Hackett shuts down the Kings as Minnesota earns 6th straight road win in California sweep with victory over Los Angeles

Wild vs. Kings

Ever been told by one of your friends that the book is so much better than the movie?  As a person who has Bachelor’s degree history, this is something many of my colleagues often told me.  In recent years I’ve decided to investigate it for myself.  Maybe its just me, but I had a hard time believing a book could be more entertaining than a movie.  Sure, the movie has to be well done but if you get a marquee cast that shouldn’t be too difficult right?  Although I have to admit it, I’ve attemtped this in reverse where I watch the film and then read the book and see if it is just as good (or better) than the film.  The first movie I attempted this with was 2005 (book) Public Enemies after I had watched the film starring Johnny Depp in 2009.  Ryan Burrough‘s book was absolutely outstanding and went a lot farther than the film, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to know the whole story on the crime spree that captivated America back in 1930.  Yet it doesn’t always turn out that way.  Case in point, Tom Clancy‘s (1984) book The Hunt For Red October.  Mind you, I have always loved the Hunt for Red October movie (1990) so I was looking forward to reading Clancy’s book hoping I’d be rewarded as I was with Public Enemies.  Wow, was I wrong.  Clancy’s book was clunky and disjointed.  I didn’t mind all of the intricate military jargon he included but I felt the story line was plodding and predictable.  This was a case where the film shined and the book failed to live up to it.  So what in the heck does this have to do with the Minnesota Wild?

The Hunt for Red October 

On Tuesday night, the Minnesota Wild rallied back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 playing most of the game with a rookie goaltender Matthew Hackett making his NHL debut, albeit in relief of an injured Josh Harding.  After the game, on NHL Network‘s On the Fly which is the nightly highlight show which covers all of the games on that particular day the two they had working were Brian Duff and former NHL tough guy Kelly Chase

Kelly Chase  What does Tom Clancy’s book share in common with Kelly Chase?

Duff is your typical sportscaster, but Kelly Chase decided to talk some trash when asked how the Wild keep managing to win games and stay atop of the NHL standings.  Chase then tossed out long-time Wild criticisms about Minnesota being “boring” and that the club just sits in the neutral zone and waits for opposing teams to attack.  He could’ve given the team credit for the tremendous play of its energy line (which you’d think an career 3rd-4th liner would recognize) being the team’s true strength, but no he didn’t try to actually add anything insightful and simply regurgitated old Wild stereotypes.  So like Clancy’s book, it left me disappointed and wondering what people see that is so special about him.  During his playing career, Chase loved to chirp so I am sure he’s simply disappointed his Blues are behind Minnesota in the standings.  So if you want to hear clunky disjointed crap, listen to Kelly Chase.  But if you want to see just how the Wild have managed to do what they have, watch a game for yourself and see that it really is a product that fits the notion of you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Will Minnesota keep giving uninformed oafs like Kelly Chase a reason to eat crow or will they have another bad game in Los Angeles? 

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Josh Harding & Dustin Brown

1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota would put out its top line to start the game, and it was Jeff Taffe making his presence felt right away as he tried to set up Mikko Koivu.  The Wild would control the zone, and Jared Spurgeon would blast a slap shot from the point that missed wide and the puck would carom off the boards behind the goal which would be picked up by Koivu and he swept a shot through the leg pads of Jonathan Quick to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead just 24 seconds into the game.  The Kings tried to answer back but would be a little careless and Justin Williams would trip up Matthew Hackett while attempting to forecheck for an obvious goaltender interference penalty.  Minnesota had a great first chance on the power play as Kyle Brodziak redirected a point shot by Spurgeon that was blocked aside by Quick.  The Wild would have another great chance a few moments later as Jeff Taffe pounced on a shot just underneath left faceoff circle that Quick absorbed.  Minnesota would come up empty on the man advantage, but the Wild continued to win the races to the loose pucks.  Los Angeles tried to get something going offensively with its top line as Anze Kopitar tried to dangle his way around the Wild defense but Minnesota was quick to circle to wagons around Hackett.  The Kings tried to assert itself physically, using its plethora of big-bodied forwards as Dustin Penner shielded off a Wild defender before spinning and firing a shot on goal.  Los Angeles started to win the territory battle, keeping Minnesota bottled up in its own zone and the Wild would help the Kings’ by icing the puck.  The home club was taking the body with great frequency as Dustin Brown was dealing out big checks as he tried to spark his team.  The Kings were getting closer and closer to finding the equalizer as a sneaky wrist shot by Drew Doughty would trickle by Hackett but he was bailed out by Jared Spurgeon who swept the puck out of harm’s way at the last moment.  Minnesota was scrambling a bit and they were not helping their cause by reaching with the stick instead of skating and the Kings would start to regularly out hustle the Wild.  The Wild would start to counterpunch, and a blocked shot by Pierre-Marc Bouchard who would follow the puck for a breakaway but he didn’t have much time to do anything with it and his backhand shot was stopped with ease by Quick but the puck would be corraled by Matt Cullen but his centering pass back to Bouchard would fail to click.  Minnesota continued to counterpunch and Marco Scandella would try to lead the rush he’d slide a pass over to Casey Wellman who stepped into a slap shot that was directed to the corner by the leg pad of Quick.  The Kings tried to slow down the Wild’s momentum with a little offensive pressure of their own as Los Angeles would move the puck well in the Minnesota zone and Rob Scuderi set up Kopitar for a heavy wrist shot that was steered away by the glove of Hackett who made a fine save.  Minnesota and Hackett would stop a few late wrap around attempts and the Wild kept a 1-0 lead with both clubs tied at 12 shots apiece.  Not a bad 1st period on the road for the Wild, as long as they keep moving their feet effectively and stay out of the penalty box I think they should be just fine. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota had an excellent 1st shift of the period as the line of Taffe, Koivu and Dany Heatley caused the Kings some problems.  Taffe was especially pesky along the wall and Minnesota was able to keep Los Angeles bottled up in its own end and it was Koivu directing a shot on goal.  Just moments after this solid shift the Wild continued with another solid effort by the 3rd line of Kyle Brodziak, Darroll Powe and Nick Johnson as they swarmed near the Kings’ crease and Quick would find himself a little out of position and the puck was poked home by Powe, 2-0 Wild.  The Kings’ defense was remarkably lazy as they showed no effort to sweep away the puck and they’d pay the price for this lack of dilligence.  Minnesota continued to dominate early as the 4th line of Brad Staubitz, Cody Almond and Colton Gillies established the forecheck and were winning the small battles for the puck along the wall.  Los Angeles just wasn’t skating very well and Dustin Brown would take a rather lazy interference penalty.  The power play would be short-lived as Kyle Brodziak would deliver a shoulder and shoulder hit that sent Kopitar sliding into the boards and predictably this led to a bit of a shoving match near the collision as the Kings star laid on the ice in discomfort.  The officials apparently felt Brodziak was guilty of something else he tagged with a 5-minute major for boarding along with a game misconduct.  It was a completely ridiculous call for a hit that should have maybe yielded a 2-minute minor.  I doubt we’ll see a suspension on such a marginal hit; and Kopitar wasn’t that worse for the wear as he’d be out on their power play just about a minute later.  The call was made by the center-ice official (Tim Peel) who was the farthest away from the puck while the referee near where the hit took place never raised his arm making the call all that much more supsect.  The Kings’ power play tried to set up the big one timer but its blasts from the point would miss wide.  Minnesota was content to just play in a fairly tight box near the Wild crease and some timely stick play gave their penalty killers just enough rest to prevent the Kings from really threatening too much.  Hackett had a few fine glove saves with some Los Angeles forwards camped out near his crease and Minnesota would get the big kill.  After the killed penalty the Wild seemed calm and composed to control the pace of play as they were quick to retreat and defend their end of the ice.  The Kings were trying to work the puck deep and then crash the crease but Hackett was equally poised as his team and would make the saves and his defense was there to take the puck out of danger and keep Minnesota holding onto its 2-goal lead.  Los Angeles’ Dustin Penner, would get his stick into the grill of Jared Spurgeon and on the delayed call Minnesota would pull Hackett for an extra attacker.  The Kings rather lazily tried to go after the puck but Minnesota woudl carry it into the Kings’ zone and Marco Scandella found a little open ice and he took a pass and fired a wrist shot by Quick to put Minnesota up 3-0.  About a minute after the Wild goal, Los Angeles would give Minnesota another power play when Jarrett Stoll was given a holding the stick penalty.  Minnesota’s power play was efficient as Bouchard set up Dany Heatley for a big one timer from just inside the left faceoff circle that was stopped by the shoulder of Quick.  The Wild continued to move the puck effectively and it was Marco Scandella who made a pretty move near the blueline which would draw a hooking penalty on Kopitar.  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo would call a timeout as Minnesota hoped to apply the dagger in the closing moments of the 2nd period.  Minnesota had Koivu and Heatley working the points but the Kings were wise to keep a player challenging Heatley from just taking the big slapper and the Wild were unable to capitalize on the 2-man advantage.  Cody Almond would take a foolish retaliation penalty as he gave Dustin Brown a wack after taking a hit by the Kings’ hit leader.  Minnesota still had to feel very good about leading 3-0 going into the 3rd period.  It was a quality period despite an atrocious call on Kyle Brodziak. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  After less than a minute of 4-on-4, the Kings would have a shortened power play as Anze Kopitar left the penalty box.  Yet it was Minnesota that would have the best initial scoring chance, as Darroll Powe fired heavy wrist shot that was gloved by Quick.  The Kings were able to get absolutely nothing accomplished the power play and Minnesota continued to play its safe, quiet but effective defensive game.  Los Angeles just was not moving with a lot of urgency and Minnesota continued to win battles for the puck along the wall.  Just as I say this, the Kings generate as Kopitar wheeled his way around the zone where he fired a shot that was stopped by Hackett but he gave up a big rebound and Penner buried it on a shot taken from the slot to cut the Wild lead to two, 3-1.  The goal would give the Kings some much-needed confidence and Kopitar started to assert his star talent with some outstanding puck handling, as he had it on a string as he drove towards the goal and Hackett would try to cover it with his glove but it was knocked free and directed to the corner as the net was knocked off the moorings.  Minnesota started to counterattack a bit and a nice play on the forecheck by Pierre-Marc Bouchard nearly put the Wild back up by three as Bouchard rang slap shot off the post.  The Wild would have another great chance a few minutes later as Koivu set him up for a quick snap shot that missed just wide.  The Kings answered right back with a rush of their own and their wrap around attempt was again denied by Spurgeon who bailed Hackett out for a 2nd time.  Minnesota was scrambling a bit in its own zone as Drew Doughty tee’d up a blast from the point that Hackett knocked down but the puck was swept up by Trent Hunter who gunned a snap shot wide of the Wild goal.  The Wild started to counter punch and a nice little play by Nick Johnson to tip a pass from along the wall to Cody Almond who wound up and he hammered slap shot that just snuck through the pads of Quick to give Minnesota a 4-1 lead.  It was a soft goal by Quick and you could sense the air going out of the Kings’ sail as it crossed the goal line.  The Kings’ had given up as the 1st line of the Wild entered the Los Angeles zone with ease as Taffe set up Koivu for a one timer was nabbed out of the air by Quick.  With the Los Angeles fans starting to file out of the arena while play was still going on (shakes head in disgust), the Kings top line half heartedly tried to forecheck.  Minnesota had more than enough hustle and energy in the tank to thwart the Kings’ attempts to create offense and the Wild also deprived Los Angeles of flow with good active sticks and on-ice positioning.  The Kings would score late as Trent Hunter would bury a rebound after a good intial stop by Hackett and Kyle Clifford would prevent Greg Zanon from sweeping it away to make it 4-2.  The goal gave Los Angeles a little spark, and they started to swarm in the Wild zone in the closing minutes but Hackett would make a beautiful glove save on a shot by Stoll.  Moments later it was another flurry near the Wild crease as Hackett was on his leg pads but Minnesota would collapse and clear the zone.  With about 2 minutes left the Kings would pull Quick for an extra attacker.  Minnesota would step up their game defensively and the Wild had a few near misses on the empty cage, including having Bouchard hauled down by Kopitar to a no-call right in front of Tim Peel. 

Matt Hackett was very solid, giving up 2 goals on 44 shots.  I thought he looked more steady between the pipes although he was guilty at times of being too far back in his crease.  Defensively the Wild continued to be quick to collapse near their young goalie which really kept Los Angeles stymied for much of the game.  I think Hackett owes Jared Spurgeon a nice dinner after bailing him out twice on wrap around attempts by the Kings.  Still, Hackett is showing a ton of promise as he’s given up just 3 goals on 78 shots which is a ridiculous .961% save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average. 

Offensively, the Wild got away from their modus operendi by scoring first but that was key as the team’s last memory of playing against the Kings was perhaps their worst effort of the season.  The goal put the Kings under more pressure and allowed some of those doubts about their offense creep back in.  Minnesota continues to show great depth scoring-wise as they got a goal from their defense in Marco Scandella who showed lots of confidence tonight carrying the puck and 3rd / 4th line grinders in Powe and Almond.  Nick Johnson chipped in two assists as he scored his 7th point in 7 games.  Powe also had a helper in the winning effort.  I thought Jeff Taffe looked decent on the top line; he has good offensive instincts although I wish he’d back check a bit harder; but his willingness to shoot makes him fit in rather well with Koivu and Heatley. 

On another note, the call on Kyle Brodziak was absolutely stupid.  It wasn’t an egregious hit and it could almost be argued it didn’t even deserve a boarding call.  If Brodziak recieves any supplemental discipline it would be a huge travesty and in my opinion a huge disservice in what was a completely overblown call in the first place.  As was the case with Nick Johnson in Calgary, there was no reason to toss Brodziak for that marginal of a hit that did not appear to cause Kopitar any permanent injury on a clear shoulder to shoulder hit.  Tim Peel should be ashamed of himself and issue the Wild an apology.  Perhaps officials ought to be suspended if the league won’t issue suspensions in games where they eject players because lets face it, the call left Minnesota shorthanded.  If Minnesota loses the game because its tired due to the bad what relief does the Wild have with the poor call?!?!  Check it out for yourself here. 

Minnesota breaks a franchise record by winning its 6th straight road game, by sweeping all 3 California teams.  The Wild was paying the price to make the little plays with the puck and it paid off with goals.  This time it wasn’t as much resilience as it was persistence and attention to detail that took the heart out of the Kings this evening.  Minnesota has another tough test as they face another club that seems to play greater than the sum of its parts on Saturday in the Phoenix Coyotes.  I wonder if its enough to get the team the respect it clearly deserves and in my opinion, the respect its earned.    

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Jeff Taffe, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Casey Wellman, Cody Almond, Brad Staubitz, Darroll Powe, Nick Johnson, Kyle Brodziak, Colton Gillies, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Clayton Stoner, Mike Lundin, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Matt Hackett.  Josh Harding, Nate Prosser and Cal Clutterbuck were the healthy scratches. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Matt Hackett, 2nd Star Jared Spurgeon, 3rd Star Darroll Powe

~ Attendance was 18,118 at Staples Center.

~ Jeff Taffe wore #23 for the Wild. 

~ The Houston Aeros lost 2-1 in a shootout to regional rival Oklahoma City Oil Barons Thursday night.  Fridley’s Jarod Palmer had the lone goal for the Aeros while Darcy Kuemper made 34 saves in a losing effort.  Houston could only manage just goal in the shootout despite having 6 shooters take a chance as Warren Peters was the only Aero able to beat Yann Danis.   

Wild Prospect Report:

F – Mikael Granlund (HIFK Helsinki, Sm-Liiga) ~ The Wild’s top prospect continues to heat up as he lit the lamp twice on Monday against arch rival Jokerit in a 4-2 win for HIFK Helsinki.  Perhaps its the upcoming World Junior Championships that Granlund is expected to be apart of that has him wanting to raise his level of play.  He’s currently the top scorer in the Sm-Liiga with 14 goals, 36 points in 28 games. 

G – Darcy Kuemper (Ontario / Houston, ECHL / AHL) ~ Last year’s WHL Goaltender of the year is having an outstanding start in his first official full season as a professional.  Kuemper has shined for the Reign of the ECHL, going 7-1 and posting a 1.74 goals against average and a gaudy .941% save percentage.  With some injuries to Wild goaltenders and Dennis Endras‘ release to Finland this had Kuemper getting his chance to show what he can do at the AHL level.  So far Kuemper has done well, going 2-1-1 with a 2.21 goals against average and a .931% save percentage. 

LW – Brett Bulmer (Kelowna, WHL) ~ Like Granlund, Brett Bulmer is fine tuning his game as he gets ready to represent Canada at the World Junior Championships.  Bulmer led the way against the Lethbridge Hurricanes as he contributed a goal and two assists as the Rockets rolled to a 5-2 victory Wednesday night.  The Prince George, British Columbia native is currently 3rd on the Rockets’ in scoring with 10 goals and 22 points and a +7 in 14 games. 

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!

Kings’ dominate the Wild in a 5-2 victory

Wild vs. Kings

Over the years, the Minnesota Wild has received a ton of flak for how it played the game.  Especially when Minnesota’s bench boss was Jacques Lemaire, the team was maligned for its passive neutral zone trap.  During the early seasons where the roster featured a large group of NHL cast offs, this system was both efficient and effective at keeping games close and giving the Wild a chance to win games.  Teams and members of the media complained how the Wild’s style of play was ‘ruining’ the game.  Most notably, Mario Lemieux whined about the Wild’s trap going as far as saying they were killing the game.  Wild fans have had to endure such complaints for years, but as the team added more talent and was capable of scoring more goals the criticism subsided.  It should be noted that the team’s adherence to the trap had also relaxed a bit with the more talented roster as well.  However, the trap, which virtually all teams in the NHL utilize either all of the time or in the role to defend leads is back in the spotlight after a game on Wednesday between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Instead of 1-2-2 trap that most teams use; the Lightning utilize a 1-3-1 which has caused a lot of teams fits but in the aforementioned game, Flyers Head Coach Peter Laviolette had a unique solution: do nothing at all.  As the single forechecker waiting near the blueline waited for the opponent to carry the puck up the ice so they could spring their trap the Flyers defenseman stood near the faceoff dots and moved the puck around just enough not to draw a whistle.  This passive counter to the trap drew the ire of the Tampa Bay crowd as well as more than a few broadcasters.  The bombastic Mike Milbury even ‘walked off the set’ in protest during an intermission when asked to explain the Lightning’s 1-3-1 trap.  The Laviolette strategy has started the conversation about whether the league should allow teams to implement a ‘zone’ style system like this or whether its truly harming the game.  Here is some of the debate that took place on Canada’s Sports Leader, TSN

While its nice not to focus of all the ill-will towards the trap (as Tampa Bay’s Guy Boucher has that mantle now), its still a system Minnesota leans on heavily.  What would happen if Minnesota had to go away from the trap?  Would it struggle and its deficiencies be exposed.  Its an interesting question to ponder.  Minnesota did not have its best effort on Thursday when it played San Jose and predictably the result was a 3-1 loss that broke its 5-game winning streak.  Tonight the Wild are playing a Kings team that has struggled to be consistent from game to game.  Will Minnesota get back to its winning ways or will it be longing for home?

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Cal Clutterbuck & Jarrett Stoll

1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota looked very passive and cautious to start the game.  The Wild were reacting instead of pressing the play through the opening minutes and the Kings looked eager and hungry.  Just under 3 minutes into the game, Trevor Lewis dumped the puck down low where Ethan Moreau dished it out towards the crease and it was pounced upon by Colin Fraser who tapped a shot by Josh Harding to put the Kings up 1-0.  Minnesota looked out of sync, even struggling to just enter the offensive zone without going offsides.  Perhaps some of this was due to the concussion sustained by Guillaume Latendresse which caused the team to juggle lines but there was not a lot of cohesion in the team’s forwards early on.  Minnesota would go on the penalty kill as Brad Staubitz took a big elbow from Trent Hunter but in the process of taking that hit, Staubitz’s stick got a bit high and he’d sit for 2 minutes.  On the Kings’ man advantage, Los Angeles wasted little time working the puck down low near the crease and they nearly cashed in on a flurry in the blue paint that somehow a sprawling effort by Harding kept Minnesota only down by one.  Minnesota’s penalty killers then took over the pace of play and started to clear the zone and the Wild managed to kill off the penalty.  However the relief would be short-lived as Devin Setoguchi would earn a hooking penalty; and on the delayed call the Kings pulled Jonathan Quick for an extra attacker and Justin Williams nearly cashed in on a slapper from the high slot that missed wide.  Minnesota’s penalty killers did a solid job at taking away the passing lanes and a few errant dump in’s by the Kings allowed the Wild to have some cheap clears of the zone.  With another penalty killed, the question I think Minnesota fans had on their minds is, are we going to continue to take penalties and expect to win games.  During the TV timeout, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Michael Russo reported that Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo chewed out his team with the simple instruction of, “Stay out of the F$%king box!”  Right around the 9-minute mark, the Wild registered its first shot on goal as Pierre-Marc Bouchard stepped into a slap shot that was steered aside by Quick.  A few minutes later, the top line of Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Nick Johnson created the team’s best scoring chance to this point on a quick backhand pass by Heatley from beneath the goal line out to the top of the crease that was directed on goal by a crashing Koivu that was denied by the leg pad of the Kings’ goalie.  The pace of the game would open a up a bit as both clubs started to throw their weight around as Dustin Brown, Cal Clutterbuck, and Darroll Powe but one more hit as Warren Peters rode Alec Martinez into the boards that drew another Wild penalty.  This time a 5-minute major and despite the pleas from Head Coach Mike Yeo.  So with the Kings on a long power play, the effort of Darroll Powe and Kyle Brodziak killed off the first 30 seconds of the Los Angeles man advantage and Minnesota started to show a little fire.  Matt Cullen would intercept a pass at the point and he’d skate up the ice but couldn’t get by Drew Doughty and he let loose a weak backhand shot that was easily dismissed by Quick and Minnesota had to feel a little lucky to only be down 1-0 going into the 2nd.  There was still 3 minutes left in the Kings power play they’d have to deal with, but it was a good start to the clubs’ 3rd penalty kill effort of the game.  The Wild were out shot 12-3 says it all. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota’s penalty killers had a great start to the period, pressuring the puck carrier well and preventing Los Angeles would not have a lot of time and space.  Yet the Kings were persistent and they’d work the puck from the boards and take it to the crease where Harding went down to his pads to challenge the play but the puck would slide across the crease and Martinez would jam a shot into the gaping net to put Los Angeles up 2-0.  It was an unfortunate occurrence to what was a decent effort by the Wild’s penalty kill.  Minnesota tried to rally back as Dany Heatley set up Nick Johnson for a quick shot which was kicked aside by Quick.  A few moments after that, a hard shot by Brad Richardson would catch Josh Harding in the forearm that had him a bit worse for the wear and the team’s athletic trainer Don Fuller would go out to attend to the wounded Wild goalie.  Harding would stay out between the pipes for the Wild, and Minnesota tried to go back to work to get back into the game.  The key word there was “try” as Dustin Brown would score on a typical heart and soul type effort where he worked his away around an attempted (weak effort) hip check by Marek Zidlicky and he fired a shot on goal that Harding stopped and then got his rebound and wrapped a shot around the Wild goaltender to give the Kings a 3-0 lead.  Los Angeles was pouring it on as Jarrett Stoll skated in and let loose a heavy wrist shot that rang off the crossbar and they were swarming in the Wild zone.  Minnesota’s energy line would create their first quality scoring chance in the last 5 minutes as hard work down low by Darroll Powe and Cal Clutterbuck culminated in a quick pass from Brodziak to Clutterbuck for a re-direct on goal that was stopped by Quick who covered up the biscuit for a whistle.  A few minutes later an aggressive outlet pass by Setoguchi to push the puck up the ice to Matt Cullen who passed it across ice to Pierre-Marc Bouchard who snapped a shot that was stopped in a scrambling effort by Quick.  The Kings answered right back with a scoring chance of their own as Anze Kopitar worked the puck down low in the Wild zone and dropped a pass back to Simon Gagne who swung around behind the Wild goal and out front where he backhanded a shot 5-hole through Harding to make it 4-0 Los Angeles.  Yeo had seen enough of Harding and pulled him in favor of Niklas Backstrom.  Minnesota went back to work on getting something going offensively; and it was Heatley carrying the puck into the Kings’ zone, weathering a check and putting a wrist shot on goal that was stopped by quick and a Koivu swept the rebound just wide of the mark.  Yet it wouldn’t get any better as Matt Greene stepped into a slapper that skittered along the ice and eluded Backstrom to put Los Angeles up 5-0.   The frustrated started to show as Staubitz took a big run at Anze Kopitar that sent him crunching into the boards, and shortly after he did that he was tackled by Simon Gagne.  Gagne would get a roughing penalty that would give Minnesota its second power play of the game.   

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota’s power play was moving the puck with focus and Mikko Koivu, working with the puck from the half wall passed it to the top of the slot where Cal Clutterbuck banged a shot by Quick to cut the Kings lead to four, 5-1.  The Wild kept trying to claw its way back into the game but the effort really was too little too late.  The game continued to get more and more chippy with players chirping at one another and lots of extra shoves after the whistle.  Minnesota would add another goal when Darroll Powe tipped a shot from Marek Zidlicky by Quick to make it 5-2 but the game was really over before the 3rd period even started. 

Josh Harding did not have a great game tonight, making 16 saves in the loss but giving up 4 goals in the process.  While you can’t fault him for the bad penalties taken in front of him; but he was guilty of committing a bit too early for the low shots that put him on his pads and that’s what the Kings jumped all over.  Niklas Backstrom did reasonably well in a relieving role, giving up just one goal on 15 shots.  Defensively the Wild were more passive and Los Angeles took advantage of that as they moved about the Minnesota zone without much difficulty.  The Wild also lost defenseman Marco Scandella early in the game due to a head injury sustained after a check by Ethan Moreau.  That most likely means a concussion and that type of injury has no real time table for recovery.  It is very unfortunate because Scandella was one of the few sources of offense from the blueline that the Wild have so his absence will no doubt be felt in a big way.  I would imagine this will mean we’ll see Clayton Stoner in the lineup sooner rather than later. 

Offensively the Wild had almost nothing throughout most of the game.  The team’s top forwards of Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Mikko Koivu did not provide nearly enough offense to help give the team’s short handed defense some respite.  Koivu has just 1 goal in 16 games and at a salary of $6.75 million is a bit underwhelming to say the least.  Michael Russo tried asking Mike Yeo about that, but he sort of sidestepped the question by saying he is aware of it but believes he wants more than anything to score more than he has.  The Wild’s best forwards the last few games has been his energy players while the more skilled guys have appeared to be in cruise control. 

Speaking of Mike Yeo, he looked to be on the verge of rage as he addressed the questions from the media at the post-game press conference.  “They should be embarrassed, I’m embarrassed,” said Yeo, and he’s right.  This team simply didn’t come to play and they were blown out in dramatic fashion by a team that had been struggling.  Yeo added, “As far as I’m concerned we’ve played 3 bad games in a row, and there is no excuse for that, we’ll see how they come back tomorrow, I can’t wait.”  I am not sure if that’s sarcasm but its obvious Yeo is deeply frustrated and I have to agree with him.  While I am not expecting the team to come out with purpose with a quick turnaround against Anaheim tomorrow at least they don’t have to board a red-eye flight to Edmonton.  I have to admit, with the team calling up Darcy Kuemper from the Ontario Reign of the ECHL, I could see Yeo trying to shake things up by giving him a start since Backstrom had to play tonight.  Yeo is certainly bold enough to do something like that.  Hopefully this is the bottom, and the Wild can now focus on climbing back out of this little hole they’ve dug for themselves.   

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Waren Peters, Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Nick Johnson, Colton Gillies, Brad Staubitz, Darroll Powe, Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky, Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser and Marco Scandella.  Niklas Backstrom shared duties between the pipes with Josh Harding.  Clayton Stoner and Guillaume Latendresse were the healthy scratches. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Dustin Brown, 2nd Star Alec Martinez, 3rd Star Colin Fraser

~ Attendance was 18,118 at Staples Center.

Wild Prospect Report:

C – Zack Phillips (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Philips leadership goes beyond the scoresheet, now that he’s been given the “C” for the Sea Dogs.  The Fredericton, New Brunswick-native had 2 assists in the Sea Dogs’ 7-3 win over Prince Edward Island.  UPDATE:  Phillips added another assist but was a paltry 10/27 on the faceoffs (37%). 

D – Josh Caron (Kamloops, WHL) ~ The rugged defenseman was his feisty self in the Blazer’s 5-3 loss to the Red Deer Rebels piling up 8 minutes in roughing penalties and adding an assist.  Caron is Kamloops’ leaders in penalty minutes. 

LW – Brett Bulmer (Kelowna, WHL) ~ The gritty forward is a go-to offensive talent for the Rockets upon his return from the Wild, and while he didn’t register a point in Kelowna’s 2-1 shootout victory he was a constant presence creating a number of quality scoring chances and was a +1 on the evening.  UPDATE:  Bulmer, wearing the “A” for the Rockets tried to lead his team to another win against one of the WHL’s better teams in the Vancouver Giants but despite tallying a goal it wasn’t meant to be as Kelowna falls 3-2 in overtime. 

C – Tyler Graovac (Ottawa, OHL) ~  The lanky 6’4″ center continues to find ways to get on the scoresheet this season as he chipped in an assist in the 67’s 6-5 overtime victory over the Saginaw Spirit.  UPDATE:  Graovac had a game he’d probably want to forget after going scoreless and being a -2 in the 67’s 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Oshawa Generals. 

Tryout Update:

C – Kyle Thomas (Norwich, ECAC-Div.III) ~ This was a player who made a huge impression on me with this relentless style and tremendous speed at Minnesota’s prospect camp this summer.  He was the only Division III player invited and his wheels were perhaps the best of the camp, mind you that included players who had played in the American Hockey League or professionally in Europe.  Thomas had a monster of a first game of the season registering 2 goals and 3 assists in a 7-4 win over the University of New England.  UPDATE:  Kyle Thomas had a goal and an assist in a Saturday night tilt against Southern Maine where Norwich prevailed 5-1. 

WCHA Men’s Hockey Round Up:

Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves  vs.  Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs ~ UMD wasn’t messing around with the Seawolves, as it jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period on goals from Joe Basaraba, Chris Casto, Jack Connolly, and Jake Hendrickson.  Alaska-Anchorage tried to answer back, but Kenny Reiter was up to the challenge and shutting down the Seawolves without much difficulty.  The Bulldogs would add one more on a tally from Travis Oleksuk who scored his 10th goal of the season to seal a 5-0 win for UMD.  UPDATE:  The Seawolves would jump out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by former Blaine Bengal Eric Scheid, but the good feelings for Alaska-Anchorage would be short-lived.  Wild prospect camp tryout Derik Johnson scored first for UMD, and a few minutes later Travis Oleksuk lit the lamp.  Jack Connolly added one more as the Bulldogs rolled to a series sweep with the 3-1 victory. 

Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks  vs.  Bemidji State Beavers ~ The two newest members of the WCHA have always had close games and tonight was no different as they battled to a 3-3 tie.  The Mavericks got on the scoreboard first as former Brainerd Warrior Josh Archibald lit the lamp, but the Beavers answered back as Ben Kinne found the back of the UNO net.  The Beavers would take the lead early in the 2nd on Brady Wacker‘s 1st goal of the season but Dean Blais‘ squad responded with 2 goals of their own from Terry Broadhurst and Jaycob Megna to carry a 3-2 lead going into the 3rd.  Bemidji State was desperate and really poured it on in the closing moments of the game and Verona, Wisconsin-native Jordan George would bail out his club with the game-tying goal.  Bemidji State’s goaltender Dan Bakala had 40 saves in the tie as his club was outshot 43-26.  UPDATE:  The first game of the series was close, but the 2nd one was a blowout as Nebraska-Omaha cruised to a 5-1 victory.  Megna got the Mavericks on the board first, but the Beavers would respond with a tally of their own as Darcy Findlay found the back of the UNO goal.  After that it was four unanswered for UNO as Archibald, Brent Gwidt and Broadhurst scored twice to give the Mavericks the victory.  John Faulkner had 20 saves in the winning effort.   

Minnesota Golden Gophers  vs.  Wisconsin Badgers ~ The Badgers employed a passive 1-2-2 which gave Minnesota a lot of problems.  It kept the amount of shots that reached Joel Rumpel way down and the counter punching Badgers were able to capitalize on a few opportunities to further frustrate the Golden Gophers.  Former Burnsville Blaze star Tyler Barnes set up Mark Zengerle on a pretty play off the rush that was just beyond the reach of the leg pad of Kent Patterson.  Moments later, the Badgers struck again on a partially deflected shot (off Gophers’ defenseman Ben Marshall) as Keegan Meuer beat Patterson on a fluttering slapper from the point.  Minnesota tried to go on the attack but Wisconsin continued to counter punch well as they took full advantage of a bad line change as Justin Schultz set up Michael Mersch who skated in got Patterson to hesitate and then beat him 5-hole with a soft backhander to put Wisconsin up 3-0.  The trap never really allowed Minnesota to get into any sort of rhythm all game long.  Minnesota scored late on the power play, as Jake Hansen (Wild prospect Erik Haula had an assist on the goal) found the back of the Badgers net with about 70 seconds left and the Golden Gophers would lose 3-1.   UPDATE:  The Golden Gophers had an extra step to their game and dominated the play in the 2nd game of the series.  Seth Helgeson scored on a seeing eye shot from the point but Wisconsin would answer back as Tyler Barnes lifted a shot over a sprawling Patterson to tie the game at 1-1.  After a scoreless 2nd period, it was turnovers that would haunt the Badgers as a nice steal by Nate Condon turned into a wide-open chance for Taylor Matson who skated down the slot and he ripped a shot by Joel Rumpel to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead.  The goal seemed to give Minnesota another gear and they’d light the lamp two more times as a big body check by Zach Budish scared up a turnover that went right to the stick of Nick Bjugstad who fired a laser of a snap shot that sent the water bottle flying and Wausau, Wisconsin-native Condon scored late to seal a 4-1 win.  Patterson was again brilliant, making some outstanding saves at close range to keep the Badgers at bey, stopping 13 to earn a win and split the series. 

St. Cloud State Huskies  vs.  Minnesota State Mavericks ~ While not as hyped as the in-state battles that involve the Golden Gophers and (insert other Minnesota-based team here) St. Cloud State and Minnesota State have more than enough history over the years.  The Huskies would start the scoring as Bryan Bertsch scored his first goal of the season, but the Mavericks responded a few minutes later as J.P. Burkemper found the twine late in the period to tie the game at 1-1.  In the 2nd period, Minnesota State would take the lead as Zach Palmquist and Eli Zuck lit the lamp to give the Mavericks a commanding 3-1 lead going into the 3rd.  When St. Cloud State’s Cory Thorson scored 54 seconds into the 3rd there was some hope but that was dashed just a few minutes later when Cameron Cooper beat Austin Lee to seal a 4-2 victory for Minnesota State.  UPDATE:  The Huskies got on the scoreboards first as Thorson beat Austin Lee.  Former Little Falls scoring machine Ben Hanowski made it 2-0 St. Cloud State a few minutes later on a pretty wrist shot.  Minnesota State’s Eriah Hayes scored to cut the Huskies lead to one, but SCSU got rolling again just minutes later as David Eddy scored to give the St. Cloud a 3-1 lead.  Minnesota State poured it on late, peppering Ryan Faragher with shots but he’d only give up one to Adam Mueller in the 3rd period and the Huskies held onto win 3-2 and split the series. 

Denver Pioneers  vs.  Colorado College Tigers ~ These arch rivals always have spirited games against one another, and tonight’s tilt was a true barn burner.  Denver got on the scoreboard first as Pittsburgh Penguins’ first rounder Beau Bennett scored giving the Pioneers a 1-0 lead going into the 2nd period.  In the 2nd period, Colorado College ties the game as former Fargo Force star Eamonn McDermott found the twine behind Adam Murray.  The Pioneers would storm back with four straight goals from Drew Shore, Chris Knowlton, Wild prospect Jason Zucker, and John Lee to give Denver a commanding 5-1 lead.  Colorado College would make a game of it as Dakota Eveland and former Hopkins Royals star Archie Skalbeck found the back of the net to make it 5-3 going into the 3rd.  Unfortunately for the Tigers they just didn’t have quite enough firepower, as they could muster just one more goal from Jeff Collett but not the equalizer.  Murray had 33 saves in the victory.   

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!

Wild shock (and block) Los Angeles as they steal a 3-2 overtime victory from the Kings

NHL '11 Screenshot

If only video games would be like reality?  You could be responsible for saving the planet from alien invaders, playing a crucial role in the outcome of World War II and leading your favorite NHL team to a Stanley Cup all on the same day.  Unbelievable and out of touch with reality, certainly.  Case in point, I am playing a season with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar in Electronic Arts’ NHL ’11 where currently I’m 45-1-0.  I have little doubt that the Drakkar wish that were only true, as reality has been far more harsh 4-22-4-4, which is one of the worst records in all of Canadian major junior hockey right now.  How bad is it in Baie-Comeau?  In the most recent issue of the Hockey News reported that the team recently dealt its leading scorer at the time Pierrick Martel (14 games, 8 goals, 14 points) because he stated that he didn’t feel like being apart of a turnaround in Baie-Comeau.  The team responded with indignation and a quick trade to the Gatineau Olympiques.  Ouch!  With all that having been said, video games obviously do not mirror reality but they’re certainly popular and they are a multi-billion dollar industry.  Even in this tough economy, millions of kids across the United States shelled out about $60 for Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops allowing it to gross $600+ million in the first week alone!  That would represent over a 1/4th of what the NHL earns in an entire season!   So whether these coveted 18-24 years old males are staying up late; the statistics would indicate they’re likely playing video games rather than watching / playing hockey.  Sad statistics unless you’re a member of Activision or any of the major producers of video game systems; Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.  As fun as it was back in the day to play a game of Konami’s Blades of Steel or Nintendo’s Ice Hockey they could never come close to replacing the opportunity to watch the real deal. 

So what does this have to do with the Wild, it’d be easier if this was a video game.  If this was my current Wild season the team would be undefeated and team captain Mikko Koivu would have 15 goals.  As was stated before, reality is very different.  Instead of being undefeated the team is more or less at .500 and the team’s top goal scorers all currently have just 7 goals at a similar point in the season.  The Wild are leaving the very snowy confines of the Twin Cities for the far more reasonable weather of Southern California when they play against the Kings this evening.  Los Angeles have won their last 3 games while Minnesota is coming off a quality win against the Phoenix Coyotes.  So will the Wild resemble those on my NHL ’11 season or will it be a painful dose of reality? 

Click on “Read More” to see the rest of the article…

The Wild would get a very lucky break to start the game, as the Kings’ Drew Doughty would tee up a slapper that would hit some traffic near the top of the crease and into the goal but the goal was immediately waived off by NHL referee Don VanMassenhoven who said Dustin Brown did not allow Jose Theodore to make the save.  The Los Angeles crowd was not impressed with the call, and the Kings were playing as though they were angry as Brown delivered a big hit to Mikko Koivu.  A few moments later, Greg Zanon would be leveled by a big clean shoulder hit by Alexei Ponikarovsky and this caused Kyle Brodziak to race in to defend his teammate as he grabbed Ponikarovsky.  As Brodziak was wrestling with Ponikarovsky when Wayne Simmonds came to his defense which caused Zanon to grab ahold of Simmonds.  Brodziak would be given a cross-checking penalty and the Kings would go on the power play.  Los Angeles had a great chance early as Jack Johnson blistered a slap shot that was redirected wide by Michal Handzus.  Minnesota would have a little luck as Jonathan Quick left his crease to play the puck, he tried to pass it to Anze Kopitar but instead his pass went right to Mikko Koivu who wasted no time in firing a shot into the empty net for a 1-0 lead on the shorthanded tally.  The Wild would try to build on its lead as the top line tried to take the puck to the net and Chuck Kobasew was shut down on his small backhander, and after Quick made the save there was some pushing and shoving near the crease and Koivu exchanged some nasty words with Ryan Smyth.  The Kings’ Alec Martinez would be tagged with a hooking penalty giving the Wild its first power play of the game.  Minnesota did not make much of anything happen with the man advantage, bad passes and good active sticks by the Kings penalty killers prevented the Wild from sustaining any sort of offensive pressure.  The Kings tried to answer back, but the Wild were also showing a willingness to take the body as Cal Clutterbuck was throwing his frame around.  Minnesota’s Brad Staubitz would take a foolish slashing penalty for a needless chop at the leg of Kopitar putting the Wild on the penalty kill.  Minnesota had a close call early on the power play as a long range shot by Doughty was covered up by Theodore who did a snow angel in his crease.  The officials thought Smyth knocked Theodore over and he was sent to the box for goaltender interference negating the Kings’ power play.  With the ice a bit more open 4-on-4 Dustin Brown stepped around a would be defender and looked to have a great scoring chance only to have the puck stolen from him by a nice play by Brent Burns.  The Wild was not being the most disciplined as Marek Zidlicky was tagged with a cross checking penalty.  Minnesota’s penalty killers were more aggressive and challenging the Kings puck carriers well as Clutterbuck did a great job of winning the races to the loose pucks and then burning power play time by skating it deep into the Kings’ zone.  With another Kings’ power play killed off the Wild continued to frustrate the Kings who were trying to increase their physicality but Minnesota was dishing out some hits of their own.  One player trying to use his speed and willingness to forecheck was Warren Peters who nearly pulled down Wayne Simmonds.  The Wild’s 2nd line of Martin Havlat, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brodziak would find some space and it was Havlat carrying the puck to the slot before dishing it off to Bouchard who got off a quick snap shot that hit the side of the goal.  Minnesota would fend off a few late chances by the Kings, but Theodore was seeing the puck well through the traffic near his crease and the Wild took their 1-0 lead into the 2nd period.  

Jose Theodore found himself again under siege early to start, the 2nd but he was absorbing pucks well and not giving the Kings to have secondary chances via rebounds.  The Wild tried to counter attack and Eric Nystrom would find some time and space as he hammered a slap shot that was gloved by Quick.  The Kings tried to work the puck down low and use their superior size as they tried to take advantage of diminutive Wild defender Jared Spurgeon, but the smallish defenseman did a fine job of poke checking the puck away.  A few moments later, Brad Staubitz would drop the gloves with the Kings’ Kyle Clifford and the youngster quickly gained an advantage as Staubitz tried to lean out of range.  Staubitz worked himself towards Clifford’s body until he pushed himself back as he was hoping to be able to throw some punches but the youngster quickly reacted and threw some quick left handed jabs that withered the Wild tough guy as he fell backwards to the ice.  A clearcut victory for Clifford.  As the fans at Staples Center relished the fight, the Wild had a fantastic scoring chance as Martin Havlat was able to race around Drew Doughty for a breakaway and he’d lean to his left before backhanding a shot to the right that was gloved by a sprawling Quick.  Havlat’s failed attempt did draw a hooking penalty on Doughty and the Wild would go on the power play.  Minnesota was moving the puck well early as they set up Pierre-Marc Bouchard for a shot but he passed up the opportunity and instead looked to pass and as he moved behind the goal where he passed it back out to Zidlicky who attempted another pass which was deflected out of the offensive zone.  The Kings did a nice job of using their sticks to deny passing and shooting lanes and the Wild would again come up empty on the power play.  Los Angeles would go back on the attack, putting bodies near the top of the crease as Johnson again fired a shot that missed wide of the mark.  The Kings were persistent as they got Minnesota to scramble and a quick shot from the slot by Kopitar that was stopped by Theodore but it gave a big rebound and Brown fired the biscuit into the goal to tie the game at 1-1.  However the good feelings for Los Angeles would be short-lived as right off the faceoff the puck was dumped down the ice by Cam Barker and as Quick raced back to play the dump in he tried to pass it which was stolen by Clutterbuck who quickly pulled the puck out front and into the open net to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead.  Make that Quick’s 2nd assist of the game.  With the crowd at Staples Center rather silent, they’d get a small reprieve when Warren Peters would hold up Trevor Lewis earning him a 2-minute sit in the penalty box.  The Wild’s penalty kill was forcing the Kings to perimeter as they were more than happy to take a few token chances which attempted to take advantage of the traffic near the Minnesota crease.  The Wild were quick to pounce and sweep the puck out of their own zone and as they flung the puck down the ice Jonathan Quick would hear 3 separate Bronx cheers as he played the puck to his defenseman.  No sooner than the Wild had killed off the penalty they’d take another when Nick Schultz was given a minor for high sticking.  The Kings would again take the long range chance from the point hoping that the traffic will affect Theodore’s game but he was focused and making the saves with Kings’ forwards in his face.  Minnesota’s penalty killers again tried to be aggressive in killing some time with good forechecking as Nystrom worked the puck deep into the Kings’ zone and then trying to muck up the play along the boards.  The Kings would have a few close calls late in the power play as a blast from the point by Johnson was redirected just over the crossbar by Smyth, and then a few seconds after that Kopitar rang a slap shot off the pipe behind Theodore but the Wild would get the big kill.  Minnesota was standing up for themselves and as the Kings tried to assert the play down low as Kyle Clifford would exchange a few shoves with Cam Barker who was chirping quite a bit and playing the body well.  At the very end of the period, Eric Nystrom would drop the gloves with Wayne Simmonds and Simmonds did not appear to want to engage in hockey fight style, and his first punch missed and Nystrom tagged him with a jab of his own.  Then they finally grabbed hold and it was a very wild (no pun intended) affair with both pugilists swinging with reckless abandon until finally the officials stepped in what looked more like a lunchroom brawl between two girls.  In the closing seconds the Wild would give the Kings another power play when Havlat got his stick into the grill of Handzus and the Kings would have the man advantage to start the 2nd period while Minnesota had to feel pretty lucky holding a 2-1 lead at this point in the game. 

The Kings would be pressing hard right away to start the 3rd period as they had the power play.  Minnesota was staying in a fairly tight box forcing Los Angeles to settle for the long point shot but the Kings were fine with that as Anze Kopitar blasted a slap shot that was stopped by Theodore and the rebound was shoveled home by Smyth who was waiting right by the crease.  The Kings tried to work for the go-ahead goal as Trevor Lewis threaded a pass from behind the Wild goal out to Justin Williams for a one timer that was held onto by Theodore.  The Wild would get a power play of its own when Cam Barker was high sticked by Ryan Smyth.  Minnesota moved the puck effectively, setting up a slapper by Zidlicky taken from the right faceoff dot that missed wide and the Wild would manage to hold the zone and Mikko Koivu tried to make a nice little pass to Zidlicky but his shot was directed wide by a diving play by Rob Scuderi.  Minnesota had one great chance late as the penalty expired as Nystrom drove to the crease that Quick struggled with but the Wild just couldn’t get the puck to settle for them.  The Kings tried to counter attack, and as Theodore held onto a high shot by Kopitar the Kings’ Smyth skated by and made a gesture towards the Wild goaltenders head that drew the ire of Brent Burns who shoved him backwards and then to the ice as he fell to the ice.  Unfortunately for Minnesota the Wild, Burns would get a penalty for defending his goaltender.  On the penalty kill the Wild was very aggressive, as Chuck Kobasew had some great effort to work the puck out of danger or sacrificing their body for the team as Zanon continued to block shots.  After killing off yet another Kings penalty the Wild tried to create some offense of their own but that was tough when they couldn’t seem to go much longer than 5 minutes without taking another penalty.  Sure enough, a few minutes after its kill it was Antti Miettinen earning a double-minor for high sticking.  The Wild penalty killers, probably exhausted by this point of the game attempted to defend a back door play from Smyth to Ponikarovsky and Theodore got across his crease to make a huge save.  The Kings were relaxed, content to create their optimum scoring chance but Minnesota would be aggressive as the Los Angeles puck carriers would turn towards the boards and clearing the zone.  The Wild challenged the point men well forcing them to move the puck quickly and active sticks would come up huge in disrupting the Kings power play and Minnesota got another huge kill.  Minnesota was looking pretty tired after spending so much time on the penalty kill and Los Angeles tried to take advantage of that as Kyle Clifford motored around Spurgeon who was caught flat footed but Theodore challenged him well and his attempt at a wrap around would slide through the crease and out of the Wild zone.  The Wild looked exhausted as they tried to go on the attack as Patrick O’Sullivan fired a shot that was blocked wide by Peter Harrold.  In the closing seconds of the game, the Wild’s Pierre-Marc Bouchard made a turnover deep in the Minnesota zone that turned into a shot for Simmonds that was blocked by a diving play by Zanon and Minnesota would try for one last chance and Havlat fed the puck back to Zidlicky who rifled a slap shot that was directed aside by Quick to send the game to overtime. 

After some rather sloppy play to set up a rush, Minnesota had the first shot in overtime, a long range shot by Cam Barker that was easily held onto by Quick.  Both teams seemed to want to slow things down at least initially in overtime as Minnesota was probably still catching its breath from all the time spent on the penalty kill.  Anze Kopitar made a pretty move to step around Brent Burns and he’d set up a crashing Dustin Brown for a quick shot that was stonewalled by Theodore.  Minnesota would try to coutner attack and as Kobasew pushed the puck into the corner he was held up by Drew Doughty who earned an interference call.  On the 4-on-3 power play the Wild patiently moved the puck from the wall to the point before setting up a chance between Brunette and Havlat and his backhand bid was stuffed by Quick.  Minnesota would work its 2nd unit and Pierre-Marc Bouchard was waiting for something to open up and he wound up and fired a shot that hit the left post, but the Wild held the zone and they worked the puck back down to O’Sullivan who passed it back out to the high slot where Burns unloaded a one-timer that beat Quick to give the State of Hockey a huge 3-2 victory. 

Jose Theodore was absolutely outstanding, making 24 saves in the victory.  He had traffic near his crease all night long yet he was making the stops and keeping Minnesota in a game it probably had no business being in.  On the penalty kill, there needs to be a hockey equivalent of a silver star / purple heart given to Greg Zanon and honorable mention to guys like Chuck Kobasew who were dropping down to block shots at critical times to help out their goaltender.  The Wild’s blueliners were also physical when they needed to be and they were at least matching the physical play of the Kings forwards who have traditionally abused Minnesota players without much in response.  The penalty kill was excellent, giving up just one goal on 8 Kings’ power plays.  The giant kill on the double minor to Miettinen demonstrated both great effort and just sheer will power to get out of that situation unscathed.  Theodore credited the penalty kill for limiting the Kings’ shots as the reason he was able to be so effective. 

Offensively the Wild really didn’t have anything of note to speak of in this game.  None of the lines was really able to create much offensive pressure at all, and at best they were able to create just a shot and that was it.  No sustained pressure.  Minnesota was lucky that Jonathan Quick made two crucial errors but give the Wild a little credit for being in position to take advantage of those mistakes.  With the lone exception of overtime, the power play looked pretty miserable.  It struggled to get established in the offensive zone and too many times the Wild were passing up opportunities to shoot.  Bouchard especially could stand to shoot the puck more often; and Havlat was far less assertive this evening looking more like the passive Havlat that doesn’t want to take a chance by firing the puck on goal which has had him so successful as of late. 

In all honesty the Wild did not deserve to win this game.  The two goals it had in regulation were total gifts and while keeping the game close gave them the chance to earn 2 points, most nights this would’ve been a 2-0 loss for Minnesota.  They must also be far more disciplined than they were tonight, way too many penalties.  Especially foolish lazy penalties of the slashing and high sticking variety are entirely under the Wild’s control and must be eliminated if they expect to be able to earn a win tomorrow night against the Ducks who have been playing better as of late.  Wild Head Coach Todd Richards summed the game up, “Too many penalties, the ones that hurt us were the stick infractions, the ones that drive you crazy and we obviously benefited by some of their miscues.”  He also felt Bouchard may be moved from the point to the faceoff dot where he felt he had a good look to either pass or shoot.  It will be interesting to see what sort of energy the team has left after a game like tonight where the penalties shortened its bench so much.  Richards indicated the team will have virtually the same lineup tomorrow night so I hope these guys get some good rest and be ready for another battle tomorrow. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, Andrew Brunette, Eric Nystrom, Cal Clutterbuck, Martin Havlat, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Kyle Brodziak, Warren Peters, Patrick O’Sullivan, Chuck Kobasew, Jared Spurgeon, Cam Barker, Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon and Brent Burns.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Jose Theodore.  Clayton Stoner was the lone healthy scratch.  Guillaume Latendresse is still out of the lineup recovering from lower body surgery he had about a month ago. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Anze Kopitar, 2nd Star Brent Burns, 3rd Star Dustin Brown

~ Warren Peters wore #43 for the Wild. 

~ Attendance at Staples Center tonight was 18,118.  In contrast, the University of Michigan and Michigan State battled one another to a 5-0 Wolverines victory played outdoors at ‘the Big House’ in Ann Arbor before the World’s Largest Crowd to ever watch a hockey game with 113,413 in attendance!  This is truly a record that will likely be extremely difficult to surpass. 

Houston Aeros Report:

2010-11 Record:  28GP  (15-10-1-2)  33pts  5th in West Division

Top 3 Scorers:
1. #26 Maxim Noreau ~ 7G 9A = 16pts
2. #62 Jean-Michel Daoust ~ 5G 11A = 16pts
3. #17 Robbie Earl ~ 7G 8A = 15pts

Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #42 Matt Kassian ~ 65 PIM’s
2. #23 Petr Kalus ~ 64 PIM’s
3. #12 Cody Almond ~ 47 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:
1. #30 Anton Khudobin ~ 18GP  (11-5-1)  2.32GAA  .922%SP
2. #31 Matthew Hackett ~ 11GP  (4-6-1)  2.87GAA  .905%SP

Most Recent Game: Houston 5, San Antonio 3

I wonder how many of the 5,684 in attendance at Toyota Center realized they were about to witness a record breaking night for the the Aeros.  They would not have to wait long as Casey Wellman made franchise history, scoring a natural hat-trick in the 1st period on three pretty set ups from Eden Prairie, Minnesota’s Chad Rau.  With the Aeros holding a 3-0 lead the Rampage tried to answer back, and it would be veteran NHL’er Petr Prucha who is making a strong case to be returned to the Coyotes as he beat Anton Khudobin to cut the Houston lead to two, 3-1.  However, Wellman was not about to let Prucha steal the show and he tap home a rebound after a blast from the point by Elk River, Minnesota’s Nate Prosser to score his 4th goal of the game just past the halfway point of the 2nd period.  Houston would add to its lead just a few minutes later on the power play when Jean-Michel Daoust threaded a pass to Cody Almond who fired it by Matt Climie to give the Aeros a commanding 5-1 lead going into the 3rd.  The Rampage would score twice in the period to make the game a bit more respectable on 2 goals from Brett MacLean.  Khudobin had 30 saves in the win, and the Aeros will get a day of rest to travel to Cleveland where they will play the Lake Erie Monsters in a Sunday afternoon tilt starting at 2:00PM Central Standard time. 

High School Boys Hockey Report:

Elk River Elks (Northwest Suburban Conference) – 4GP  (3-1)  6pts   

Most Recent Game: Elk River 3, Centennial 1

According to Mnhockeyhub.com, the Elk River Elks are not ranked but that could be just a matter of time.  Elk River does not possess a tremendous amount of offensive firepower but they play a solid team game which prides itself on its hard work, physicality and intelligent play.  So far the Elks find themselves near the top of the Northwest Suburban Conference, and look to improve on their 17-8-3 record from a season ago.  Senior Ryan Jaremko should be the offensive catalyst most nights while juniors Nick McCormack and Mitch Kierstad will have the opportunity to cash in on Jaremko’s playmaking ability.  Between the pipes the Elks have the experienced junior goaltender Anders Franke who already sports a 2.24 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.  Head Coach Tony Sarsland again provides experience and tenacity from the bench.  The Elks have a big showdown on Thursday when they take on Eden Prairie and highly touted senior forward Kyle Rau who is the brother of Wild prospect Chad Rau.  Kyle already had 11 points in just 3 games played this season so the Elks could really have their hands full. 

Eagan Wildcats (South Suburban) – 3GP (1-1-1)  3pts

Most Recent Game:  Eagan 2, Burnsville 2

While the record may not indicate it just yet, the Eagan Wildcats are on the cusp of being at or near the top of an always tough South Surburban (formerly known as the Lake) Conference.  That record includes games against #3 ranked Edina and #4 ranked Burnsville.  The Wildcats returned almost their entire team from a year ago which went 21-5-1.  So to say that Eagan is excited about still having a fairly young team return almost complete intact is a bit of an understatement.  In their most recent tilt against another very good team in #4 ranked (2A) Burnsville on they rallied back with 2 goals from Nick Kuchera and Sam Wolfe in the 3rd period to earn a tie.  Junior forward, Kuchera leads a well-balanced attack with 7 assists and 10 points, while junior forward Michael Zajac is starting to heat up offensively.  Eagan Head Coach Mike Taylor is poised and ready to take his team (currently ranked #9 in Class 2A) to the next level after being upset in the Section tournament last season by another young and up-and-coming team Apple Valley.  The Wildcats faces off at home against Minnetonka this evening. 

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!

Minnesota enjoys being the spoiler with a 3-2 home victory over Los Angeles

While I am unsure how to explain it, strange events seem to occur in bunches.  A classic example was this Saturday as two separate incidents at different levels in hockey’s minors took place that each had their own level of strangeness.  The first, and an instant viral sensation on YouTube was the sight of Abbotsford Heat Head Coach Jim Playfair losing it after seeing what he thought was a horrendous call.  Playfair didn’t seem to initially realize how ‘bad’ the call was until he looked up at the scoreboard and then quickly called AHL referee Jamie Koharski over to the Heat bench.  Koharski didn’t seem to be in the mood to really discuss the call and at that point Playfair went beserk, grabbing a stick of one of his players sitting on the bench and breaking it over the rail as he let loose with a flurry of profanity.  After smashing one stick over the rail he threw off his jacket and continued to berate the official which started to draw the giggles of Riley Grantham and Shawn Weller and Playfair would grab another stick and smash it along the rail before finally calming down.  A few thousand miles away, in a Southern Professional Hockey League game between the Fayetteville FireAntz and the Knoxville Ice Bears there was a complete bench clearing brawl that started when a member of the Fayetteville team, leading scorer Robert Sich was pulled onto the Knoxville bench where he was being pummeled, and this prompted the FireAntz to clear their bench to go rescue their teammate.  In the end, the Ice Bears got what they wanted as it left Fayetteville with just two players left in its lineup out of the penalty box or not having been thrown out of the game and thus were forced to forfeit.  While I still remember my father recalling with great fondness the infamous game between the Minnesota North Stars and the Boston Bruins which held the NHL’s penalty minute record for almost 25 years but even that slugfest did not lead to a forfeiture of the game.

So will there be any weirdness tonight between the Wild and the Los Angeles Kings?  Not likely, but you never know as I doubt few expected the North Stars to come out swinging against the Big Bad Bruins, nor did Jamie Koharski expect Jim Playfair to go crazy like he did.  I would welcome the opportunity to offer up my recollection of a Wild meltdown, afterall it would be something different to discuss.  The Los Angeles Kings are going to be focused as they hope to slow their free fall in the standings while Minnesota is sort of in a standby pattern.  Will the Wild give the Kings another painful loss or will Los Angeles regain its momentum by beating up on the banged up and injured Minnesota squad?

Minnesota started out with good energy and the officials were letting the boys play as there would be few whistles and great pace to the first period.  Niklas Backstrom and the Wild’s defense was being physical and not allowing Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown to drive to the net without paying a price.  Minnesota was also looking to attack as they had a terrific scoring chance in the first few minutes as Andrew Ebbett was buzzing early being a great pain on the forecheck ultimately leading to a great set up by Martin Havlat of Guillaume Latendresse who shot a puck right into the chest of Jonathan Quick.  Both teams were playing strong, tight checking hockey and neither team was able much in the way of scoring chances.  Casey Wellman came close to threatening a bit in the period as he changed speeds in an instant only to be thwarted by a diving play by Drew Doughty.  The Wild had to feel pretty good being able to skate away tied at 0-0 as Minnesota was playing relaxed yet an intense brand of hockey.

In the 2nd period, the Wild would draw a penalty hooking penalty on Ryan Smyth just 33 seconds in and go on the man advantage.  The Wild were making nice crisp passes from the half wall and back out to the point and then after a few nice blasts from the point, they would finally light the lamp when Martin Havlat turned and fired a shot on goal that Quick stopped but he’d give up a big rebound which was picked up by Owen Nolan who backhanded it over the sprawling goaltender to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.  However as if on cue, the officiating seemed to take a dramatic turn as Kerry Fraser decided to “get involved” by levying a few questionable calls on plays where he swallowed the whistle in the first period.  The Kings tried to battle for the equalizer and were not above of running Niklas Backstrom to do it as Jeff Halpern put his shoulder down and carried the puck to the crease running over Backstrom in the process.  He would earn a goaltender interference penalty but the Wild power play would be short lived as Marek Zidlicky earned a terribly weak cross-checking call to even it up.  Just seconds later Fredrik Modin would go to the box after holding up Cal Clutterbuck.  With the ice more open at 4-on-4, Brent Burns would take full advantage as he made a pretty move to step around Brad Richardson and take the puck to the slot where he lifted a forehand up and over the shoulder of Jonathan Quick to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead.  Los Angeles would step up their game towards the 2nd half of the period as they began to use their size and strength down low to create some havoc in the Wild zone, but Niklas Backstrom was outstanding, seeing the puck and staying strong near the post when the Kings were looking to stuff it in.  However their relentless forecheck would eventually pay off and it was an excellent physical shift by the line of Wayne Simmonds, Scott Parse and Brad Richardson would win a few battles along the wall to push it out to Jack Johnson who hammered a shot that would deflect off the stick of Parse and lose speed and elude Backstrom to cut the Wild lead in half, 2-1.  The Kings could sense a momentum shift and they really started to pour it on and the Wild would get a bit lucky as Jarrett Stoll found himself all alone near the slot with nothing but a fallen defenseman and sprawling Niklas Backstrom to challenge him and he lifted a shot up and over the goal.  The Wild had to feel a bit relieved being able to take their one-goal lead into the 3rd.

In the 3rd period, the Kings continued to build momentum off their strong 2nd half of the second as they drew a quick 5-on-3 when Nick Schultz (cross-checking) and Marek Zidlicky (hooking) were tagged with minors giving Los Angeles 2 full minutes with the man advantage.  At this point it was all about heart and it was Greg Zanon who would personify effort, struggle and persistence as he blocked 4 shots in painful fashion including one instance where he dropped to block a shot by Jarret Stoll making the block then the puck went back out to Stoll who hammered another and he tried flopping off the ice to try to get a piece of it.  Brent Burns also was doing his best to help Niklas Backstrom from being hurt on the back door play and the Wild just willed the puck out of its crease and fittingly at the successful completion of the giant penalty kill Zanon slid towards his goaltender and then laid down on his back in exhaustion and no doubt a little pain as Minnesota kept the game tied.  Minnesota would go on the attack after the penalty kill, and there was a noticeable shift in assertiveness as the Wild were really forechecking hard and denying time and space for the Kings.  The Wild’s pressure finally yielded another power play and Minnesota looked about as loose as can be as they made quick passes to eventually set up a blast from the point by Martin Havlat that utilized a nice screen by Andrew Brunette to beat Quick to give the State of Hockey a 3-2 lead.  The Wild continued to be aggressive down the stretch and nearly were able to add another on a fluke turnover in the defensive zone that left Cal Clutterbuck all alone as he tried to dangle around Quick who made his way across his crease to make a big save.  Nick Schultz would end up recieving another weak penalty, but this time the Wild penalty kill was challenging well and the Kings were never really able to get set up in the Minnesota zone.  With the Wild not allowing Los Angeles to get anything on the power play they would try one last rally the last minute of the game as they pulled Quick for the extra attacker but Minnesota was again aggressive and not allowing the Kings to get set up.  They’re best chance came off a blast from the point by Drew Doughty that was blocked to the corner by the Wild and Minnesota was able to hold onto a 3-2 victory.

Niklas Backstrom was excellent, making 29 saves in the win.  His puck control was solid, even with tremendous traffic near his crease most of the game.  Defensively the Wild were excellent and very responsible of preventing the Kings key offensive workhorses from having too much freedom.  On the penalty kill the Wild played with a sense of urgency and it was good to see the tremendous hustle all around.  Minnesota’s forecheck did a fine job of forcing the Kings to burn up valuable seconds down the stretch.

Offensively, credit has to be given to the power play which was 2-for-3 on the evening and it provided a nice variety of chances.  Minnesota was consistent in its forecheck, and that also helped create some quality scoring chacnes to keep from playing rope-a-dope against the Kings.  It was an impressive effort that almost makes you wonder where that sense of urgency was when the team still had a shot at the playoffs.  A win to help spoil the Kings’ season is nice, but its effect is bittersweet considering the Wild have no post-season dreams to look forward to.

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Martin Havlat, Antti Miettinen, Owen Nolan, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Derek Boogaard, James Sheppard, Andrew Ebbett, Casey Wellman, Guillaume Latendresse, Nick Schultz, John Scott, Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky, Justin Falk and Brent Burns.  Anton Khudobin backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Nate Prosser was the lone healthy scratch.  Josh Harding, Shane Hnidy, Chuck Kobasew and Clayton Stoner were all out with lower body injuries.  Pierre-Marc Bouchard still is not skating, as he battles with post-concussion syndrome.

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were: 1st Star Brent Burns, 2nd Star Greg Zanon, 3rd Star Martin Havlat

~ Why are the Minnesota Wild playing this game an hour later than normal?  I am going to take a wild (no pun intended) guess and postulate it has something to do with making this easier for Los Angeles fans to see this game by making it not such an early start.  Funny how Minnesota will accomodate Kings fans by starting the game an hour later, but Los Angeles will start their games an extra half hour later for 9:30PM starts.  They don’t seem to care if we lose our sleep but (gasp) if the Kings fans have to rush home any sooner that would be a debacle?!?!

NCAA Frozen Four Report:

This weekend wrapped up NCAA regional action, giving us the four teams that will be apart of the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit on starting on Thursday on ESPN2.  There have already been some thrilling games and without question the 3 games remaining will provide plenty of memories.

RIT Tigers (28-11-1)  Vs.  Wisconsin Badgers (27-10-4)

The Cinderella story of the Frozen Four tournament is without a doubt the story of the RIT Tigers out of the Atlantic Hockey Association.  The Tigers surprised just about everyone by winning the East Regional with victories over top seeded Denver and 3rd seeded University of New Hampshire 6-2 in the final.  RIT boasts a surprisingly fast team who combine good grit and ability to create offense in transition.  Led by sophomore Cameron Burt (16 goals, 47 points) and junior Andrew Favot (13 goals, 45 points) but for the most part you could say the Tigers score by committee and that is what makes them such a tough team to matchup against.  Wisconsin, one of the perennial powers in the WCHA has another very solid squad with perhaps the most talented blueline in the nation as they carried the #1 seed in the West regional with victories over Vermont and conference rival St. Cloud State 5-3 in the final.  The Badgers boast a physically punishing squad that grind their opponents down with a strong forecheck and good two way play as seniors Michael Davies (19 goals, 51 points) and captain Blake Geoffrion (27 goals, 48 points) make a potent thunder and lightning like combination.  While one may argue Denver had a very active blueline, the Tigers will have to contend with a dynamic and potent offensive threat of the Badgers defense led by junior Brendan Smith (15 goals, 47 points).  So far, RIT goaltender Jarod DeMichiel (27-9-1 record, 1.98 goals against average, .924% save percentage) has been brilliant and will again need to be if they expect to get a shot in the NCAA championship game.  Wisconsin can not simply hope to overrun the Tigers defense, they too will have to have solid goaltending and anything less than stellar play from junior Scott Gudmanson could mean Cinderella will get that chance.  Prediction: I think Wisconsin will manage to hold onto a 3-2 victory against a fearless Tigers’ squad which will throw everything they have at the Badgers.


Boston College (27-10-3)  Vs.  Miami (OH) Redhawks (29-7-7)

Last season, Miami came within seconds of winning a national title only to see it slip away in dramatic fashion as Boston University stormed back from being two goals down to win overtime.  Miami is a team on a mission, with some tough off the ice issues for its coach Enrico Blasi or the death of team manager Brendan Burke the Redhawks feel as though they have a lot to prove.  The Redhawks advanced thanks to victories over Alabama-Huntsville and a somewhat controversial victory over conference rival Michigan, 3-2.  It was somewhat controversial due to an inadvertent whistle in the 3rd period that took away a Wolverines goal, and Miami would eventually tally the game winner in double overtime.  No matter what, Miami is a well-rounded team with great team speed from its offensive workhorses Jarod Palmer (Fridley, Minnesota-native, 18 goals, 45 points)  and junior Tommy Wingels (17 goals, 42 points) and two strong defenseman in freshman Scott Hartman (from St. Cloud, Minnesota-native) and Will Weber who were excellent in the final.  On the other hand Boston College has clearly demonstrated an ability to score goals in bunches after earning victories over Alaska-Fairbanks and Yale where they won in a crazy run and gun 9-7 final.  The Eagles have lots of explosive speed from its small wingers like Cam Atkinson (27 goals, 50 points), juniors Brian Gibbons (16 goals, 46 points) and Joe Whitney (16 goals, 39 points) where Boston College can make you pay for the slightest mistake.  Boston College defenseman Carl Sneep (Nisswa, Minnesota-native) has really come into his own his senior year and he will have his hands full taking on a strong and fast Miami attack.  Boston college will hope John Muse is better than he was against Yale, and for Enrico Blasi he has the wonderful dilemma of having to choose between two outstanding goaltenders in Hobey Baker finalist Cody Reichard or Connor Knapp who was victorious in the regional final.  Boston College’s Head Coach Jerry York is as experienced as it gets and no doubt will he have his team focused to play which should make for an outstanding battle.  Prediction: I think Boston College’s goaltending will be its achilles heel as Miami prevails 4-2 over the Eagles.

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!