After a disappointing loss in Los Angeles on Tuesday, how would the Minnesota Wild come out against the Anaheim Ducks? The Ducks are kind of in the same predicament the Wild have been in, a team with a lot of injuries trying to hold on in the race for the playoffs early in the season. They had big injuries to two bigger players though. Both Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have been out for all or most of the season. The Wild are in no position to think any game will be easy, either. They have to figure out how to play now.
In Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Wild led 2-1 going into the 3rd period and they allowed the Kings to score 4 goals in a 5-2 loss. That, of course, didn’t go over well with the coach. They looked like they were afraid to play with a lead and all they wanted to do was protect it. They were trying not to lose instead of trying to win the game.
Every team will have moments like this throughout a season that will help them improve and be the team that reaches their potential. The Wild have had too many of these moments so far this season. Is that because the roster changed so much or the injuries they’ve had to endure? Who knows but, regardless of the reason, they need to figure things out quickly because points will be at a premium for the 54 games remaining this season. Last season, it took 94 points to make the playoffs in the Western Conference (95 points in the Eastern Conference.)
This season, it might take more than that because of the number of good teams who will be in the chase. The Wild have 29 points in 27 games with a record of 13-11-3. At roughly a point per game, that would leave them around 87 points. Winning 35 of the remaining 54 games would put them at 99 points. I’m sure they don’t want to be a Wild Card team but, Nashville was a Wild Card team last season and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals so there’s something to be said about just making it to the dance. Obviously, to do that, they’re going to have to figure out how to play the game the right way with confidence and consistency against any and every opponent on the road and at home.
Did they take a step in that direction tonight? It was a pretty even game in the 1st period but Anaheim would get on the board first with a goal that Wild G Devan Dubnyk said was “gross” as he felt he should’ve stopped the sharp-angle shot from Kevin Roy (Wah not Roy) that squeaked through his five-hole just after a power play ended.
On the highlight above, the announcer says Dubnyk doesn’t battle to see the shot but you can tell he’s peaking around Antoine Vermette to see the shooter. It just gets through his five-hole. The key is where his goalie stick is located. The position of a goalie’s stick is forgotten about when goalies go down or when they move from side-to-side. It’s not easy because of the length of the paddle of the stick and because of where a goalie wants his blocker positioned.
The puck slides just under the heel of Dubnyk’s stick.
Devan Dubnyk didn’t like that he let that goal in. You have to wonder if Vermette standing in front of him played a part in his save attempt. Do goalies try to adjust knowing a player is in position to tip a shot? That has to be very difficult to do so we would imagine they’d focus on the puck and try to make themselves as big as possible to take away a tipped shot. Could Dubnyk’s defense have helped him out on this goal? Maybe.
The biggest thing here is the position of Wild D Matt Dumba’s stick. He’s taking away the passing lane to Anaheim Ducks F #25 Ondrej Kase in the slot but Wild F #26 Daniel Winnik is right next to him so Dumba could put his stick in the shooting lane instead and take away the shot. Can the Wild penalty-killers, or specifically Winnik, talk during the play and tell Dumba to take away the shooting lane? It’s basically 4-on-4 with Bieksa not being much of a threat at the point and the Wild should be able to adjust quickly if the puck is moved there.
The theory is to take away the more dangerous shot which is the player in the slot so this certainly isn’t terrible coverage. You’ll gladly take a sharp-angle shot over a shot from the slot and Dubnyk is probably going to stop that shot the majority of the time. He & the Wild have to figure out how to get rid of the soft and/or flukey goal that seems to happen to them almost every game.
The Wild tied the game after giving up a scoring chance in the 2nd period where Nino Niederreiter covered the wrong player on the backcheck. The replay starts at 2:59 of the video at the top of this article. Nino goes to the puck carrier and Kevin Roy gets the puck with nobody defending him and he tries to pass for the tip-in instead of shooting. That pass goes wide & wraps around the corner to Nino. He passes to the puck up to Mikael Granlund, who’s able to skate through left side of the neutral zone unchecked because of a lazy change by 2 Ducks (the Grey Duck & the Goose.)
When Granlund enters the offensive zone, he has Staal wide to his right & #6 D Ryan Murphy skating underneath him & then heading down the left side. Give credit to Murphy for skating down the left side. Anaheim D #26 Brandon Montour has to account for him and that gave Granlund time and space to find Jason Zucker coming off the bench and Montour didn’t have enough time to react to Zucker receiving the pass, holding it for a second and then go around Anaheim G John Gibson and shooting backhand into the upper right to tie the game at 1-1.
Nino passed to Granlund then changed for Zucker so….2 assists on that play?
So, Nino Niederreiter was credited with the 2nd assist on Jason Zucker’s goal because he passed it to Granlund. The great thing though is he wasn’t even on the ice when the puck went in the net AND….when he went for the change, Jason Zucker was the player that came on for him. Shouldn’t that be 2 assists or at least a +2 for the play?
The scoring shows the players on the ice for the Wild as Murphy, Staal, Zucker, Dumba, Granlund and Dubnyk so how is that scored for the +/-? Do 6 players get a +1 on that play? Goalies don’t accumulate plus/minus stats.
Anyways, sorry for the sidebar, back to the game. Just 2:09 later, Wild F #59 Zack Mitchell* gave his team a 2-1 lead by putting in a rebound off a Nate Prosser shot from the right point. Mitchell was in on the forecheck behind the net and Daniel Winnik picked up the loose puck and send it back to Prosser at the right point. When Mitchell saw that happen, he did what any good offensive player does, he went to the front of the net. He tried to tip the shot but missed but he kept battling, along with F #17 Marcus Foligno, found the puck and put it in the empty net. He battled for position with Cam Fowler, who hooked him the entire way, and won.
*If you didn’t know, Zack Mitchell was a helluva player in the Guelph Storm of the OHL for 5 seasons and he has 16 points (5 G, 11 A) in only 11 games for the Iowa Wild this season so we shouldn’t be too surprised to see him playing well.
So, here the Wild were with the same situation they had in their previous game, a 2-1 lead heading into the 3rd period. Did they learn from their mistakes? Well, they certainly didn’t sit back and rely on their defense in this 3rd period. They stayed aggressive on the offensive end, trying to increase the lead instead of just protect it. Low and behold, the fluke goal would hit them again when Adam Henrique scored on a great pass by Corey Perry while he was lying on the ice.
Corey Perry was taking the puck to the net and he got a step on Wild D Ryan Suter. At the same time, Matt Dumba was battling recently acquired F Adam Henrique for position as Henrique was driving to the net. Dumba saw Perry get around Suter so he abandoned Henrique at the side of the net and went to Perry. Suter was still able to get to Perry and knock him down but Perry slid into Dumba knocking him down. The puck was still close enough to Perry’s stick so he could still hit the puck off the wall behind the net to Henrique, who had skated around to the other side of the net, and he was able to grab the puck on his forehand behind the net and move it to his backhand in front of the net and sneak it in past Dubnyk and the reach of Joel Eriksson-Ek. There was a little puck-watching there by Ek as well.
Once again, the Wild gave up the lead in the 3rd period but this time it would be a different outcome. They responded with some chances of their own and the game went to overtime. The Wild have started 1 forward and 2 defensemen in overtime in an attempt to change things for the better and it’s been working. Matt Dumba would score his 2nd straight OT Game-Winning Goal with a great play to fake a one-time and then skate in on Anaheim goalie John Gibson, go around him and put the puck in the net for the 2nd point and another Wild victory:
Can the Minnesota Wild keep it going against Brent Burns and the San Jose Sharks? They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 including a 5-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators last night. Brent Burns hasn’t been the same player from last season, either. He has 16 points on 2 goals and 14 assists and he’s a minus 9 in 28 games so far this season. He’s shooting just as much but they aren’t going in nearly as often as his shot percentage is only 1.8% compared to 9.1% last season. That doesn’t mean the Wild should go easy on him, though. He does have 4 points (1G, 3A) in his last two games.
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Get Wild Tonight &…