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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.

Get Wild &…

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way

Minnesota Wild Game Recap – at Blues – October 13th, 2016

Minnesota Wild Game Recap - St. Louis Blues - October 13th, 2016

Game 1 on the road vs the St. Louis Blues

As the 2016-17 season opens, the Minnesota Wild are all about the excitement of new coach Bruce Boudreau. For the most part though, this is the same team save for the additions of Erik Staal, Chris Stewart and the most recent addition of Teemu Pulkkinen off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings.

The biggest change on the ice is the first line. The only holdover from last year’s 1st line is Zach Parise. Newly acquired center Erik Staal and former linemate Charlie Coyle now join him on the top line for the Wild. They started Game 1 and in the first 30 seconds, Erik Staal made a physical play to force a turnover in the neutral zone. The puck ended up getting wrapped around to Charlie Coyle who made a nice move to get a pass to an open Marco Scandella at the middle of the blue line for a quick little slapshot producing the first “almost” of the night when he hit the crossbar with a loud PING. So close…but still just “almost.”

That would end up being the theme of the night for the Minnesota Wild, almost. They also had 3 breakaways (Zucker, Staal & Parise) and were stopped every time. Staal’s breakaway maybe should’ve given him a penalty shot, to which the official told coach Bruce Boudreau, “He had a chance.” as the reason a penalty shot wasn’t called. That “chance” wasn’t complete because of the penalty thus it should’ve been called a penalty shot.

The Goals Against

The St. Louis Blues scored the first goal and, unfortunately, the “almost” theme could be used here as well. Jason Zucker almost got the puck out of the zone but it was kept in at the blue line, creating a chance to catch the Wild scrambling to get back into a good defensive formation.

Alex Steen puts the Blues up 1-0 in the 1st period

Zac Dalpe made a good physical play to get the puck loose from Alex Steen at the right half boards but Rob Fabbri picked up that loose puck and, with speed going into the corner, he made Wild defenseman Mike Reilly go too far towards him allowing him to make a move back to front of the net. Reilly got enough of him to force the puck loose but, Dalpe failed to stay with Alex Steen and he would get to the puck for a quick shot to the upper right corner for his 1st goal of the season and a Blues 1-0 lead.

I’m not sure Devan Dubnyk should be faulted very much for this goal. Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin does a good job of taking away the pass behind the net to Paul Stastny but Stastny makes a good play to go around the net to be a threat on the backdoor. When he did that, Brodin has no choice but to cut in front of his goaltender, taking Dubnyk’s view of the puck away for a split second and not allowing him to come out towards the shooter to cut down the angle leaving more net to shoot at for Alex Steen.

Nail Yakupov gave the Blues the lead back when his slapper from just inside the blue line to Devan Dubnyk’s left went in off Duubs’ glove. Dubnyk said postgame that he didn’t see the puck come off Yakupov’s stick. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon had the blade of his stick there to deflect the shot but that either blocked Dubnyk’s view of the puck and/or deflected off Spurgeon’s stick. Dubnyk needs to stop shots from that far out a large majority of the time.

On the Blues 3rd goal, a 3-on-2 results when the third Wild forward in on the forecheck gets too low trying to get to a loose puck and the loose puck is won by the Blues. That started the odd man rush. They may have been fine but the newest Wild player, Teemu Pulkkinen backchecked down the middle but started coasting and then reached to try to break up the cross-ice pass to Magnus Paajarvi. If he keeps skating and takes that pass away, it changes the whole play.

You should never feel comfortable with your backcheck. Don’t just get within reach of the play or the player, get to the play and/or player so you can disrupt it and help your team.

The Blues executed that 3-on-2 to perfection. Patrick Berglund drove to the net forcing Matt Dumba to try to cover him and Magnus Paajarvi. He can’t leave Berglund in front of the net all alone yet he can’t cover both of them so he’s stuck between a puck and a hard place. See what I did there?

The Goals For

Even though the Wild did not play well in the 1st period, Ryan Suter erased all of that by tying the game all by himself.
Ryan Suter ties the game at one with an unassisted goal.

Ryan Suter was tasked with defending Vladimir Tarasenko all night. On this play, Kevin Shattenkirk is behind his own net and passes to Tarasenko in the neutral zone. Tarasenko comes back into his own zone expecting to be able to pass it back to Shattenkirk but Ryan Suter disrupts the play by being on Tarasenko as soon as he gets the puck. Forcing a turnover, Ryan Suter gets a mini-breakaway and makes a great play by shooting a quick backhand shot knowing Shattenkirk is right behind him so he there wasn’t time or space to move to his forehand for the shot. The quick backhand shot was saved by Blues goalie Jake Allen but the rebound came right back to Suter for his 1st goal of the season and a tie hockey game.

Awareness is a great skill. Suter’s awareness of where Shattenkirk was on the play and a quick shot helped him score. On the other side of the play, though, Tarasenko turns to go out of his own zone heading up the ice after losing the puck, instead of stopping or turning back towards his own net. That left Ryan Suter all alone against his goaltender. He gets a minus one and some film study time for his work there.

Charlie Coyle gets the Wild within one on a great play and pass from buddy, Jason Zucker.

Charlie Coyle one-times home a sweet pass from Jason Zucker

Boudreau switches up the lines in the 3rd to try to get something going for his team. He put Zac Dalpe out centering Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle and it paid off in getting the Wild within one with just over 7 minutes left in the game. Zucker won a battle in the neutral zone to try to get the puck deep and get in on the forecheck. His dump attempt hits Colton Parayko but Zucker keeps battling to get the puck loose then battles through a Nail Yakupov hit to keep the puck going into the left corner of the Blues zone. He takes a look as soon as he’s free from Yakupov and sees Charlie Coyle breaking to the net and hits him on the tape for Charlie Coyle’s 1st goal of the season.

You usually see it on every goal, the defending player is almost always late reacting to the offensive play. That’s because the offensive player is just trying to get open and knows where the puck is while the defending player is trying to cover the player or an area and they may not know exactly where the puck is at all times. That’s a big reason why defense is so hard. You can’t just watch the puck. If you do, you’ll watch the puck go into your net. On the other hand, you can’t just watch the player, either. You have to know where the puck is while also keeping a stick on the offensive player’s stick. Don’t just be within reach of the player because you won’t have enough time to react to get to their stick.

The Wild played their best hockey in the 3rd period and had chances to tie the game but couldn’t get it done. So, they lost their first game of the season. They need to learn from it and move on to the next game quickly.

“…we couldn’t get up to speed.”

Ryan Suter postgame interview - Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues - October 13th, 2016

Ryan Suter Postgame

Minus/Plus

The first loss of the season in the first game is not what the fans or the team was looking for last night. The main reason is they just seemed a step behind for most of the game. Like Ryan Suter said, they “couldn’t get up to speed” against the Blues. They looked like a team that was learning a new system and reacting to what they were seeing instead of reading the play, anticipating and reacting to their reads.

Mikael Granlund was relatively invisible out there. We didn’t really hear his name called other than when he got drilled into the stanchion by Colton Parayko.

Their power play had 5 chances and got very little out of those 10 minutes on the man advantage but…

Believe it or not, there are some positive things to take away from this game. It’s never a good thing to lose or fail but you can learn from it and get better because of it.

The Wild penalty kill did not allow a goal even if they allowed some great chances. The team got better as the game went on and played their best hockey in the 3rd period and gave themselves a chance to tie the game late. That’s all you want is a chance to get points every night. They know they will need to play better and they will play better.

They shut down Vladimir Tarasenko. Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon appeared to be the defensive pair tasked with the job of shutting down one of the premier forwards in the National Hockey League and they did it. Suter made him look silly on his goal and took him out of the play a few times.

They had a physicality to their game, too. Erik Haula getting a roughing penalty protecting his goalie in front of the net. Marco Scandella reacting to a big hit on Mikael Granlund.

They have the first game out of the way and know a little bit more of how Bruce Boudreau and the entire coaching staff goes about their business.

I expect a completely different team come tomorrow night when the Minnesota Wild hold their Home Opener at the Xcel Energy Center at 6pm on Fox Sports North.

Thanks for reading! Let us know your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page and always….

Bring The Clutter Every Day in Every Way