Tag Archives: Mike Reilly

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.

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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The 2017-18 Minnesota Wild Need to be Tamed

The definition of tame - Tame The Wild

Wildly inconsistent play has been the problem for this season’s Minnesota Wild team.

This Wild have yet to reach a consistent level of play this season. They’ve had stretches where they’ve looked like they figured it out and will get on a roll but then they’ll have a setback with a loss because of uncharacteristic play. Or they’ll lose confidence in their play and have up and down stretches during the game and have to turn it on in the 3rd period to comeback from a deficit.

Maybe that shouldn’t be very surprising considering the injuries and new players transitioning to the lineup. They made the trade for Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis from Buffalo and lost 2-3 players in free agency and the expansion draft. That’s 3 defensemen and around 7 forwards transitioning or still working on transitioning to the Wild’s system when you include the prospects who have been up & down so far this season.

That’s half of the forwards and the bottom pair of defenseman. Add a new defensive coach to that list and that means there were probably some changes to the defensive scheme, too. Maybe that explains the problems as the younger players & prospects have played pretty well in their roles. It’s been the veterans who haven’t brought their A-games or haven’t prepared well enough to be ready for the game. You have to live with the mistakes from the younger players who have yet to complete a full season in the NHL like Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly. They still need time to develop but that time needs to be in the NHL. They probably aren’t going to learn as much at the minor league level at this point in their careers.

Those are traits of a weak-minded team that doesn’t yet trust their teammates or understand the system they are playing. No, it doesn’t help that they suffered injuries to 4 of their top forwards but injuries are a part of the game and every team has to deal with them at some point during the season. The good to great teams find ways to battle through the injuries whether it’s a “next-man-up” situation or multiple players stepping up their game.

Last season, Bruce Boudreau said he thought it would take his team until Thanksgiving to play his system the right way. That meant they’d just play the game and know what to do from playing this new system for the first quarter of the season. They wouldn’t have to think about what they were supposed to do in any situation. It would just come naturally after playing that way for the first 20 games or so.

Well, look at the calendar! Thanksgiving is tomorrow and this team has yet to hit a level of consistently good play. They’ve been consistently inconsistent. We don’t know what team is going to show up at any point of the game. We know they won’t quit as they’ve shown with multiple comebacks and the way they bring it in the 3rd period.

The bottom line is they need to start games like they play in the 3rd period. Get and play with a lead. They are still one of the best defensive teams in the league. The offense hasn’t been great but that also shows a team not trusting each other or even themselves as they hesitate to shoot the puck way too much.

It was a good sign to see Mikael Granlund start to shoot the puck more in the loss to New Jersey on Monday night. He scored two goals in the 3rd period to tie the game and force overtime before the Devils scored early to force the Wild to settle for only 1 point. Hopefully, the rest of the team will take a note from that and also start to shoot the puck more and have a shoot-first mentality. Should they shoot every time? No, but they should have confidence in their shots and know when they should shoot the puck. Obviously, sometimes a pass will work better in certain situations but, a lot of times players are looking to pass when there’s a clear and very good opportunity to shoot and to score.

Tonight, the Wild are in Buffalo to face a couple old teammates in Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella. Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis return to where they played the majority of the 6 and 8-year NHL careers, respectively, before being acquired by the Wild. The game starts…well…right now so….

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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!!!

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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.

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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.

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