The Wild take on the Oilers. Can they keep shutting down Connor McDavid?
Have the Minnesota Wild turned things around this quickly? It was only 3 weeks ago when they lost two games in a row to the St. Louis Blues (6-3) & the Winnipeg Jets (7-2) and fans & writers were putting a fork into them saying the problems were too hard to fix. Then they got on a roll of sorts and won 6 out of their next 7 games including a 4-game winning streak going into the game against Edmonton. Since November 9th, they are 12-4-1. 3 of those 4 losses were blowouts and the overtime loss was to the New Jersey Devils.
Those losses (and some of the wins) showed the Wild they had problems to fix with their defense and in how they play in Overtime. They’ve improved in those areas as shown by not losing a game that’s gone past regulation, 3 in overtime and 2 in shootouts. But, just because a team is winning doesn’t mean they are playing great. They’ve allowed too many comebacks in the 3rd period and still have yet to play a full 60-minute game of good hockey. They played pretty well against Toronto the other night, though.
The Edmonton Oilers activated their #1 goaltender, Cam Talbot, off injured reserve for yesterday’s matinee game so the Wild should’ve been shooting quickly and shooting often, right? Well, they should have but for some reason this team doesn’t seem to want to shoot the puck. There’s a time to shoot and a time to look for a pass or a better angle for a shot but way too many times nowadays, players love to get closer to the net to shoot. It doesn’t make any sense. These are NHL players with NHL shots and the closer you get to the NHL goalie, the harder it is to score. Here’s one example:
Tyler Ennis after an Edmonton turnover at their own blueline.
Tyler Ennis gets the puck at the offensive blueline and he has the time and space to skate into a prime shooting area as show in the photo above. Chris Stewart should have gotten the puck deep but he tried and hit the Edmonton d-man with the puck as he was entering the zone. He’s now on the right half-wall. Daniel Winnik is coming out of the right corner. Ennis has the puck and has speed skating through the slot. He could take a shot and maybe even use the Oiler player as a screen. He decides to keep the puck and skate all the way around to the left and take a shot from a terrible angle at the bottom of the faceoff circle and, of course, it’s right into the goalie’s chest.
Why not take a shot earlier from the slot? The shooting angle is better. He can aim for a corner and if it misses the net, he has the speed to be the first one to get there or he can get behind the net and set up a play. I’m sure after that shift the coach on bench told him to shoot it right away. Get pucks on the net early in the game. This play was 3 minutes into the game.
Edmonton F #93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the first goal while shorthanded when Matt Dumba gets a little too aggressive and there’s 4 Wild players below the dots. It’s a power play and yes, you’re trying to score, but you can’t be careless.
4 players below the dots all looking for a rebound, not worrying about defense.
The shot was saved and the rebound squirts out to the right boards and Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins get a 2-on-1 with Ryan Suter as the loan defenseman for the Wild. The usual rule on a 2-on-1 is to take away the pass and let the goalie take the shooter so he doesn’t have to try to get across his crease to make a save. For some reason, Suter doesn’t try to do that and Nugent-Hopkins gets an easy goal to put the Oilers up 1-0.
In Angle 1, Suter is maybe giving up too much of a gap because the pass is already available then for some reason, he moves closer to the shooter basically forcing a pass. Nugent-Hopkins was able to catch the pass and pretty easily shoot it past Alex Stalock. Was Suter counting on Mikael Granlund to get back into the play or did he think Stalock could get across his crease quicker? Did he think Kassian would hold the puck longer?
Matt Dumba would redeem himself rather quickly when a little over 4 minutes later he would score off a one-timer from a Mikael Granlund backhand sauce pass. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest sauce pass because the main reason it turned into a goal was probably because it turned into a KnucklePuck because Dumba didn’t get all of it.
The tie game would only last a few minutes when a deflected puck goes right to Milan Lucic’s stick and he buries it to the right of Alex Stalock. Ryan Suter makes a great play to separate Connor McDavid from the puck with some physical play but Leon Draisaitl sees a loose puck and gets his stick in there before Suter can pass it away and Milan Lucic wastes no time getting the shot off, surprising Stalock.
Matt Dumba and his aggressiveness would be the main culprit again. On a faceoff in the Oilers zone, Eric Staal wins the faceoff but Charlie Coyle was tied up by Jesse Puljujarvi leaving the puck free for Milan Lucic to grab it and start down the ice. Dumba would’ve been fine if he had just started skating back on the play instead of trying to check the 6’3”, 236-pound power forward but he thought he could make a play and Lucic showed him just how hard he is to move off the puck, causing Dumba to fall down and making the play into a 2-on-1 with Charlie Coyle backchecking hard to try to break it up.
Look how far away Dumba is from the puck. Just play good solid defense with 11+ minutes left down 2-1 in the 3rd period.
There were some other things that played into this goal. Ryan Suter, who is usually one of the best at getting the blade of his stick in the way of the puck when defending, either took his eye off of it for a split second or was maybe more worried about Lucic shooting then passing and that allowed Lucic to make a slight adjustment to get the pass over to Puljujarvi. Charlie Coyle got on his horse after losing a battle for position on the faceoff and he actually gets his stick on the pass from Lucic but the puck then goes off of Puljujarvi’s right skate, off the toe of Alex Stalock’s right leg but right back to Puljujarvi and he just taps it into the empty net.
That’s two 2-on-1s where Suter went to the player with the puck instead of taking away the pass. Is he just overconfident that he can break up that play or is there something about the Oilers they saw to do that on 2-on-1s?
Matt Dumba would redeem himself once again with another one-timer Knucklepuck to bring the game within 1. This one also came off a backhand sauce pass although this time it was from Chris Stewart and it knuckled into the upper right corner over a waving Cam Talbot catching glove.
The Minnesota Wild brought a big push to tie the game up and Connor McDavid, who is not known for his defense, made a great defensive play to break up a Nino Niederreiter wraparound with 50 seconds left that very well may have tied the game and forced overtime.
97 preventing goals, too!
Well, the Wild get right back at it tonight with a game in Chicago to start a 4-game road trip. Will this be the night Mikko Koivu breaks out of his slump? He’s been getting chances, hitting posts but has just been snakebit when it comes to scoring. The Wild should get up for this game and they played a whale of a game the last time they were in the United Center so, hey, Let’s Go WILD!!!
THANKS for reading some Clutter. We’d love to see your thoughts on this game, the Wild or anything else hockey-related so….
Get Wild Tonight &…