team in the Western Conference last season? It’s a tough decision. It sounds like they are leaning toward protecting Jason Zucker.

It all may be a moot point since the Wild can only protect 3 of their defenseman and, one would think, the Vegas Golden Knights would want to build from the net out and be able to defend well right out of the gate.

Minnesota Wild Defensemen and Goalies from CapFriendly.com

Minnesota Wild Defensemen and Goalies from CapFriendly.com

They have to protect Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon is a no-brainer so they’re left with the impossible decision of which one defenseman to protect from Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, and Matt Dumba. That’s 2 up-and-coming young defensemen in Brodin & Dumba and Marco Scandella, who was their best defenseman in the playoffs and plays with some physicality, has great skating ability to be a shutdown defenseman and has a rocket for a shot. He is 27 but that’s not old for a defenseman by any means.

Jonas Brodin is the hot name in trade rumors but the Wild have had teams call about the availability of Matt Dumba & Marco Scandella as well. If the Wild were only choosing for right now, Marco Scandella might very well be the guy but they have to look at the future and they have two players that could fit very well together as a 2nd defensive pair. Jonas Brodin is better defensively and Matt Dumba is better offensively. They are opposite-handed shots with Brodin shooting left & Dumba shooting right.

A lot of fans are frustrated with Dumba as he makes some bad decisions defensively. That being said, he’s just 22 and can certainly get better in that area and he put up 34 points (11 goals & 23 assists) with 6 goals (and 6 assists) coming on the power play. Jonas Brodin probably should have more points over the last 3 seasons, especially since he jumped from 2 goals in his rookie season to 8 in his 2nd season. Some of that can be from the Wild struggling to score goals for most of their existence and from the coaches taking him off the power play in favor of Jared Spurgeon, Scandella, and even Dumba.

The good news is no matter who they lose from their defense, they should be able to fill that spot with a current player and/or a prospect who looks ready to take the next step to a full-time role on the big club. If they lose Jonas Brodin, they have Gustav Olofsson, who patterns his game after his fellow Swede and got a chance to show what he can do for the Wild last season, impressing his coach along the way. If they lose Matt Dumba, Mike Reilly might very well be able to step in as an offensive defenseman who’s finding his defensive game after 2 seasons going back and forth between the AHL to the NHL. If they lose Marco Scandella, Christian Folin could step in as he plays physical and is a good defensive defenseman. They also have Nick Seeler, who Chuck Fletcher said was the “most improved player” in the organization last year. They still have Carson Soucy, who just turned pro after 4 years playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, too.

Chuck Fletcher is listening to any and all offers he’s getting for his players and had a lot of interest in recently traded F Jonathan Drouin. He was supposedly their #1 target:

Unfortunately, Fletch was handcuffed since he really couldn’t deal one of his 3 defensemen to get Drouin and then still risk losing another one of those 3 defensemen and also find a way to protect Jonathan Drouin.* Now, we wait to see if the Wild make a move to try to solve their Expansion Clutter.
*Remember when Tampa Bay was supposedly asking for Matt Dumba to get Jonathan Drouin when he wanted to be traded last season? They might have the same problem trying to figure out who to protect right now, though, not to mention how to fit Drouin in with their other current restricted free agents.

All teams have to submit their protected lists by 4:00 pm CST on Saturday afternoon. There will be a trade, waiver and signing freeze beginning at 2:00 pm CST on Saturday as well. This will leave Vegas as the only team allowed to make trades, place players on waivers, or sign players to contracts.

Starting on Sunday at 9:00 am CST, every team’s protected list will be approved and distributed to teams and the NHL Players’ Association (& supposedly made public, too.) At the same time of 9:00 am CST, an exclusive window for free agent negotiation will begin for the Knights.

As always, THANKS for reading. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ if you want to chirp us about this or anything else. We welcome it and want to hear your thoughts so….

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

2017 Playoff Preview – Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues

It’s Playoff Season! It’s time for the intensity to go through the roof!

The Minnesota Wild have waited 6 months for the playoffs to arrive. That’s what it’s all about, right? Nobody cares about the regular season. There aren’t any big statements about who wins the regular season other than only 8 of the 28 teams who’ve received the President’s Trophy for the best regular-season record have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. That’s a pretty big statement, huh?

Really, this is what we’ve all been waiting for. The regular season can be fun and obviously, there’s an importance to the regular season but there’s just nothing like the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’re biased, of course, because we love hockey but we still believe there’s nothing like it. The physical toll it takes on teams and players to win 16 games over four 7-game series of hockey is just extraordinary. The quest for 16 wins starts tonight for the Minnesota Wild as they play the St. Louis Blues in the first round.

The Wild upset the Blues in 2015 when the Blues won the Central Division and the Wild were a Wild Card team. That series went Wild (Away), Blues (Home) Wild (H), Blues (A), Wild (A), and Wild (H). The tables have now kind of been turned yet Mike Yeo is still the underdog. He’s been on the winning side of an upset in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has that experience. He also knows the majority of the players on the Wild roster.

Some might look at Bruce Boudreau and question his playoff (& Game 7) results. He’s only made it to the 3rd round once, in 2014-15, losing to eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks. For some reason, he hasn’t fared well in Game 7s (1-7), either. Every one of those was at home, too.

So, is it his coaching philosophy? Does it work in the playoffs? Coaches can have a huge impact on a team, in the system they run, in the lines they put on the ice, in the way they treat the players, in the adjustments they make during a game and a series, and in the game plans they set up for each game or series. All that being said, it’s up to the players to execute the system and the game plans. You win with players. A coach can’t score, block a shot or make a save from the bench.

Minnesota Wild

The Wild scored the 2nd most goals in the entire league and had 12 players score more than 10 goals for a total of 218 goals. They have more players that can score goals spread across all 4 lines. They also were very good defensively with a very mobile defense that prioritizes getting the puck out of the zone. Until March, Devan Dubnyk was considered one of the top choices to win the Vezina Trophy given to the best goalie in the league. He and the Wild did struggle during the month of March but they appeared to have gotten their game back in April. They’ll need a good series from Dubnyk to win.

The Wild were also the best team in the Western Conference (Pittsburgh was the only team ahead of them) in even strength 5-on-5 situations so staying out of the box will be a big part of taking control and winning this series. They have a good penalty kill but, of course, you’d rather not test it.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues had 10 players score more than 10 goals for a total of 179 goals, with Vladimir Tarasenko scoring 39 of those 179 goals. Tarasenko is, of course, that superstar player that can make or break a series. He knows how to find time and space and he has one of the best shots in the league. The Blues were 5th in 5-on-5 scoring but only had a +9 differential when even strength.

The Blues are a hard team to judge because of the coaching change. They looked like a team that wouldn’t make the playoffs under Ken Hitchcock. They even traded away one of their top defenseman in Kevin Shattenkirk. Fortunately, they caught fire under Mike Yeo, which Wild fans can associate with as they were very excited a couple years ago with their team under Mr. Yeo. Their defense and goaltending were great down the stretch, making them a tough opponent in the playoffs.

#TheX Factor

The Minnesota Wild have home ice advantage for only the second time in franchise history. Home ice should be an advantage. Every team would take playing at home over playing on the road but once the puck drops, it might not matter that much other than the Wild getting the last change so they can get the matchups they want against the Blues top lines. The crazy State of Hockey fans may have something to say about that, though.

The X-Factor for Each Team

Which player for each team can be the game changer, the player that can change the series for their team? For the Minnesota Wild, it’s Charlie Coyle. He’s built for the playoffs. He needs to play his game, be physical and shoot the puck. If he does that, he’ll make this series easier for the Wild to win. For the St. Louis Blues, it’s Ivan Barbashev. He’s centering the top line as a rookie in his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the stage isn’t too big for him, he can make a huge impact in this series. He had to do better in the faceoff circle to start off with. 40% isn’t going to cut it in the Playoffs.

ClutterPuck Dropped

This should be a fun series but we’re going with the Minnesota Wild in 6 games. They just appear to have more depth offensively and have played very well defensively against the Blues, and Vladimir Tarasenko, this season.

Enjoy the series and all of the first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and remember….

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way