Skill trumps heart as valiant effort comes up short in 3-0 road loss to Capitals

Wild vs. Capitals

A team of destiny.  You’ve heard broadcasters gush about a certain team they believe has all of the tools to win it all.  The star talent, the right formula of players that will allow that already good team to make that next step and earn a championship that they apparently deserve.  For fans of teams that do not have destiny working for them all the talk, hype and attention these teams of destiny get is just flat out nauseating.  Whether it was the Pittsburgh Penguins or their fellow Eastern Conference cause celebre the Washington Capitals one can only put up with so much talk about Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.  Some broadcasters gain reputations for being overly generous with their praise and quite often those broadcasters are the people fans wish they could individually mute because they really don’t want to hear just how amazing of a player (insert their favorite player here) they are.  TSN‘s Pierre McGuire is a great example of that kind of broadcaster who seems to have an incredible amount of love for the guys on these team’s of destiny and it gets old pretty quick.  McGuire does offer some good insight and there is almost no player that he hasn’t heard of (or so it seems) but his constant use of certain phrases make him easy to make fun of.  In fact, on the Hockeyfights.com message board a certain poster has even come up with a drinking game for his use of phrases like, “big body presence” and “real deal”, you can see the whole drinking game premise right here.  I must admit, I got a good laugh from it. 

Pierre McGuire  Is Pierre McGuire the most detested broadcaster in the NHL?

I am sure we could put together a fantastic drinking game for the Wild’s TV broadcast tandem of Mike Greenlay and Dan Terhaar.  Heck let’s keep it simple and put one together; why not, it might help us enjoy these last few Wild games just a bit more. 

Take One Gulp of Your Drink if Dan Terhaar or Mike Greenlay:
~ If either laughs at a really bad or corny joke. (you’ll drink quite a bit with this one alone)
~ One of them says “fires it wide!” 
~ Mis-identifies a player on the ice
~ Voice cracks from getting so excited

Take Two Gulps of Your Drink if Dan Terhaar or Mike Greenlay:
~ Goes out of their way to mention a player is from (insert Minnesota community here)
~ Complains about the officiating or about the intent of certain calls / non-calls
~ Either says “lost the handle”
~ Either says ‘works the half wall”
~ If Dan says “up along the boards”

Drink the entire drink if Dan Terhaar or Mike Greenlay:
~ Discusses the ‘compete level’ of the team
~ Mentions that Erik Christensen is a shootout specialist
~ If Dan says “lost an edge”

That should have you feeling pretty good before you reach the 1st intermission. 

I still remember with pride over on the wild.com message boards when we drew an angry response from former Wild TV play-by-play man Matt McConnell over suggesting a drinking game based mainly on his overuse of the phrase “lost the handle.”  Matt McConnell works as the TV play-by-play voice of the Phoenix Coyotes as well as doing college hockey games for CBS.  I’ve noted that he rarely ever uses that phrase anymore, hmm, could it be because fans in Minnesota gave you so much flak for it (which could’ve cost him his job, ya think?).  Oddly enough, today’s game is on national television where they will be graced by the presence of one of the best NHL broadcaster’s ever in Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick.  So will the Wild give ‘Doc’ something to be excited about or will he be stuck digging through his anecdotes to try to fill in for a boring or lopsided game against the Capitals? 

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Alexander Ovechkin

1st Period Thoughts:  The Wild were looking a bit tired to start the game, as the Capitals’ asserted their dominance early in this game.  Minnesota was being caught reacting, which is dangerous against a skilled team like Washington.  Alexander Ovechkin was looking hungry, as he came close to toe dragging a puck around Marco Scandella who was shadowing him; and Scandella would have to pay a physical price a few minutes later as Ovie leveled him with a big check along the wall.  Turnovers made by the Wild in their own zone were becoming prime shooting opportunities for the Caps as Matt Hackett stayed on edge in the Minnesota crease.  Minnesota finally got a little relief after a charging penalty called on Washington’s Troy Brouwer where he left his skates and threw his elbow at the end of Tom Gilbert.  Minnesota was not happy with Brouwer who they gave a few shoves to before he made his way to the penalty box.  The Wild were not able to get much of anything going on the power play as the lazily moved the puck from the point to the halfwall back out to the point where Kurtis Foster stepped into a slap shot that was gloved by Brayden Holtby.  The power play would end with Minnesota gaining very little in the way of momentum.  The Wild would then take a penalty of their own as Cal Clutterbuck as he crushed Mathieu Perreault with a huge hit and earned a roughing call for it.  The Capitals were trying to mesmerize the Wild with its speed and skill but Matt Hackett was strong coming up with some big saves.  Minnesota was also working hard and Warren Peters particularly was strong on the penalty kill working himself and his stick into passing lanes and disrupting the Capitals’ attack and the Wild got a big kill.  The Wild would try to go back on the attack with its top line and Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley had Minnesota’s best scoring chance of the period as Koivu set up Setoguchi for a quick shot from at the top of the crease that was stopped by Holtby who then had to make another big stop on Koivu and lastly Heatley as Minnesota just couldn’t lift it over the Caps goalie.  A few minutes later the Wild set up Setoguchi for another great chance as Koivu picked up a rebound off a Heatley shot and dished it to Setoguchi who directed a shot wide of the mark.  Minnesota continued to pressure, as Darroll Powe took a pass from Kyle Brodziak and he backhanded a shot that was stopped by Holtby and the period would end with both teams knotted at 0-0 and the Wild out shooting the Caps 12-7.  Not bad period, and I like the physicality the Wild are showing.  Tom Gilbert tagged Blaine’s Matt Hendricks with a big hit late in the period that had the Caps tough guy a little worse for the wear.  Good spirit by the Wild and Setoguchi getting some good looks at the net. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota looked good to start the 2nd period as a horrible turnover by Mike Green in the neutral zone turned into a 2-on-1 as Koivu pushed the puck up the ice to Devin Setoguchi who raced in and wound up and blistered a slap shot that was knocked down by Holtby and Dany Heatley couldn’t get his stick on it to direct the puck into a pretty open net.  The Wild were moving their feet well and keeping Washington at bey and forced to take a more defensive posture and wait for Minnesota to make a mistake.  The 4th line of Warren Peters, Stephane Veilleux and Jed Ortmeyer were able to cause some havoc on the forecheck as Veilleux forced a turnover that became a quick shot for Peters that was blocked by Dmitri Orlov.  The Capitals had a golden opportunity of their own as Ovechkin set up Marcus Johansson for what looked to be a tap in but he pushed a shot wide of the mark.  A failed rush by the 4th line would come back to haunt them as Steven Kampfer would get caught deep as he tried to set up a forward in the offensive zone and it was Alexander Semin picking up the puck in a 2-on-1 with Jason Chimera.  A retreating Clayton Stoner tried to challenge the pass but Semin put it right on the tape of Chimera for an easy goal that Hackett had no chance on, 1-0 Washington.  You could sense a huge sigh of relief from a building that was starting to sound a bit anxious over the fact the Wild were hanging in the game.  Minnesota was playing a little feisty as Veilleux got into it with Roman Hamrlik near the Capitals crease but no penalties were called.  The Wild had some chances but couldn’t execute as a bad Caps turnover had a puck sitting on the blueline but Brodziak and Johnson over skate what would’ve been a 2-on-0.  Clayton Stoner would clear a puck into the stands for a delay of game that the Wild bench protested but to no avail.  Minnesota was showing good heart on the penalty kill as Mikko Koivu stole a puck and then used the boards to get around a Caps defender but as Koivu skated in and tried to thread a pass to Cal Clutterbuck but his pass was blocked away by a diving defensive play by Ovechkin.  The Capitals went back on the attack and after a bad line change by the Wild, Troy Brouwer moved in and fed a cross-ice pass to Mathieu Perreault who buried 5-hole on a stretched out Hackett to give Washington a 2-0 lead.  A replay shown after Perreault’s power play goal clearly demonstrated that Stoner’s clearing attempt definitely was tipped by the stick of Mike Knuble but the damage had been done.  Minnesota was answering back with some terrific hustle and forechecking in the closing minutes of the period as Johnson and Powe really battled well late.  Wild out shot 8-5 in the period.  Not bad period and the score should be 1-0 if not for that poor call. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Wild gave a valiant effort but Washington’s skill shone through as Minnesota would give up a goal nearly mid-way through the 3rd as Alexander Ovechkin’ rifled a shot by Hackett to make it 3-0.  Minnesota was hustling, delivering hits and doing their best to try to get something positive rolling for them.  To the Capitals credit, they were blocking shots well and very few were reaching Brayden Holtby.  The 4th line especially was buzzing around the ice for Minnesota; as Peters, Veilleux and Ortmeyer caused the Caps’ to have problems in their own end but unfortunately their pressure didn’t translate into goals.  The Wild were also being victimized by some questionable hits; as Chad Rau was nearly decapitated by a high hit by Hamrlik that drew no call.  Minnesota was getting frustrated and starting some trouble near the Capitals crease but no gloves would be dropped.  The Wild kept working hard; as Setoguchi and Heatley chopped aggressively at the puck in the blue paint but somehow Holtby was able to make the saves to keep Minnesota off the scoreboard.  Heatley would draw a penalty late in the game as he was hauled down by Dennis Wideman.  Minnesota was only able to generate a few shots from the point on the man advantage, but again they’d come up empty and Washington would prevail 3-0. 

Hackett can hardly be blamed for the loss.  He gave the Wild a chance to win the game or at the very least to make a better game of it than they did.  He made a number of saves with some big bodies near his crease and even came up with some excellent stops to keep the home crowd on edge as they felt for nearly half of the game that they might be seeing their team lose to the Wild.  Defensively, the Wild were ok in their own end, but some of the players were particularly lackadaisical in their own end; Tom Gilbert especially. 

Offensively the Wild had some chances but they just needed to be a little meaner and determined to cash in on the rebounds Holtby was giving us.  Holtby may have gotten a shutout, but that was more of a reflection of the anemic offense of Minnesota than him being a beast between the pipes.  The top line had some good chances but without Cullen the team really now had just one line that could make things happen offensively. 

The non-calls and non-suspensions are likely going to be a bigger topic over the next few days.  There is no reason the hit on Rau wasn’t worth a penalty.  It was directed at the head, it was with the elbows which is precisely what the league has been talking about trying to regulate.  The bogus delay of game call on Clayton Stoner effectively sealed the game for the Capitals.  Making it that much more painful, today’s loss officially eliminates the Wild from playoff contention.  For most Wild fans they wrote off the team a few weeks ago, but still its official; the team will miss the playoffs for four straight seasons.  The Wild will hopefully be able to rest up a bit before their game against the 1st place New York Rangers on Tuesday. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster this afternoon is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Warren Peters, Jed Ortmeyer, Stephane Veilleux, Erik Christensen, Darroll Powe, Kyle Brodziak, Nick Johnson, Cal Clutterbuck, Chad Rau, Clayton Stoner, Kurtis Foster, Tom Gilbert, Steven Kampfer, Nate Prosser and Marco Scandella.  Josh Harding backed up Matt Hackett.  Niklas Backstrom, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Cullen, Justin Falk and Matt Kassian were the healthy scratches. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Brayden Holtby, 2nd Star Alexander Ovechkin, 3rd Star Alexander Semin

~ Attendance was 18,506 at Verizon Center.

~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate the Gopher Men’s Hockey team on qualifying for the NCAA Frozen Four this season after defeating North Dakota 5-2 on Sunday in front of a packed house at the Xcel Energy Center!  Great work boys! 

Where are they now?

Matt Foy  Stockton Thunder’s Matt Foy

RW – Matt Foy (Stockton, ECHL)

It has been a steady fall for this once promising Wild prospect.  Foy was drafted by the Wild in the 6th round, 175th Overall in 2002, after his freshman year at Merrimack.  Apparently being drafted made him feel an NHL career was in his future so he withdrew from college and joined the Ottawa 67′s of the OHL where he had an absolutely monstrous season of 61 goals, 132 points and 112 penalty minutes in 68 games.  Foy was one of the top scorers of the entire CHL, and playing on a line with the CHL Player of the Year Corey Locke made for the most potent tandem in major junior hockey.  I know I was one of those fans who couldn’t wait to see what Foy could do for the Wild someday and with a 6’2″, 225lbs frame he seemed like he could be the big bodied power forward the team had always lacked.  He was dispatched to the team’s AHL affiliate in Houston where he put up ok numbers for two seasons before getting his first shot at the NHL level in 2005-06 where he played 19 games for the State of Hockey.  Foy had just 2 goals and 5 points over that span but fans liked his willingness to go to the net but there seemed to be something lacking in his game.  Speed.  While once he got going Foy had reasonable speed, it simply took him too long to get the motor going and too many times he was a half step (or more) too late on the forecheck.  He would spend the next season back in Houston, trying to sharpen his game so he could get another shot.  Then he returned in 2006-07 but injuries limited him to just 9 games where and the speed still wasn’t there.  So after spending most of 2007-08 as a healthy scratch, the Wild let Foy go.  Injuries continued to plague Foy and he had an ineffectual stint with the St. Louis’ Blues affiliate in Peoria where he played in just 4 games.  The Blues balked on bringing him back (even as a farm team contributor) and Foy ended up playing for the CHL’s Arizona Sundogs.  Injuries again limited with the Sundogs and so he focused on getting healthy and seems to be rebuilding his resume with a decent season with the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder.  Foy has 16 goals, 51 points and 69 penalty minutes in 64 games this season. 

Wild Prospect Report:

Zack Phillips  Saint John’s Zack Phillips

F – Erik Haula (Minnesota, WCHA) ~ It was not their best effort in St. Paul, but it got the job done as Minnesota prevailed 7-3 over Boston University.  Haula chipped in an assist on Kyle Rau‘s tally that got things going for the Gophers.  The former Shattuck-St. Mary’s star had a strong game against North Dakota where he fired home a big goal to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead in the West Regional Final.  The Pori, Finland-native is still the Golden Gophers’ leading scorer with 20 goals, and 48 points and 30 PIM’s in 41 games.   

C – Charlie Coyle (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ A man amongst boys?  It certainly appears that way as Coyle follows up a six-point performance on Friday with a 3 goals, 2 assist effort on Saturday as the Sea Dogs blow out Cape Breton a 2nd time, 8-1.  The Weymouth, Massachusetts-native wasn’t quite as sharp on his draws, going 8-for-17 (47%) but he ended the game a +5 so its pretty tough to complain yet the results are just crazy.  In just 2 playoff games Coyle has 6 goals, 5 assists and is a +9, a man amongst boys indeed. 

C – Zack Phillips (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Coyle has demonstrated some terrific chemistry with fellow Wild prospect Zack Phillips and the two have connected quite a bit so far.  Phillips had another 1 goal, 3 assist evening and was also a +5 in the 8-1 rout of Cape Breton.  The Fredericton, New Brunswick-native’s playoff totals thus far are equally eye popping with 2 goals, 8 assists and a +6 in two games. 

LW – Brett Bulmer (Kelowna, WHL) ~ I have a feeling the Houston Aeros or the Minnesota Wild could have a new forward on their roster real soon after Kelowna was defeated for the 2nd night in a row by the Portland Winterhawks.  Bulmer is clearly pretty frustrated in the series and last night he showed it by going scoreless and was a -2 in their 4-0 loss.  However, it was the 23 penalty minutes he amassed, which included two unsportsmanlike penalties to start the game and then two kneeing infractions (a minor and a major respectively) that gives you an indication the frustration level is pretty high for the Prince George, British Columbia-native. 

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!

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