After last Friday's debacle in Anaheim, I really felt as though I wasted my time watching that game. The Wild were uninspired and lazy and probably should've been beaten worse than their 3-1 score indicated. Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo was unhappy, telling Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune "Our execution [coming out of defensive zone coverage] was awful," Yeo said. "There's a good lesson in that. When we're playing well, that's what we're making the other team feel. The longer you spend in your own zone, the harder it is to get out because you don't have the gas to take that two, three extra strides to make that extra play. I thought our wall play was not good at all. It was not one person. It was all over the place." I have to admit, in some ways I think Yeo was holding back a bit his true feelings about that game. You could see it on his face; he was incensed and if you looked at the hockey message board it matched the feeling of the fans who stayed up to watch that disaster of a game. The finger pointing was rampant, from blaming the coaching staff to the players or a combination of both. Either way it was ugly.
Remember when this guy (Kyle Brodziak) us ed to inspire his team with his hard work?
Just curious, do you remember this guy, Kyle Brodziak? Remember when he used to win people over with his tremendous effort and would almost will goals to occur by through sheer will power alone? The Wild rewarded Brodziak's efforts with a 3-year contract worth $2.83 million per season, after this lucrative contract-extension he has been missing. The St. Paul, Alberta-native wears #21 and has just a lone assist and 11 shots to his credit this season so if you find him please call 651-602-6000 and let the Wild know where their 3rd line center is because they could really use a player who battles hard each shift and can chip in on offense occasionally. We'd normally suggest you look for him battling along the boards or storming his way to the crease but we haven't seen anything like that from the 3rd line this season so we wish you the best of luck. Your guess is as good as the Wild is right now. Will the Wild find Kyle Brodziak tonight?
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1st Period Thoughts: The Coyotes would get a quick scoring chance to start the period as Mikkel Boedker skated right by the Wild'd defense for a close in chance that was steered away by Niklas Backstrom. Minnesota would try to answer back with its modified energy line of Torrey Mitchell, Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak and they used their speed well to establish the forecheck as they kept Phoenix bottled up in its own zone. A few minutes later the new 4th line of Zenon Konopka, Mikael Granlund and Devin Setoguchi would cause the Coyotes a few problems of their own by working the puck deep in the Phoenix zone. Eventually the biscuit would be swept up behind the net where Granlund attempted to tuck it in near the left post only to be denied on the leg pad save by Mike Smith. Minnesota was moving its feet well and this was combined with quick little passes that allowed them to break out of the zone with relative ease. Charlie Coyle was doing reasonably well in his first initial shifts, taking his chances to take the body and making simple plays with the puck. Minnesota's 4th line again had a solid shift as Setoguchi set up Konopka on the doorstep as he tried jam a shot home but Smith stonewalled him and the game remained scoreless. The Wild then sent out its 3rd line and they too seemed to cause the Coyotes some consternation; especially Torrey Mitchell who was battling well along the wall but unfortunately he'd lose the puck and as he chased down Shane Doan for the biscuit he hooked him slightly giving Phoenix the first power play of the game. Minnesota's penalty killers did a fine job of getting sticks into lanes giving the Coyotes little to look at in terms of shooting lanes. The Wild had a golden chance shorthanded as Kyle Brodziak poke checked a puck by Keith Yandle and he raced in on a breakaway but his forehand to backhand deke would be foiled by the paddle of Smith who battled it away. A few minutes later, Zach Parise would track down a puck deep in the Coyotes' zone that he passed out to the slot to a waiting Mikko Koivu who hammered a one-timer that was gloved calmly by Smith. The Wild then followed it up with the 4th line who peppered Smith with a few more shots from close range as Setoguchi just couldn't get it by the Coyotes' goalie. The missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Wild as Keith Yandle would score on a point shot that benefitted from a well-timed screen by the Coyotes, 1-0. Later the goal would be credited to Lauri Korpikoski who got a piece of it as it eluded Backstrom who really had no chance to make a save. It was an unfortunate outcome to what was a somewhat promising period for the Wild. The 4th line players Setoguchi and Granlund certainly seemed to 'get' the message the coachiing staff was sending as they played their best period perhaps since the season opener. Its good to see another line apart from the top line create some quality scoring chances. I liked the speed of the 3rd line with Mitchell on the wing. Coyle had a not bad first period, although I'd still recommend him to take his chance to shoot whenver he gets it; especially if he wants this call up to be more than just a cup of coffee. However the shot totals seem to be a bit inflated, as the official game summary recorded a 17-10 advantage in shots for Phoenix. Minnesota was at its best working the puck down low and creating scoring chances near the crease.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota started the period with good energy as the Wild were able to set up a few quick shots on goal, but nothing of major consequence for Mike Smith to stop. Still it was good to see the Wild taking its chances to shoot, and being assertive offensively. Phoenix was content to not take any unnecessary risks as they sat back in a passive 1-2-2 and hoped to pounce on turnovers in the neutral zone. Minnesota had difficulty entering the offensive zone, but they were not getting caught in transition either. The Wild would finally sustain some offense as the 4th line controlled the zone as Konopka set up a point shot for Jonas Brodin who let loose a wrist shot that was punched away with the blocker of Mike Smith. Minnesota's top line would continue where the 4th line left off and again it was Brodin causing Smith a little trouble as he kicked away his big slap shot. However, as was the case in the 1st period just as the ice seemed to tilt in the Wild's favor the Coyotes would counterstrike in the most devastating way possible, on the scoreboard. Phoenix would light the lamp again as Radim Vrbata hammered a slapper on goal that Backstrom stopped but he was unable to control the rebound and Martin Hanzal who took his time and backhanded a puck by the sprawling Backstrom. Minnesota would answer back as Mikko Koivu forced a turnover that ended up on the stick of Parise who wasted little time before wiring a shot underneath the arm Smith and into the twine to cut the Coyotes' lead in half 2-1. The goal seemed to rekindle the fire in the Wild's game and Minnesota had another good chance as Matt Cullen fed Coyle for a quick wrist shot taken right underneath the right faceoff dot that was kicked aside by Smith. Moments later, the Wild nearly tied the game after an errant Coyotes' pass from the boards in their own zone just was fanned on by Parise who had a lot of net to look at as Smith had moved out of his crease to play the puck. The Wild continued to apply pressure offensively as good hard work by Setoguchi led to a chance for Brodin who rang a shot off the left post. Minnesota would have one last great chance in the period as Pierre-Marc Bouchard lifted a pass from Matt Cullen up and over the goal. Even though Minnesota surrendered an unfortunate goal it was another solid period in terms of effort and offensive chances where the Wild had a number of quality opportunities. Minnesota outshot the Coyotes 8-6 in the period but you had to feel good about the pressure they were able to create and seemed like only a matter of time before they were able to tie the game.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Coyotes started the 3rd with a determined effort to put the game away and Minnesota found itself scrambling in its own zone. Phoenix was taking taking every opportunity to fire pucks on goal, forcing Backstrom to make saves and keeping Minnesota bottled up in its own end. The Wild struggled to deal with the Coyotes' forecheck as Hanzal set up Vrbata for a wicked one-timer that he blistered just over the goal. Phoenix continued to cycle the puck down low and Minnesota had no real answer defensively; and even when Minnesota managed to escape its own zone, poor passes prevented the Wild from getting anything going offensively. The Wild's energy line finally got the forecheck going in favor of Minnesota and their hard work would draw a hooking call on Steve Sullivan. Minnesota would be very patient on the man advantage, waiting for the perfect shot. The first real attempt was from down low from Koivu to Heatley waiting near the top of the crease but he'd fan on the shot. Minnesota continued to be patient as they set up Bouchard for a back door one-timer but he drove it wide of the mark. The Coyotes would come dangerously close to adding to their lead as the penalty expired as Sullivan exited the penalty box for a break away but his attempt to score 5-hole was stopped by Backstrom. Minnesota continued to press for the equalizer as Koivu set up Parise who drove to the net but Smith was able to get it through. With time evaporating off the clock, the Wild would draw another power play as Torrey Mitchell was tripped up by Derek Morris with 3:49 left to play. Minnesota would have a terrific chance to start the power play as Bouchard stepped into slapper that rang off the right post. Unfortunately that would be as close as Minnesota would get as the Coyotes' penalty kill applied a little pressure that caused the Wild to cough up the puck a few times and limiting the effectiveness of their power play. Minnesota would pull Backstrom and try one last push for the game-tying goal. But it wasn't meant to be as they fall 2-1 to Phoenix.
Niklas Backstrom again played well enough for the Wild to win the game, making 29 saves in the loss. While the Wild gave up a lot of shots, most of them came from the perimeter and Backstrom still came up with the big saves when his team needed him in order to keep Minnesota's chance at winning this game, alive. Defensively I thought Minnesota struggled to handle the Coyotes' down low, and the Wild need to find a way to break the cycle especially as Vancouver will be coming to St. Paul on Thursday. I thought Brodin has another solid game; getting involved offensively and showing some of that offensive potential that Wild scouts talked about.
Offensively the Wild had a far more balanced game after the shake up of the lines. One could argue the team's best line for the first half of the game was the 4th line of Granlund, Setoguchi, and Konopka who caused havoc well down low in the offensive zone but just couldn't get anything by Mike Smith. The top line was the only one that ended up on the scoresheet but Minnesota had a much improved effort all around. Each line provided its own bursts of positivity which is something that hasn't been said since the season opener. Setoguchi especially looked like a player playing with a purpose; perhaps trying to sell himself for a potential trade. Minnesota's power play needs to simpify itself and try to funnel more pucks on goal. Two shots off the post made it a coulda, woulda, shoulda type game but it happens. They still had chances to finish that they didn't bury them. Charlie Coyle looked adequate in his NHL debut and it will be interesting to see how he follows up this effort.
I have to admit I think you can say the message the coaching staff sent seemed to be recieved. We'll see if that message continues to be heard if the Wild go with a similar lineup on Thursday against Vancouver. While a lack of scoring continues to plague this team, the effort in this game was more condusive to more goals being scored. You couldn't say that last Friday. The players held a 'players only' meeting after this game, but I hope it was to build each other up on what was good effort. Pointing fingers now will only squander the progress they made tonight. I hate losing as much as anyone, but tonight was a positive.
~ The Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Torrey Mitchell, Matt Cullen, Charlie Coyle, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund, Devin Setoguchi, Zenon Konopka, Justin Falk, Clayton Stoner, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Tom Gilbert and Ryan Suter. Josh Harding backed up Niklas Backstrom. Nate Prosser and Matt Kassian were the healthy scratches while the newest member of the Wild, Mike Rupp will be joining the team in St. Paul later this week.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mike Smith, 2nd Star Lauri Korpikoski, 3rd Star Zbynek Michalek
~ Attendance was 9,508 at Jobing.com Arena.
~ Charlie Coyle wore #63 for the Wild, the first player to do so in a regular season game in Wild history.
~ Zach Parise's goal in the 2nd period was his 200th of his NHL career and he becomes the 8th Minnesotan to reach 200 goals in an NHL career.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Tyler Graovac (Belleville, OHL) ~ After an initial big game for the Bulls after his trade from Ottawa Graovac has cooled off considerably. The big center only managed to register a single assist in two games played this weekend. Even with the slowed production, Graovac still has 24 goals and 46 points in 41 games.
RW – Raphael Bussieres (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) ~ The gritty power forward returned from an ankle injury that kept him out for a little over two weeks and he picked right up where he left off with a 2 goal, 1 assist weekend in two games played. Bussieres also was active physically registering 3 hits over that span as well. The Drakkar assistant captain continues to have a solid year, boosting up his career high in goals (22) and points (50) in just 45 games.