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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!

Thanks for reading some Clutter. What do you think the Wild have to do to fix this team?

In the meantime, we hope you’ll continue to #GetWild &…

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Minnesota Wild – Broken at the Break? What do they do now?

The Minnesota Wild will try to get out of a scoring and winning drought as the NHL All-Star break ends.

Are the Minnesota Wild broken? If so, can they be fixed?

The Minnesota Wild have 6 points in their last 10 games (2-6-2), 9 points since the calendar turned to 2016 (3-7-3) and have scored only 23 goals in those 13 games (16 in the last 10). The lack of scoring (and winning) has them out of a playoff spot with 33 games left in the 2015-16 NHL season.

A scoring slump or a slump of any kind always gets fans asking for a coaching change. Minnesota Wild fans are very familiar with a slump in the middle of the season as it’s happened pretty much every season since Mike Yeo has been here. Does that mean he should get fired? Is it the system? Is he putting the players in situations where they can have success? Or is it the players squeezing the sticks too hard and letting their minds screw with their confidence, making them think twice about how they play the game?

I subscribe to the latter. We’ve seen this team go on a tear before so we know what they are capable of doing against any team. It’s amazing that players who get paid millions of dollars can still have the confidence in their game swayed by a lack of success. The big question is how does the coach get them out of this mental funk they are in?

Almost every team & every player goes through a slump at some point during a season. Look at the Montreal Canadiens, who were dominant at the beginning of the season. They won their first 9 games and 18 of their first 22 games. Now they are 24-22-4, 3 points out of a playoff spot. The Dallas Stars are currently struggling a bit, 3-6-1 in their last 10 games.

The only teams that seem to have avoided a slump are the teams at the top of each conference, the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks, or maybe only the Capitals? The Blackhawks had a somewhat rocky start to the season adjusting to some new teammates but have righted the ship with great leadership and the league’s leading scorer, Patrick Kane. A 12-game winning streak will solve a lot of problems but…that streak was followed by 3 losses in 4 games so…what should we take from that?

Even one of the greatest, if not the greatest, hockey players in the last 10 years, one Sidney Crosby, has struggled this season. In his first 9 games of the season,  Sidney Crosby had only 3 points on 1 goal & 2 assists and those points came from one game so in 8 of his first 9 games he didn’t register a point. This is a player who has averaged 1.33 points per game for his career. He didn’t even make the All-Star game which seems unfathomable. The Sid also appears to have gotten his game back with 41 points in 47 games or since those first 9 games, 38 points (16G, 22A) in 38 games and on a current 7-game scoring streak.

I’ve been around hockey for a long time and usually a team and/or a player in a slump needs to go back to basics and simplify their game. They need to free their mind so they just play the game, not thinking about it too much. In my opinion, you never want a player thinking twice about what they are doing during a game. No “Should I go? Should I pass? shoot?” or any question in what they’re doing. That causes hesitation and then the play is past you or the shooting/passing lane is gone.

This is why I don’t think it’s a coaching problem with the Minnesota Wild. They just need to get back to their game and trust what they are doing, trusting their game as a team and as individual players. Shoot the puck! Be the Wild team you know you can be! The Time is Now!!!

One thing that might need to happen is breaking up that top line. Mike Yeo seems to have the utmost confidence in Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. Nobody can really complain about #11 as he brings his game every night but the lack of scoring from his two linemates is affecting his production. If they, the line or just 64 & 29, don’t start producing, Mr. Yeo will have to make some changes. There’s just no way around it.

Pominville, Granland used to sound like an exciting place to visit, where goals were achieved and apples were available for free. Now, Bring It On Down to Pominville sounds like some sort of punishment and Welcome To Granland doesn’t sound as welcoming of a greeting as it used to.

One player who seems to be Going Wild is #3 Charlie Coyle. Did you think Charlie would Go Wild this season? I did!

No matter what, it should be an interesting 33 games for the Minnesota Wild.

Will the Wild get back to winning or will this slump continue to the point where we may see the end of the Mike Yeo Era in Minnesota?

We’d love to hear your thoughts so Bring The Clutter in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+!

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Minnesota Wild Game 3 Recap – Wild lose 1-0! Is it over?

Minnesota Wild lose Game 3, 1-0!

On the power play, a deflected puck ends up being the difference in Game 3. Wild lose 1-0!

Minnesota Wild can’t get on the board against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3. Patrick Kane’s 1st period power play goal holds up as Chicago takes a 3 games to none lead in the 2nd round series.

The Wild came out flying in the 1st period getting a couple good scoring chances but Chicago withstood the opening surge and only helped build their confident play. The Wild would get the 1st power play of the game but Chicago’s renewed confidence on defense has rubbed off on their penalty kill too. The Wild, who had their power play going, now have trouble getting in the zone and when they do, they can’t even get a shot on goal.

The Blackhawks would also get a power play in the 1st period and would get a fortuitous bounce to help them score their 1st goal of the game. Johnathan Toews makes a backhand pass from just inside his own zone to Patrick Sharp coming up the right boards in the neutral zone. Sharp tries to make a pass to Andrew Shaw coming up the middle of the ice but the puck is on edge so it’s a slow, wobbly pass and Matt Cooke gets a piece of it but it deflects up the middle. Matt Dumba, playing the right defense position, moves toward the puck and Shaw, leaving Patrick Kane alone coming up the left side. Shaw hears Kane yelling for the puck so he chops at it to get it over to Kane. Patrick Kane gets the pass and beats Devan Dubnyk through the five-hole to score the 1st goal of the game.

Matt Dumba has to know that’s Patrick Kane coming up the left side and can’t leave an opening for the puck to get over there. He either has to make a better play on the deflected puck. Something different than the sweeping poke check that is a one and done If it doesn’t work, like it didn’t. He also should know he has Marco Scandella on his left, who can make a play on that puck. I don’t necessarily blame Dumba for going after that puck. I just think he could’ve played it better and not given so much of a chance for the puck to get to the most dangerous player on the rink in this series.

The Minnesota Wild would get plenty of chances to tie the game, but Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks would stop every one of them and put the Wild on the brink of elimination with a 3 games to none lead in the series.

This series has turned into a tale of two teams that changed after the 2nd period of Game 1. That’s the last time the Minnesota Wild looked like a hungry team that refused to be stopped and the last time the Chicago Blackhawks team looked like a team with some defensive holes.

Since that Game 1 2nd period, the Minnesota Wild has played a passive game, waiting for something to happen, while the Blackhawks have played an active game, aggressively making something happen. This change has gotten in the heads of both teams. The Blackhawks confidence is growing. The Wild’s confidence is dwindling.

What happens to a player’s and/or a team’s game when confidence goes up or down? A player struggling with confidence waits for that perfect goal, the easy tap-in, the tic-tac-toe beautiful play that rarely happens. They don’t shoot the puck quickly. They hold the puck or try to make a move to get a closer look and the majority of the time, a shot never occurs. The play is broken up or the goalie is given plenty of time to cut the angle down and make the save.

A player playing with confidence shoots the puck quickly knowing that’s the best way to score. A quick shot means the goalie doesn’t have time to square up and get ready for the shot and even if the goalie makes the save, there’s a high probability a rebound will happen as a result of that quick shot and the confident team has a player ready to pounce on that rebound when it happens.

One of the reasons I picked the Wild to win in six games was their poise and confidence. It was questioned in Game 4 of the 1st round against St. Louis. After that game, the Wild played games 5 and 6 with the belief they would win the game. Obviously, if you’ve watched Game 2 and Game 3  against Chicago, that belief and that confidence is barely there. It’s been replaced by frustration and doubt. They are playing like a team that doesn’t know how to play anymore or how to figure out what to do against the Blackhawks.

The reason I picked the Blackhawks to lose the series is because they didn’t seem to be a good defensive team in their series against the Nashville Predators. They were allowing comebacks and a lot of goals and they had to use both goalies out of necessity, not by choice. A team not playing great defensively and having issues between the pipes usually has a difficult time winning in the playoffs.

I described the goal as being a fortuitous bounce for the Blackhawks. Am I saying they are getting more bounces than the Wild? Yes and no. As a team, you can’t blame or credit good or bad bounces as the reason why you are winning or losing. The Wild are all too familiar with bad bounces against the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Last season came to an end on a bounce off a stanchion behind the net that went right to Patrick Kane. Bang! Season Over! Ouch!

We’ll see what the Minnesota Wild can do in Game 4 on Thursday night at 8:30pm. Will a bounce end the series again? Will the Wild get back to their game and actually get a lead in a game for the first time in the 2nd round and extend the series to a 5th game?

Don’t give up on the Minnesota Wild! They aren’t giving up so neither should you!

THANKS for reading!!!

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A Preview of Round 2 – Minnesota Wild vs Chicago Blackhawks – So we meet again

Minnesota Wild vs Chicago Blackhawks in the 2nd round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

So we meet again…The Minnesota Wild play the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs for the 3rd straight season.

The Minnesota Wild meet the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 3rd straight season and the 2nd straight season in the 2nd round when the puck (or the ClutterPuck) drops tonight around 8:30pm. The last two seasons when these teams met, it was a foregone conclusion that the Blackhawks would defeat the Wild. It was just a matter of how many games it would take for Chicago to win the series.

In 2013, the Minnesota Wild were, basically, just happy to be in the postseason dance. They were that weird kid standing alone in the corner wondering why they were there and then they saw her. The Stanley Cup. They got the courage to go up and ask her to dance* but here came Mr. Popular, the Chicago Blackhawks, to steal their thunder and ruin their night. So they went home losing the series 4 games to 1 with that 1 win coming in overtime fashion. (Thank you, Mr. Zucker!) Not the results the Wild wanted but it was a step, the first step to becoming a champion. They saw up close how a championship team got it done in the playoffs. They learned how intense the playoffs are and how every possession and play is magnified!

*How do you dance with the Stanley Cup? Trust me, if the Minnesota Wild win Lord Stanley’s Cup, it will just happen. Everyone will be like, “Here, I’ll show you!” Everybody Loves Stan!!!

In 2014, we saw a team that figured out what it takes to win a series. They beat the Colorado Avalanche in a series that began looking like the Colorado would win the series pretty quickly. They figured out every game in a series is a different entity, something with distinct and independent existence and they could come back if they played the right way. They needed 7 games and overtime in Game 7 to do it. That Game 7 was almost a microcosm of the series, too. The Wild never led in the game until that final shot in OT. They came back from a 1-goal deficit 4 times. The only lead they had in the game and in the series was after the final shot! (PING! Thank you, Nino!)

Facing the Blackhawks in the 2nd round felt like they were ruining the dance again! They’d win game 1 & 2 by scores of 5-2 and 4-1, sending the Wild home, down 2 games. That 1st round experience showed them they could come back in a series and we saw a Wild team get that Home Ice Advantage, starting to play with confidence and really frustrate teams when they played at The X.* It was especially amazing to see how much they frustrated the reigning Stanley Cup Champions with their play on home ice. They would end up losing game 6 in overtime on a crazy bounce that went right to Patrick Kane and just like that, the Wild’s season came to an end.

*CRAWWWFORRRRRRD!!!

The 2014-15 version of the Minnesota Wild had such a crazy regular season. They’d have a sickness or two go through the locker room, deaths of the fathers of their assistant captains and, of course, the problems in the net that seemed to make this team lose confidence in their whole game. Leave it to the Brown Fox to fix the problem with a 3rd round pick in his pocket that he’d offer to the Arizona Coyotes for Devan Dubnyk. Devan Dubnyk! How many people saw Devan Dubnyk being the savior of the season?

Everyone thought he was the backup for the Coyotes and, for the most part, he was. But, in December, he started more games for Arizona than starter Mike Smith did and to that point, DUUUBS had played very well, going 5-1-1 in the 8 games he started in with a 2.48 GAA and a .922 save percentage. Those are pretty good numbers for a team that only had 16 wins in 42 games. The Coyotes only had 8 wins in the 40 games after they traded Devan Dubnyk.

We all know how Devan Dubnyk has changed this team! Before Dubnyk (BD), the Wild were in a tailspin. They didn’t seem to have a clue what to do to win battles, win shifts or win periods let win a game. Once Dubnyk showed up, it was a different team. He’d start 38 consecutive games, only getting a game off after the Wild clinched a playoff spot. The Wild finished the last 40 games with a record of 28-9-3.

The 1st round started with Devan Dubnyk getting his first experience in the postseason. Save for a bad Game 4, where the Wild must have forgotten there was a game and lost 6-1, he would play his consistent great game and he may have gotten better after those bad 2 periods in Game 4.

The Wild A.D. (After Dubnyk) went 2-0 versus the Blackhawks, winning 3-0 at home in February and 2-1 in Chicago in April in the game that clinched a spot in the playoffs. The Wild B.D. (Before Dubnyk) lost all 3 of their games against Chicago before that, 5-3, 4-2 and 4-1. 13 goals against in 3 games to 1 goal against in 2 games is a pretty big difference.

The Wild had some struggles against the Blues but they seemed to “wake up” after getting blown out on their home ice in Game 4. They played better defensively since that game, playing with less panic and more poise. The confidence in their game came back and this team may have learned how to play a consistent game in the playoffs. No panic in their overall game will serve them well in the 2nd round.

What are the main factors when it comes to winning a series in the playoffs? There’s the obvious – the play of the goalie and special teams. The Wild have Dubnyk who’s been great. Their power play came alive in round 1 scoring 4 goals in 12 power plays. They had the best penalty kill in the NHL in the regular season and shut down the Blues, only allowing 2 goals in 11 power plays. The Blackhawks went back and forth in the 1st round with their goalies, they had the worst penalty kill of any team in the playoffs and their power play was only 3 for 19.

Looking at stats can only tell you so much as each team played a different opponent so it’s difficult to say the results would be the same against everyone in the league or everyone in the playoffs.

We can look at the talent on each team. The majority of people will say the Blackhawks have more talent than the Wild. They have Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, etc… It’s hard to argue with their talent. The Wild do have Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Suter, Jason Zucker and more so they’re no slouch in talent.. All the talent in the world doesn’t mean anything against a team playing their system the right way, playing with confidence and working their asses off all over the ice.

How about depth at forward and defense and the whole lineup? The Wild got ahead and stayed ahead, came back to win once, every win was more than one goal and they won two games on the road. The Blackhawks had to continually come from behind and couldn’t hold leads throughout the 1st round. They allowed the Predators to respond quickly time after time.

My bottom line is the Minnesota Wild seem to have the team with more depth, are playing better in all areas of the game. They could be the Blackhawks from 2010 or 2013. Everything seems to be clicking at the right time. This is a team on a mission and they are ready to get over the hump of beating the Chicago Blackhawks now. They are not in awe of them like 2013. They are playing confident in every area of their game.

It will be a great series regardless of who wins, that’s for sure.

My prediction is Wild in 6!!!

Here’s the Series Schedule:

Game 1: @Chicago Friday 5/1 8:30 PM NBCSN

Game 2: @Chicago Sunday 5/3 7:30 PM NBCSN

Game 3: @Minnesota Tuesday 5/5 7:00 PM NBCSN

Game 4: @Minnesota Thursday 5/7 8:30 PM NBCSN

Game 5: @Chicago Saturday 5/9 TBD*

Game 6: @Minnesota Monday 5/11 TBD*

Game 7: @Chicago Wednesday 5/13 TBD*

What are your thoughts on this 2nd round match-up? Who do you got winning and why?

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