Wild dominate the Oilers with strong offense and defense in 4-2 win at home

Nail Yakupov & Dany Heatley

This weekend, I taught at a Technology Camp where I live.  I taught a few classes regarding applications related to Google, and I had time between my classes so I took an old school video game system I owned which allows a person to play the old Nintendo Entertainment System games, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.  I hooked up to my SMARTboard at school (which is where Tech Camp was being held) and played some of the old games on there.  A colleague joined me and pretty soon we were tearing it up playing the Konami classic Blades of Steel.  In a back and forth game, my team, Minnesota prevailed 11-8 over Chicago.  Blades of Steel is considered by many as one of the best hockey video games ever made, let alone one of the all time classic titles for the NES and we had a blast.  One of the big things Blades of Steel introduced to the video gaming world was fighting which of course is still a part of professional hockey in North America.  The only difference between the real deal (which has random fights between players) is that play instant resumes at the conclusion of the fight and the winner basically wins control of the puck.  Imagine if that's how the NHL handled fighting instead of making those players sit in the penalty box 5-minutes or longer?  Would it be better or worse.  So imagine if that was true what could've happened when Edmonton's Taylor Hall knee'd Cal Clutterbuck?  Would this make the game more or less safe?  

Blades of Steel

As the picture above correctly states, fighting in hockey is a form of communication.  Sure its brutal, but differing messages are sent when players square off and drop the gloves.  It is a message meant to rally their team, or to stand up for a teammate.  Or it can be a message about what happened the last time these two clubs faced one another, but Wild fans are going to be deprived of that form of communication as Hall is out with a hamstring injury he sustained in their game against St. Louis.  So what other messages might the Wild send tonight; perhaps someone on the Wild might try to send a message to Ben Eager?  Most importantly, what message will the Wild send to its fans at home after two reasonable efforts on the road?  

Click on "Contiinue Reading" for the rest of the article…

Mikko Koivu & Jordan Eberle

1st Period Thoughts:  The message the Wild sent early was they were going to be opportunistic and outwork the Oilers as they used speed to put pressure on Edmonton right from the drop of the puck.  The line of Jason Zucker, Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi were buzzing all over the ice.  They really caused some problems for the Oilers and the chemistry seemed to be building as they moved the puck effectively in kind of a cycle along the wall before Zucker fired a shot on goal that was stopped by Devan Dubnyk.  In their 2nd shift a great hustle play by Setoguchi to dive and push the puck out ot Jared Spurgeon who flung a wrist shot that beat a well-screened Dubnyk to give the Wild an early 1-0 lead.  Minnesota continued to use its speed effectively as Tom Gilbert threaded a long pass to Pierre-Marc Bouchard who raced in on a break away but he'd push his shot just wide of the mark.  The Oilers tried to counter attack with a good forechecking shift from its top line of Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky and Jordan Eberle but while they were able to cycle the puck pretty well but Minnesota was able to keep the top line from generating much in the way of shots on goal.  Minnesota seemed to have the extra step to their game where they routinely were winning the races to the loose pucks all throughout the period.  Mikael Granlund seemed to have a spark in his game as he was playing as assertively as we've seen all season, including one play where he took the puck off the back wall and then charged towards the crease but was knocked down before he could pull the trigger.  The Wild were able to break out of the zone fairly easily all period long, with a good first passes by the Wild defense and when that wasn't available Minnesota's blueliners exhibited some confidence by carrying the puck out of the zone.  The Oilers would continue to try to work the puck deep and then attempt to set up a player in the slot but their persistance would be rewarded as Magnus Paajarvi battled well behind the Wild goal before reaching out front and banking a shot off the inside of Niklas Backstrom's leg and in to tie the game with just over 2 minutes left in the period.  Minnesota was moving well but it had to feel a little disappointed by being tied at the end of the 1st.  I thought Jonas Brodin was again tremendous; looking cool and collected under pressure and then showing that great hockey mind to make the right decision with the puck.  Hopefully they can have the same energy to start the 2nd period.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild didn't have quite as much jump as it did in the 1st period but they were still moving well and controlling the play with good hustle.  Defensively, Minnesota's blueline was doing an excellent job along the wall and winning battles for pucks and this led to transition.  A fine defensive play by Ryan Suter to intercept a potential pass to break up a 3-on-2 for the Oilers turned into a 2-on-1 for the Wild and Jason Zucker raced down the ice and he fired a slapper that was knocked down by Dubnyk who slapped it aside with his paddle.  The Wild would get the first power play of the game as Nick Schultz shoved Charlie Coyle in the back earning him a two minute rest in the sin bin.  On the power play the Wild worked the puck down low to Parise where he fed a pass to Kyle Brodziak for a quick shot but he was denied by the leg pad of Dubnyk.  Minnesota had good puck movement on the power play and Mikael Granlund made another nice play as he worked down behind the goal and made a nice backhand pass out front to Dany Heatley who just could jam a puck by the Oilers big-bodied goalie.  The missed opportunity meant it was only a matter of time before Edmonton got a power play over their own and Matt Cullen would trip and fall and rookie Justin Schultz fell as a result of that.  Minnesota's penalty kill would start with a great scoring chance as good hustle by Brodziak allowed him to turn and set up Torrey Mitchell for a one-timer from the slot that he drove just wide of the mark.  The Wild's penalty kill was very aggressive, and challenged the Oilers' puck carriers very well and really never let Edmonton get much of anything going on the man advatage.  With a big kill, where Edmonton did not even register a shot on goal the Wild went back on the attack.  Minnesota would have some tremendous chances late in the period as Devin Setoguchi rifled a shot on goal that was fought off by Dubnyk and then followed up for a backhander off the rebound that hit the side of the goal.  The Wild continued to buzz in the offensive zone and Setoguchi set up Mikko Koivu in the high slot for a big one-timer that he blasted wide of the goal.  The offensive chances drew an appreciative cheer from the home crowd.  Minnesota's pressure would cause some confusion on the part of the Oilers as they'd take a 'Too Many Men' penalty with just over two minutes left to play.  Where the Wild had been able to assert itself offensively at ease throughout the period they'd struggle a bit on the man advantage as they had a hard time getting set up in the Oilers' zone.  Minnesota was a little too cute and was waiting for a 'perfect shot' instead of taking the opportunities the Oilers' were giving them.  It was one of the most dominant periods the Wild have ever had, outshooting Edmonton 18-0 in the period but more importantly it was still 1-1 on the scoreboard.  It was the 3rd time in the team's history that the Wild had managed to hold their opponents to no shots in a period.  Granlund had another solid period and again I think the Wild's 2nd line was its most dangerous.  Hopefully they can find the back of the net in the 3rd.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota took just 9 seconds to do what they couldn't do in the 2nd period, and that was score a goal as a long chip off the boards by Charlie Coyle where Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could control it and it was taken from his near possession by Mikko Koivu who picked it up in the slot before rifling a shot by Dubnyk stick side to make it 2-1 Wild.  Minnesota continued to pour it on as the 2nd line created some great chances as Setoguchi fed a pass to Jason Zucker who tried to zoom behind the net and attempt a wrap around that was kicked away by Dubnyk and the puck was fanned on by Matt Cullen.  The Oilers tried to rally back and it was Jordan Eberle chipping a shot on goal off th rush that was fought off by Backstrom before it was escorted out of danger by Ryan Suter.  Minnesota would light the lamp again as a turnover in the neutral zone would turn into a nice little play off the rush as Koivu worked the puck to Parise who dished it over to Coyle who skated in and he unleashed a wicked backhander that beat Dubnyk to give the Wild a 3-1 lead.  The Oilers felt the game was slipping away so Edmonton's head coach, Ralph Krueger called a timeout to discuss the matter.  Minnesota would play a little more cautiously as Edmonton tried to cut into the Wild's lead and it was Ryan Jones setting up Jeff Petry for a quick redirect chance off the rush foiled perfectly by Backstrom.  Edmonton was taking its chances to dump the puck deep and then try to go on the forecheck and Edmonton would get a flukey goal as Mikko Koivu tried to clear a puck off the boards and his clearing attempt went off the skate of the Oilers' Sam Gagner that floated out in front that was tapped into the goal by the stick of Ryan Suter.  With the Wild now holding onto a 3-2 lead Minnesota would go on the power play as Niklas Backstrom was tackled by Petry who was trying to join the Oilers' rush.  Minnesota's power play again had a little difficulty getting set up in the offensive zone.  Granlund would set up Heatley for a shot just inside the left faceoff dot that was denied by Dubnyk.  The Wild's power play would move the puck well before setting up Koivu for a big shot from the point that would deflect off the stick of Dany Heatley and sneak in to make it 4-2 Wild.  After Heatley's power play goal the Wild would look a little lazy as they just wanted to sit back and defend their lead.  Edmonton decided to take advantage of Minnesota's passive play as they pulled Dubnyk with 3 minutes left to play with their team trailing by two.  Minnesota would sort of go in penalty kill mode.  Edmonton was showing desperation but even as they did so they continued to try to be fancy with the puck and this resulted in a few failed plays when they really needed it.  and the Wild got an important home victory.  

Niklas Backstrom didn't have to particularly good, making just 19 saves in the victory.  You can't really blame him on the 2nd goal, although he may want to keep his paddle more on the ice as that cost him on the first goal.  Defensively, the Wild's speed to the puck and the way they made the smart play with the puck with the short pass  instead of just blindly chipping it off the glass really allowed Minnesota to control this game.  The Wild hustled well in the defensive zone making Edmonton one and done even when they did manage to get a shot on goal.  The shot-less 2nd period was only the 3rd time they've managed to do that in team history.  The penalty kill also continues to be rock solid.  

Offensively the Wild had a diverse offensive attack as the 1st and 2nd lines were really buzzing all night.  The team even got some pressure from its 3rd line as Mikael Granlund had one of his best games in a Wild uniform.  He was playing with a purpose and some confidence as he was taking his chances to shoot but also be decisive with the puck as he distributed it to teammates.  Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi and Jason Zucker continue to give Minnesota that element of explosive speed that really changes the way opponents can play against the Wild.  Mikko Koivu also had a great game, and he too seemed to be playing with a bit more purpose and his 3 point night (1 goal, 2 assists) really carried the team.  Koivu must be an offensive force in order to justify his elite player type salary.  Charlie Coyle also had a good game and it was great to see him showing the confidence to rip a backhander like he did.  43 shots on goal is something this team needs to aim for every night.  

This was a great effort by the Wild, and Edmonton didn't seem to have their heart in it.  Perhaps it was sitting in the pressbox as Taylor Hall was seen walking through the "X" by a fan, carrying a bunch of pizzas with no limp or soreness apparent.  So maybe it was a case of the 'Minnesota Flu".  Either way, Edmonton wasn't battling and when the Wild still were tied after outshooting the Oilers 18-0 in the 2nd period I was worried Minnesota was going to get discouraged but the Wild kept right on plugging away and the pucks started to find the back of the net and Minneosta won the game going away.  Now Minnestoa will have to re-focus and get itself ready for what will be a big battle against the still undefeated (in regulation) Chicago Blackhawks.  19-0-3 is a video game hockey like record.  Its time for the Wild to get rid of that goose egg that sits there.  Time to send another message!  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Jason Zucker, Dany Heatley, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund, Mike Rupp, Torrey Mitchell, Kyle Brodziak, Ryan Suter, Justin Falk, Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon, Tom Gilbert and Jonas Brodin.  Darcy Kuemper backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Nate Prosser and Zenon Konopka were the healthy scratches.  

~ The 3 Stars of Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Mikko Koivu, 2nd Star Mikko Koivu, 3rd Star Charlie Coyle

~ Attendance was 18,675 at Xcel Energy Center.

Wild Prospect Report:

C – Erik Haula (Minnesota, WCHA) ~ The Golden Gophers' leading scorer embraced the role of the set up man as he chipped in 3 helpers in Minnesota's 5-1 victory over Denver.  Haula now has 42 points which is the 2nd straight season that the Pori, Finland-native has topped 40 points in a season.  The Wild have to be happy with that level of consistency.  

LW – Mario Lucia (Notre Dame, CCHA) ~ The lanky winger continues to provide the Fighting Irish with a boost offensively for Jeff Jackson's team.  Lucia contributed a goal and an assist in Notre Dame's 4-1 win over a pretty decent Bowling Green squad on Saturday night.  The Wild's 2nd round pick from 2011 has 12 goals and 22 points in 27 games.  

F – Louie Nanne (Penticton, BCHL) ~ University of Minnesota recruit, Louie Nanne continues to his feast or famine production and on Saturday night against the Trail Smoke Eaters it was feast as he potted a goal an assist in a 5-4 win for the Vees.  The Edina-native has 19 goals, and 41 points in 44 games this season.  

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

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!

Cullen’s 3 point night leads the way for the Wild’s 3-1 win over Edmonton

Dany Heatley

You're probably familiar with the old Master Card commercials.  Where the commercial lists various items along with their prices and then at the end it will list something simple and likely non-material and it will simply say "Priceless."  The commercial resonated with people for making that connection between the things people buy and what really cannot be bought but might be far more important.  In this day in age of NHL contracts being more or less public, sometimes you see a writer bring up a player's salary when they relate it back to their production.  For example, if the Wild's team captain Mikko Koivu, does not manage to score a goal for the rest of this season that means the franchise paid Koivu approximately $1,305,000 per goal.  Zach Parise's 7 goals have come at a cost $624,615 per tally.  Obviously that total per goal decreases each time they light the lamp but it certainly puts it into a different perspective.  How much is a nasty body check worth?  Apparently its worth about $8,108.11 according to the National Hockey League after Devin Setoughi's vicious cross check to the grill of Detroit's Kyle Quincey on Sunday.  With the signing if the new CBA, players being fined for the first time can only be a maximum of $10,000 or half of their daily salary during the course of a normal 185-day season according to Minneapolis Star Tribune's Star Tribune.  That means Setoguchi clears $16,216.22 per day!  How does that compare to your salary (if you have one)?   

Niklas Backstrom

Now that I've likely made you feel as though you are poor, let's talk about wealth shall we?  One team that has a wealth of young talent is the Edmonton Oilers, who have benefited from some tremendous fortune in the NHL draft lottery having connected on the 3-peat of 1st Overall selections.  Its great to have young blue-chip talent because for owners not only do you have players that serve as the cornerstone of the franchise in their first few years they are also tremendous bargains.  Using that same formula I used with Parise and Koivu take a look at how much the Oilers pay per goal from some of it star talent.  Jordan Eberle has racked up his 5 goals this season at a fairly affordable $134,366 per tally, while rookie Nail Yakupov has 5 goals of his own at $437,900 apiece.  I am not going to try to say that justifies you spending $8 on your glass of beer or your $6 hot dog but prices seem to be high all over, especially on the ice.  So will the Wild's players make themselves more of a 'bargain' by earning a victory in Edmonton or will the price paid still look pretty steep? 

Click on "Continue Readng" for the rest of the article…

Matt Cullen

1st Period Thoughts:  It did not take long for Pierre-Marc Bouchard to 'get into the game' as Ben Eager lit up the diminutive Wild forward with a hit right off the faceoff.  The high-flying Oilers tried to go on the attack as Jordan Eberle motored into the Wild zone before dropping a pass back to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who hammered a slap shot wide of the mark.  Minnesota's top line would have a goof shift where the worked the puck down low, cycling well before Mikko Koivu set up Dany Heatley for a chance but the big winger couldn't get much on the shot and Devan Dubnyk was able to make the save.  A few minutes after that the OIlers' top line put Minnesota on its heels as they cycled the puck effective setting up Hopkins again as well as Theo Peckham who drove a shot that was kicked aside by Niklas Backstrom who found himself under siege.  The shift lasted well over a minute before the Wild were finally able to chip the puck out of the zone and get a line change.  A few minutes later, the Oilers' top line again caused havoc against Minnesota as Eberle drew the defense towards him and dished the puck to Nugent-Hopkins waiting in the slot and he pulled the shot wide.  Edmonton's superior team speed and forecheck started to become a factor as they kept Minnesota bottled up in the area near its blueline as former Moorhead Spud Chris Vande Velde and Teemu Haartikainen were giving the Wild fits.  The Oilers dominance in the Wild zone continued throughout the rest of the 1st period, as Minnesota was not helping their cause with area passes that made for easy turnovers.  Minnesota finally broke out of the zone late in the period as the 1st line made something happen as Zach Parise sped in and then turned back and then fired a quick shot on goal that struck Heatley that went back to Parise who wasted little time before releasing another shot that was stopped by Dubnyk.  On the ensuing faceoff the Wild won the draw and Mikko Koivu took the puck down low where he fed a pass out front to Heatley who got of a quick shot that beat Dubnyk only to have it strike the right post and out.  The period would end with both clubs sporting goose eggs on the scoreboard, but Edmonton certainly dominated the period outshooting Minnesota 8-3 and certainly had the better scoring chances as well.  The Wild need to find a way to stop or at least slow down the Oilers' top line and Minnesota cannot afford to stand and watch them because eventually the puck is going to end up in the back of the goal.  Minnesota also needs to be more decisive with the puck in the offensive zone and be ready to shoot / pass quickly because too many times the Wild waited and what could've been at least a shot on goal would be foiled by the Oilers' speedy backcheckers.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Oilers tried to be physical to start the 2nd period as Eager would deliver another huge hit, this time to Nate Prosser that sent the defenseman falling to the ice after getting crunched pretty good against the glass.  The only Wild line that seemed to have any ability to create offensive pressure was the top line as Parise dug a puck from out the corner and fed it to Heatley for a one-timer that was steered away by Dubnyk.  Perhaps it was this hard work that inspired the 3rd line to go on the forecheck of their own as Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Cullen caused the Oilers some consternation as Clutterbuck was set up off the cycle for a close range shot that Dubnyk fought off.  The Oilers tried to counter attack as Nugent-Hopkins set up Nail Yakupov who didn't get much on the shot and Backstrom reached back for a fine save to keep the game knotted at zero.  A few minutes later there was a scary moment where Cal Clutterbuck took a stick to the ribs that sent him reeling into the boards, and Wild trainer Don Fuller went out on the ice to see that he was ok and the tough Wild winger skated back to his bench.  Minnesota would earn the first power play of the game as Ladislav Smid would get a little carried away while checking Dany Heatley and he'd earn a roughing penalty.  Smid would chirp to the officials to no avail.  On the power play the Wild were too passive, as inaccurate passes and waiting too long for the perfect shooting opportunity meant Minnesota had nothing to show for the man advantage as it would be nullified by an interference penalty to Heatley.  After a little 4-on-4 play where Clutterbuck had a nice opportunity to score, the Oilers would go on an abbreviated power play of their own.  The Oilers were kept to the perimeter but when they finally tried to move towards the crease only to have it disrupted by the quick stick of Jonas Brodin and Minnesota was able to clear the zone.  The Wild would go right back on the attack at the conclusion of the Oilers' power play and some tipped shots from the point provided some drama as the bouncing puck gave Dubnyk some trouble and Dany Heatley pushed a puck back on goal that Dubnyk scrambled to stop.  The missed opportunities would haunt the Wild as Edmonton would strike first with its 3rd line as a simple in the Minnesota zone became a turnover as Ryan Smyth outworked Tom Gilbert for the puck, diving to tip a pass to Eric Belanger who directed it on goal that went wide and Smyth gathered up the loose biscuit and then wrapped it around just inside the left post to make it 1-0 Oilers.  Minnesota would strike back a few minutes later as Matt Cullen caught the Oilers in the middle of a line change and he'd pick up a loose puck and fly into the Edmonton zone where he beat Dubnyk with a little backhander that snuck through 5-hole to tie it up at 1-1.  Edmonton tried to rally back with its top line who again demonstrated their terrific chemistry on the cycle but despite all of their puck possession they didn't get a lot of pucks on goal, but they continued to cause Minnesota trouble and Backstrom had to come up big late in the period to deny Nugent-Hopkins.  The Wild had one last potential scoring chance as Cal Clutterbuck tried to work a 2-on-1 with Bouchard but Clutterbuck waited a little bit too long and his pass was blocked aside by a desperation play by Smid and the rugged Wild winger would take out his frustration with a big hit to Ales Hemsky.  The period would end with both clubs tied at 1-1, but for Minnesota it was nice to see them answer back to the Oilers goal.  Both goals were the result of individual efforts by seasoned vets.  The Wild outshot Edmonton 16-10 in the period and it was good to see them taking more of their opportunities to shoot the puck.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota would start the 3rd period with terrific energy, as the 2nd / 3rd line would strike again early after some excellent hustle as Matt Cullen raced into the Oilers' zone where he fired a shot off the post.  Minnesota would hold the zone thanks to a nice play by Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon would pinch and backhand a shot just wide where it was picked up by Cullen who made a pretty backhand pass to Setoguchi for a quick shto that found the back of the net to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.  The Wild would draw another power play as Theo Peckham held up Mikael Granlund along the wall.  Minnesota's power play did not move the puck with much expediency and the Oilers were able to keep the Wild from doing much of anything with the man advantage.  With another ineffective power play underneath their belts the Wild would resume their attack 5-on-5 as the line of Clutterbuck, Brodziak and Bouchard was able to direct some quality shots on goal and you could sense the home crowd getting a little anxious.  Minnesota's hustle really was the x-factor as the Wild were winning the races to the loose pucks and the effort was being rewarded with some shooting opportunities.  A good example of this was a nice little hustle play by Setoguchi to play a stretch pass and he'd dump it deep which was tracked down by Jason Zucker who passed it back to Setoguchi who was behind the Oilers' goal where he fed a pass back to the point where Brodin stepped into a one-timer that was stopped by the leg pad of Dubnyk.  Edmonton was scrambling around its own end, but they'd get a little lucky as they caught the Wild in a bad line change and Sam Gagner moved in behing the Wild defense but he was unable to control the puck as he moved it to his backhand as he had Backstrom dropping to his pads but the puck slid off his stick.  As the Oilers seemed to be on the verge of starting to put the Wild under siege the Wild would get a huge goal to give themselves a two-goal cushion.  A great little play by Clutterbuck near the Wild blueline to play the puck from his knees freed up Cullen for the breakout which was a 2-on-1 for him and Brodziak but Cullen would rifle a shot over the left shoulder of Dubnyk and in to give Minnesota a huge 3-1 lead.  The goal was met with stunned silence and a "wow" from Edmonton bench boss Ralph Krueger as his team now trailed by two with just over 5 minutes left in regulation.  Minnesota would sit back in a passive 1-2-2 to defend its lead.  With the Wild's defense thwarting the Oilers doing much of anything offensively, Taylor Hall would take a run at Clutterbuck in open ice as the puck bounced out of the way.  Clutterbuck was clearly in a lot of pain, with what looked like a serious knee injury as Fuller left the Wild bench to attend to him.  Hall would get a shove from Brodziak who wasn't happy with the dirty hit but the officials moved in before anything could happen.  Hall would get a 5-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct for the hit while Clutterbuck had to be taken away on a stretcher shortly after he got off the ice.  WIth the Wild on the power play for the rest of the game, Minnesota was patient and not wanting to take any ill-advised risks.  The Oilers pulled their goaltender in the last minute trying to make it a one-goal game but nothing would come of it and Minnesota would prevail 3-1.  

Niklas Backstrom had an excellent game, making 27 saves in the victory.  Backstrom made some key saves early on when the Wild were lacking energy and struggling to handle the Oilers' speed and skill.  Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin were tremendous, doing a fine job of finding a way to stifle the Oilers' top line and making them a relative non-factor down the stretch.  Clayton Stoner had a rough game though, with lots of senseless chips along the boards which became easy turnovers.  

Offensively the Wild had more diversity in its attack.  Initially it was the top line creating most of the scoring chances but then the 2nd and 3rd lines found ways to get involved and put the Oilers on their heels and it was a big reason Minnesota was able to take over in the 2nd and 3rd periods of the game.  The Cullen, Setoguchi and Zucker line did a fine job of using its speed to put the Oilers on their heels and create opportunities.  Cullen certainly was feeling it, putting up his first 3-point game since December 4th, 2011.  Kyle Brodziak also had a good game, and it was nice seeing him blasting some one-timers out there tonight.  You could even argue Cullen deserved a hat trick as he rang a shot off the post in the 2nd.  Of course, thoughts now focus on Cal Clutterbuck who also had a terrific game only to have it cut tragically short by a filthy hit by Taylor Hall.  Hall saw the puck move away and then clearly took his chance to hit Clutterbuck unaware as he leaned out his leg for a knee-on-knee collision.  I can't imagine it not being anything but a severe injury to Clutterbuck and Hall should get a suspension.  It was a ridiculous hit and if the league really wants to take hits against defenseless players out of the game here is a perfect chance to set a precedent.  Eyes are on you now Brendan Shanahan!  

It was a nice rally by the Wild who overcame a lethargic 1st period to earn a huge road victory.  The Wild really outworked the Oilers and suddenly Edmonton didn't look so fast and dynamic demonstrating some of the potential of this team.  Yet its no resk for the wicked as Minnesota has another big road game against Calgary on Saturday so hopefully they can rest up and stay healthy so they're ready to go in another big game against a division foe.  

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Mike Rupp, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Tom Gilbert, Clayton Stoner, Nate Prosser and Jared Spurgeon.  Darcy Kuemper backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Johan Larsson, Zenon Konopka and Justin Falk were the healthy scratches.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Matt Cullen, 2nd Star Ryan Smyth, 3rd Star Niklas Backstrom

~ Attendance was 16,839 at Rexall Place.

~ The State of Hockey News would like to join the Minnesota Wild in congratulating team Assistant Equipment Manager John Worley on being apart of his 1,000th NHL game.  

Houston Aeros Report:

Record: 27-19-4-3  3rd in AHL's South Division

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #37 Justin Fontaine ~ 13G 20A = 33pts

2. #3 Charlie Coyle ~ 14G 11A = 25pts

3. #26 David McIntyre ~ 11G 12A = 23pts

4. #10 Brian Connelly ~ 2G 20A = 22pts

5. #39 Chay Genoway ~ 4G 14A = 18pts

Top 3 PIM's:

1. #4 Drew Bagnall ~ 84 PIM's

2. #2 Paul Mara ~ 42 PIM's

3. #39 Chay Genoway 37 PIM's

Top Goaltender:

1. #31 Matt Hackett (17-17-3)  2.59GAA  .909%SP

It has been an interesting year for John Torchetti's squad as the Aeros, like the rest of the American Hockey League benefitted from a 1st half bolstered by NHL-level talent the Aeros held their own thanks to a bevy of young players that gave Houston a nice collection of skill it hasn't had in a while.  However as the NHL returned to action and the Wild's season started to sputter it was only inevitable the club was going to look to its AHL affiliate for help.  In the last few weeks, some of the Aeros top scorers and performers Jonas Brodin, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Darcy Kuemper and Johan Larsson have been promoted.  This has meant the Aeros have had to reshuffle their lines and put more of the spotlight on some of Houston's more veteran players like current leading scorer Justin Fontaine and hard working assistant captain David McIntyre.  Eden Prarie's Chad Rau has started to heat up a bit offensively which is crucial to keep the Aeros moving in a positive direction.  Former Calgary Hitmen stud Carson McMillan is the unsung hero whose blue-collar work ethic is showcased on each of his shifts as well as his team-leading 3 shorthanded goals.  The Aeros still have younger blue chip prospect Charlie Coyle who looked good in his cup of coffee with the Wild and now can now try to be the go-to guy; as well as Zack Phillips who should get plenty of chances to impress. 

The Aeros are a team that has good mobility in its blueline, but it has suffered a bit with the loss of Brian Connelly to injury.  The former Bloomington Jefferson star really anchored Houston's power play and also provided solid play in the defensive zone too; and his ability to make tape-to-tape passes to start the rush has been sorely missed.  Connelly's absence means Marco Scandella will get every opportunity to fill that void and will be logging big minutes and hopefully regaining confidence along the way.  Steven Kampfer and Chay Genoway have tried to step up into that role but with mixed results.  Apple Valley's Kyle Medvec has steadily improved this season into a big (6'6") mobile defensemen with a little offense to his game, while AHL hire Wes O'Neill and team captain Drew Bagnall provide toughness to the group.  Tyler Cuma, the oft-injured Wild prospect is seeing his chances at an NHL career get that much more fleeting as he battles a broken foot he sustained about 2 weeks ago; he has a little over a month left before he'll be back in the Aeros' lineup.  

Between the pipes its Matt Hackett's show now.  After struggling a bit to the point where his goals against were above 3 per game, he was supplanted by Darcy Kuemper.  With Josh Harding being placed on Injured Reserve for the foreseeable future it looks like Kuemper could very well be in Minnesota the rest of the season so now its up to Hackett to show the promise he's demonstrated since the team drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2009 NHL Entry draft.  Hackett has been better as of late and his numbers are back at a more Hackett-like level.  

The Aeros are finishing up an 8-game road trip where they've managed to win 5 of 7 games so far.  Houston's next game is this Friday in Oklahoma City against their rival the Barons, a team the Aeros were tremendous against (6-1 record) even when they had Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Justin Schultz in their lineup.   

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

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!

Oilers’ young guns overwhelm the Wild in 5-2 victory

Wild vs. Oilers

Before the start of the 2011-12 season, most NHL experts had more or less handed the Northwest Division title to the Vancouver Canucks.  The Canucks of course were coming off one of their franchise best seasons, being just one game short of winning a Stanley Cup.  Vancouver did not have a lot of changes to its roster so might as well just hand them the division title now right?   Not so fast.  That’s precisely why ESPN’s Chris Berman always says for any game where you feel you may have an obvious result, “that’s why they play the games.”  And the results have two upstarts at 1st and 2nd in the Northwest Division in the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers while Vancouver trails just behind in 3rd.  Yes, there is a lot of season left to be played but that ignores the fact that both Edmonton and Minnesota seem to be getting better with each game.  The Oilers’ stockpile of high draft picks are now showcasing the immense skill you’d expect as they gain confidence and establish chemistry and they’ve exploded for 15 goals in their last two games alone in a 9-2 demolition of the Chicago Blackhawks on Hockey Night In Canada and an equally impressive 6-2 rout of the Nashville Predators in Nashville.  While I doubt we’re going to see this version of the Oilers be able to match the Wayne Gretzky-Jari Kurri era Oilers of the 1980’s they still have some dangerous offensive talent.  A pair of 1st overall picks the last two years in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall are helping spark Edmonton much the same way Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews got things rolling for the Blackhawks a few years ago.  What perhaps has been ignored has been the incredibly solid play in the crease of Nikolai Khabibulin who is off to his best start in years, as he holds a stingy 1.96 goals against average and a hefty .935% save percentage.  So its not just a story of pure offense for the Oilers either.  Standing in their way is the Minnesota Wild, the league’s best defensive team.  Unlike the Oilers, the Wild do not have a lot of firepower but there are signs the team’s starting to find itself offensively.  Mikko Koivu is playing with fire again and that in turn has brought about another level of play from Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.  Still, it should make for a considerable challenge for Minnesota; and another opportunity to prove to the naysayers that the Wild’s league-best record is not just smoke and mirrors. 

Minnesota should enjoy a sellout crowd as those who do not wish to be apart of the insanity that is the shopping areas on Black Friday will seek the fun and friendly atmosphere of a Wild game instead.  Hmm, going to an NHL game or fighting with some stranger over a 42″ flat screen TV, hmm…I wonder which one I’d choose.  On a complete side note, anyone find it odd why the Wild moved this game back from its original start time at 1:00PM CST?  The team moved it back because of NBC; which seems strange since the Wild weren’t scheduled to play during that time.  I understand the league wants the ratings from the Detroit vs. Boston game but why move the Wild game back?  (shrugs)  So will the Wild be able to add more evidence they are something more than a pretender or will Edmonton make a case of their own that they’re a force to be reckoned with? 

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Jared Spurgeon

Game Thoughts:  Minnesota did not get out to a good start in this game.  In fact, they looked sluggish and as if they had too much turkey to eat as the Oilers had far more jump in the opening moments.  The Wild actually had a few close calls; mostly as the Oilers were blasting shots wide of the mark while Minnesota sort of floated around in a haze.  Edmonton struck first on a simple centering pass by Jordan Eberle to Ryan Smyth who got into perfect position at the top of the crease and was able to jam a quick shot 5-hole through Josh Harding to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead.  That goal really was reflective of two things; the first being the simplified plan of attack by the Oilers to beat Harding who they knew had been playing very well to that point and secondly the inability of the Wild’s defense to win the battles for the puck near their own crease and they capitalized on those opportunities which ultimately swung the outcome of the game in their favor.  As if Smyth’s early goal wasn’t bad enough, Wild enforcer Brad Staubitz added to the misery with some sheer stupidity.  After avoiding a big attempted check by Darcy Hordichuk, Staubitz would then deliver a foolish open ice hit where the puck was no where near the vicinity for an obvious interference call.  When Staubitz realized he was going to get a minor, he compounded his first error by going after Hordichuk, dropping the gloves and even throwing a few punches while the Oilers’ tough guy turtled.  This gave the Oilers a 4-minute power play to work with, but Minnesota’s penalty killers did a tremendous job.  Not only did they give up just one shot to what was a pretty discombobulated effort by Edmonton they even managed a few shorthanded scoring chances of their own.  Darroll Powe and Matt Cullen really stood out for their tremendous effort in giving Minnesota a big kill in what could’ve been a real back breaker at this point in the game.  However, Staubitz would again let his emotions get the best of him and again put his team in a precarious position.  Again it was Darcy Hordichuk who got Staubitz to cross check him and then as he realized he was going to get a minor he again tried to drop the gloves to only see Hordichuk turtle once more.  Say what you want about the gutlessness of turtling when allegedly you’ve been waiting 10 years to fight Staubitz but it was quite effective as the Wild pugilist was again tagged with two minor penalties; this time a cross-checking minor and a roughing minor to go along with it.  It was a significant violation of ‘the Code’ by Hordichuk who didn’t seem all that eager to want to tangle with Staubitz, but the result was in 8-minutes worth of penalties in just the first period alone.  The Oilers did not take long to strike as they again took the puck right to the crease and Harding was unable to control it and his defense seemed unable to clear it out harm’s way so thus it was an easy tap in goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to give Edmonton a 2-0 lead.  Minnesota would kill off the remaining minor but the damage had been done and the Wild had a hole to climb out of.  At this point, if I was head coach I would’ve sent Staubitz to the showers, he had hurt the team enough and it was clear he lacked the discipline to keep his head cool despite the taunts from the Oilers’ players, most notably Hordichuk who was chirping at him all night.  Minnesota would manage to cut the Edmonton lead just prior to the end of the period when a shot by Mikko Koivu would flutter in and be batted out of the air by Devin Setoguchi and was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin but Setoguchi would lift his rebound chance by the Oilers’ goalie to make it 2-1.  The Oilers immediately protested saying Setoguchi’s initial attempt was a high stick, and the goal was reviewed.  The ruling from Toronto was that the initial shot was indeed a high stick by Setoguchi, but as the puck went on goal and was stopped by Khabibulin the puck dropped to the ice and thus good for Setoguchi to play again and so his second shot was ok and thus it was ruled a good goal.  It was fortunate he didn’t score on his initial attempt and despite the ugly start the Wild still appeared to be in this game. 

Minnesota had better effort to start the 2nd period.  They were controlling the play more and they actually were using their forecheck with some reasonable success.  I also felt Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella had a good period as they supported the puck well and also moved it up the ice effectively.  The Wild were matching the Oilers’ intensity and the hustle was rewarded when Pierre-Marc Bouchard stripped Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the puck near his own blueline and he raced in on Khabibulin and beat him with a sneaky backhander 5-hole to tie the game at 2-2.  I think most of the arena had to feel as though this was going to be another game where Minnesota overcomes a slow start and claws its way to a victory.  The Oilers started to pour it on; especially their line of Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Taylor Hall which gave Minnesota problems all evening.  Edmonton’s superior team speed started to tell.  A great example of this came late in the 2nd period when Dany Heatley tried in vain to shadow Taylor Hall.  Hall simply was a few steps faster than the older Heatley and he managed to maintain puck possession despite numbers poke check attempts by the Wild sniper.  Hall would eventually give up the puck to Tom Gilbert, who stepped into a slap shot that was stopped by Harding who lost sight of the puck after his initial stop and as the puck sat a few feet from his crease it was Hall who pounced on it for an easy tap in to give Edmonton a 3-2 lead going into the 3rd period.  Minnesota had played a fairly good period, it was out shooting the Oilers and the Wild’s 2nd line was being pesky and creating shooting opportunities but the Wild still ended up trailing and that was not a good sign.  Staubitz still managed to get two shifts in the period, which surprised me and disgusted me at the same time.  On one of his two shifts, Hordichuk would yap at Staubitz near the Wild bench but true to form the supposed Oilers’ tough guy didn’t take it any farther than that.  Apparently wanting to fight someone for 10 years means you just talk and do nothing.  Yet to give Staubitz a minimum amount of credit he didn’t retaliate physically this time. 

In the 3rd period the game would slip away from the Wild completely.  The Wild didn’t seem to have enough jump in their skates to get the job done, and Edmonton started to ramp up the tempo which is something Minnesota struggled to cope with.  Even the Wild’s energy line of Powe, Nick Johnson, and Kyle Brodziak would be bottled up in the Minnesota zone as the Oilers’ collection of skilled forwards cycled the puck effectively along the boards and they appeared to lack the energy to stop it.  Ales Hemsky would elude Justin Falk with a nice sharp turn that made the Snowflake, Manitoba-native lose an edge and as he wiped out Hemsky found Horcoff for a quick pass from beneath the goal line and Horcoff banged home a shot that Harding had no chance on to give Edmonton a 4-2 lead.  Mikko Koivu should get some of the blame since he lost track of Horcoff but the agility of Hemsky is what created the space and thus the opportunity to make the play happen in the first place.  Minnesota would try in vain to rally back late, but the team was settling for shots from the perimeter and even when they managed to make a nice pass the shots were being fanned or driven well wide of the goal.  The Oilers would seal a 5-2 victory with an empty netter by Nugent-Hopkins. 

Harding had 24 saves in the loss.  The goals he gave up were of the variety that would’ve beaten just about any goaltender; the quick and free shots from close range kind.  I felt he kept Minnesota in the game long enough for the team to decided it was going to will the game to have a different outcome but that effort didn’t materialize.  It was not a banner night defensively for the Wild who all too often failed to clear away rebounds and it was those chances that haunted Minnesota in at least 2 goals that were scored this evening.  Nate Prosser, Justin Falk, and even more experienced Wild skaters were at times a bit careless with the puck through the neutral zone and this had Minnesota scrambling a bit in its own end.  The Wild’s defense was also not nearly physical enough near its own crease and the team must be a bit nastier in that part of the ice if it expects to prevent those kind of point-blank-range scoring opportunities. 

One statistic that sort of stuck with me before I went to this game was the fact the Oilers were the only team in the NHL that was averaging LESS shots than Minnesota.  Yet, the Oilers had tallied nearly 10 more goals than the Wild, and their list of top scorers all had over 20 points to their credit.  That told me, that this team finishes well on its opportunities.  The Wild needed to finish in that fashion if it expected to win a game like tonight.  That didn’t happen and the result was a 5-2 loss.  Dany Heatley continues to baffle me a bit with some of his attempts to fire the biscuit.  Twice he had backhand opportunities and while he has plenty of snap both he and Setoguchi telegraph what they’re going to do with the puck that its obvious what they wish to do even to a casual observer let alone players who are going to be asked to study film.  Minnesota has been lucky some of their foolish decisions to pass the puck near the blueline hasn’t cost them all that often but I think all too often they’re playing with fire with these lazy passes to the point men that are so easy to disrupt / intercept.  It was nice to see Setoguchi and Bouchard light the lamp but still most of the shots the Wild were able to generate were from the perimeter and I think any team will gladly give Minnesota those kinds of chances.  Minnesota must find more ways to bring the puck to the crease and work for some of the ugly goals much the same way Edmonton did in this game. 

Not that great of an effort and you could hear as much being discussed by Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo in his post-game press conference.  The Oilers are both young and impressively skilled.  They’ve managed to score 20 goals in their last 3 games and that is no fluke.  They’re very potent with multiple weapons to work with.  Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins will be a formidable core for years to come.  The Wild must be more physical with this group in the future or it will experience similar results to the game tonight and its simply not acceptable. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster this afternoon was as follows:  Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck, Brad Staubitz, Warren Peters, Colton Gillies, Kyle Brodziak, Nick Johnson, Darroll Powe, Nick Schultz, Clayton Stoner, Nate Prosser, Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Josh Harding.  Greg Zanon, Guillaume Latendresse, and Marek Zidlicky were the scratches for this game. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Taylor Hall, 2nd Star Cal Clutterbuck, 3rd Star Nikolai Khabibulin

~ Attendance was 18,092 at Xcel Energy Center

Wild Prospect Report:

LW – Brett Bulmer (Kelowna, WHL) ~ The Prince George-native continues to be a force for the Kelowna Rockets after contributing 2 helpers in a 7-3 win over his hometown Cougars on Wednesday.  Bulmer is well over a point-per-game pace, with 3 goals, 12 points and is a +6 in 8 games.  The Rockets fans I talk with tell me that the consistency issues that Bulmer struggled with in his first two seasons in the WHL have largely been eliminated after his short stint with the Wild and his steady effort has allowed him to take that next step in his development. 

D – Colton Jobke (Regina, WHL) ~ Perhaps one of the Wild’s lesser known prospects is Delta, British Columbia-native Colton Jobke whose strong play at the Wild’s prospect camp won him a contract and so far he is having his best season as an overager playing for Regina.  The Regina fans I talk with tell me they absolutely love Jobke’s versatility to play either on the power play or the penalty kill which is something they felt they lacked when they had the more offensively focused Myles Bell whom Jobke was traded to Kelowna for.  I have little doubt the Wild are probably also happy that Jobke is gaining experience playing in so many more types of game situations where he was looked more as a stay-at-home defensman with the Rockets.  Jobke had an assist in the Pats’ 5-2 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Wednesday, and this is shaping up to be his best season statistically by far as he’s already posted 4 goals, 9 points in 21 games. 

C – Tyler Graovac (Ottawa, OHL) ~ Injuries have been an issue for the Wild prospect as he’s missed considerable time this season, first with a concussion and more recently a tough battle with the flu.  Graovac’s normal role is as the 2nd line center on the OHL’s best team in the Eastern Division, but its hard to advance your game when you’re seldom healthy to play.  So far he’s posted a modest 4 goals, 12 points, and is a +2 in 16 games for the 67’s. 

C – Zack Phillips (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Zack Phillips has been a scoring machine for the Sea Dogs as he rides a 18-game point scoring streak.  On Tuesday, Phillips kept his scoring streak alive by scoring a goal in a 4-1 loss to the Quebec Remparts.  With a scoring streak that has lasted that long, it should be no surprise that he is 6th in QMJHL in scoring with 15 goals, 44 points in 25 games and is a major reason the defending Memorial Cup Champion Sea Dogs are in 1st place in the standings.  Update:  Phillips extends his point streak to 18 games with an assist in a 5-2 win over Cape Breton 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!

Bouchard’s spin-a-rama caps off 3rd period surge to beat Edmonton 4-1

Cal Cluttebuck looks for a goal...

You can tell the trade deadline is approaching as teams are pulling the trigger as they hope to get a head start on the competition.  I remember back in the day when you could play Electronic Arts’ NHL ’94 where if you were patient enough it was rather easily to start a sequence of trades where you’d start with a role player like Shawn Chambers only to eventually land top rated talent like Wayne Gretzky, Ray Bourque, Mario Lemieux or Doug Gilmour.  Obviously it did not replicate real life at all. 

NHL '94 for Super Nintendo

Anyone could be a GM if it was that easy, where you’d start with a team full of role players and end up with a ‘Dream Team’ of Hall of Famers.  Out of touch with reality?  Maybe, but if you look at some of those teams from the 1990’s and early 2000’s there were some teams out there that had a ridiculous amount of talent.  The Red Wings at one time had Dominik Hasek, Niklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and Brett Hull all on one team meanwhile the Penguins had a lineup that was full Hall of Famers in Mario Lemieux, Jaormir Jagr, Ron Francis, Mark Recchi, Bryan Trottier, Paul Coffey, and Larry Murphy.  There were wide chasms between the haves and the have nots in the NHL in those days as no salary cap was in place.   Nowadays trading playersis not that easy, especially in today’s NHL where players have such long contracts that it makes them difficult to move.  Electronic Arts has made great strides in making its trade portion of its games more realistic, in fact almost too realistic.  Now one has to give away lots and lots just for a marginal player in return; this is especially true on NHL ’11.  That almost makes trading unrealistic in itself in the fact it makes nearly impossible to pull off.  But all of the quirkiness of trades only happens in video games right?  Then again maybe not.  Consider the Wild’s Northwest Division rival the Colorado Avalanche.  What the heck has happened to them?  After surprising many last year when its young, fast and dynamic roster made the post season the team struggled through injuries and suspect goaltending to be near the bottom of the Western Conference.  Heck, franchise-hero Peter Forsberg threw in the towel on his career after another failed comeback attempt.  Even though the team has weathered a considerable amount of disappointment it still had lots to like, a young and dynamic core with loads of potential.  Avalanche management clearly saw it very differently and began shipping off components of the team including last year’s hero between the pipes Craig Anderson for a goaltender who struggled mightily to find consistency in Ottawa in Brian Elliot.  A poor trade with Ottawa placed clearly as the winner of the deal would’ve been bad enough had Avalanche General Manager Greg Sherman hadn’t made another head-scratcher of a trade when he sent promising power forward Chris Stewart and dynamic defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the St. Louis Blues for 3rd line penalty killer Jay McClement and underwhelming 1st Overall pick Erik Johnson.  No offense, but a young dynamic goal scorer like Stewart is probably worth McClement and Johnson by himself.  Goals are something every team in the NHL is looking for and Stewart appeared to be a franchise cornerstone for the Avs, but apparently they decided to go in a different direction which is baffling at this point in the season where team’s chances for the post season are slim to none.  Stewart was off to a torrid pace scoring-wise this season until he broke his hand in a fight with the Wild’s Kyle Brodziak, and Shattenkirk is also a young defenseman who has great mobility and can bring a lot of nice things offensively as well.  To see him thrown into the deal makes the trade that much more lopsided.  If the Avs are that desperate to rid themselves of their young talent I’d offer them Cam Barker for Matt Duchene.  They were both taken 3rd Overall!?!?  Good trade right? 

Minnesota hosts the upstart Edmonton Oilers who have embraced the role of spoiler as of late.  Young phenom Taylor Hall is starting to heat up and demonstrate why he was worthy of the 1st Overall pick.  The Wild better prepared to take on a loose opponent who is playing some of its best hockey right now.  So will the Wild be able to bring their “A” game against the Oilers who have nothing to lose or will they overlook Edmonton and pay the price of over confidence?   

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1st Period Thoughts:  Not the kind of period you want to have against a cellar-dwelling team.  The Wild were trying to be too cute with the puck and were not hustling nearly enough and were caught too many times reaching and poking around the ice.  It was quite frustrating watching the Wild attempt one extra pass or give the puck away needlessly instead of taking opportunities to put a bad team on its heels early.  The lack of scoring chances kept the home crowd out of the game; and that was after earning two quick power plays at the start.  Neither power play did much to put any real pressure on Nikolai Khabibulin.  The inability of the Wild to establish much in the way of offense invited the Oilers to go on the attack and Taylor Hall was really flying around the ice, taking every opportunity to blast shots on Niklas Backstrom who was focused and poised between the pipes.  The only Wild skater who appeared to have a sense of urgency was Matt Cullen, but the rest of the team was simply waiting for their teammates to create something.  Minnesota would get into some penalty trouble midway through the period as the team’s lack of energy nearly came back to bite them.  Luckily for the Wild, they were able to kill off the two penalties with good puck pressure against the worst power play in the NHL.  I don’t care if the tripping penalty on Clayton Stoner was bogus; the team was getting tagged with penalties because it wasn’t hustling enough.  Speaking of Stoner I felt he had a reasonably good period.  He was stepping up to support the play in the offensive zone as well as using his body to seal off opposing forwards.  I think the team even started to feel a level of frustration and towards the end of the period they began to take it out on Edmonton with some pretty solid body checks by Greg Zanon, Eric Nystrom and Cal Clutterbuck but overall it was a major disappointment and the kind of do-nothing periods that bad teams playing on the road thrive on.  The Wild can feel a little fortunate that Edmonton was failing to execute on some of its opportunities or this could’ve gone from a disappointing period to a disaster.

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota did not start out much better in the 2nd period, the Wild were still just sort of going through the motions.  The Wild would finally get a spark after the Oilers’ Theo Peckham gave a shove to Cal Clutterbuck who played it up a bit as he kicked his legs out and fell back to the ice.  The hit got Minnesota a little stirred up but not quite all the way as that would finally happen when Andrew Brunette was tagged with a slashing penalty.  Minnesota’s penalty killers were again rock solid, forcing the Oilers to the perimeter and clearing the zone with relative ease.  The Wild would finish up the Oilers’ power play on the attack as Matt Cullen drove a shot on goal that was steered wide by Khabibulin.  The ice would start to tilt into the Oilers’ zone, and Minnesota was also starting to ratchet up its physical play as Clutterbuck began to rock Edmonton blueliners on the forecheck.  Brent Burns would get in on the action as he crushed Taylor Chorney with a wicked hip check.  The Wild would finally get on the scoreboard off a pretty two-line pass by Greg Zanon that hit Martin Havlat in stride and he raced in and beat Khabibulin with a quick wrist shot that snuck through 5-hole to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.  The game would open up a bit after Havlat’s goal, but this allowed for scoring chances for both teams.  The Oilers’ fourth line nearly answered back as Ryan Jones was nearly able to capitalize on the rebound only to be robbed by a great save by Backstrom.  The Wild had some more chances too as Pierre-Marc Bouchard was set up a few times by Havlat but his wrist shots were absorbed by Khabibulin.  Minnesota had one of its best chances later in the period as Andrew Brunette took the puck to the crease where he fired a shot that was stopped by Khabibulin and his rebound would be kicked over to Antti Miettinen who was shut down by the skate save of Kurtis Foster.  The puck would be outletted to Linus Omark who raced into the Wild zone where he drew the puck back to Foster who had joined the rush and he rifled a shot that hit the post and in to tie the game at 1-1.  Minnesota had good hustle throughout most of the period, and Martin Havlat was taking his chances to be assertive and when he does that good things happen for the Wild.  Credit must be given to Minnesota’s penalty killers like Eric Nystrom and John Madden who gave Edmonton nothing to build some momentum on.  Foster’s goal hurts, but Minnesota had finally found its legs offensively and hopefully it can retake the lead somewhere in the 3rd. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota would have a much better start, as the Wild would cause a turnover in the neutral zone where Nick Schultz fed a pass to Kyle Brodziak who beat Khabibulin with a backhander to give the State of Hockey a 2-1 lead.  The goal deflated the Oilers and Minnesota continued to attack, and they would draw a holding penalty on Theo Peckham.  Minnesota’s power play would get set up without much difficulty but I have to say at times it was looking a little too passive as Bouchard waited and waited before dishing the puck to Marek Zidlicky who fed it over to Jared Spurgeon who thought about it before flinging a shot on goal that went through the legs of Brodziak and by a surprised Khabibulin to put the Wild up 3-1.  Minnesota nearly threw away its lead with a little laziness that caused them to take two penalties giving the Oilers a fairly long 5-on-3 power play.  Again, Minnesota’s penalty killers stepped up to shut down the Oilers.  Backstrom was great as well, absorbing the puck and earning the PK unit an invaluable whistle during the first 30 seconds of the 1:30 long 5-on-3.  The successful penalty kill would raise the chippiness of the game as Eric Nystrom drew a penalty after a Ryan Jones tried to get his stick into the grill of the Wild winger who then was ran into the boards immediately after Jones’ hit by Jean-Francois Jacques.  Jacques would go to the penalty box for roughing, but Minnesota’s power play tried to set up Spurgeon for another goal on a back door play but he would be denied by the Oilers netminder.  Minnesota would add the coup-de-grace on turnover in the neutral zone that saw one Oilers’ defender lose an edge giving Pierre-Marc Bouchard an uncontested approach and just as he did in a shootout a few years ago, Bouchard moved in and beat Khabibulin with a spin-a-rama to put the Wild up 4-1.  It was a pretty goal, one that no doubt had to stick in the craw of Khabibulin who would glare towards the Wild celebrating after the game.  In the closing minutes, Brad Staubitz attempted to instigate a bit as he took a run at Jacques who wanted to fight but NHL referee Stephen Walkom stepped in and broke it up before they could go at it.  Wild Head Coach Todd Richards was very unhappy as it was Staubitz who got the extra penalties, showering Walkom with a rain of expletives.  The Wild stepped up and took the game away from the Oilers and they have to feel lucky having really only played a half of game of quality hockey to have been able to come away with a win. 

Niklas Backstrom was very solid making 20 saves in the victory.  Backstrom was seeing the puck well and keeping the Oilers at bey when they were swarming around the Wild zone early in the game.  Minnesota was also very solid defensively as the Wild blueline was physical when it needed to be and I really felt with the lone exception of Cam Barker they had a very solid game.  The Wild’s penalty kill continues to be red hot (knock on wood) as they shut down Edmonton on the power play, including an extended 5-on-3.  Stoner continues to impress me a great deal and seems to be the big, mobile physical stay-at-home defenseman this team hasn’t had since it lost Willie Mitchell

Offensively the Wild got some contributions from the guys that need to step up in the absence of Mikko Koivu.  Martin Havlat got things rolling with another breakaway and he has found a way to become a threat in transition that can only help stretch opposing defenses.  Its good to see Spurgeon rewarded for his safe and steady play by getting his first goal tonight and perhaps that will make him feel a little more confident in pulling the trigger which was something he never hesitated to do when he was in junior with the Spokane Chiefs.  The Wild should beat a team like the Oilers, but it took nearly a period and a half before the team really started to skate and look to put shots on goal and it can’t afford to do that against the better teams in the Western Conference and expect to just pull away in the 3rd period like they did this evening. 

It was half-game effort which was enough to beat Edmonton, which had the Wild showing a little swagger late in the game but this team needs to keep its perspective.  It needs to stay focused and be better at the start because most other teams in the Western Conference would’ve had Minnesota down by a few goals after the terrible first period they had.  Minnesota travels out to California where they will play the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.  The Kings are one of those teams trailing the Wild in the standings with 68 points and its a terrific opportunity to put some more distance between them.  Minnesota is currently in 5th place in the Western Conference which is nice but almost everyone seems to have 70 points so it sounds alot more secure than it actually is.  The Wild will then play Anaheim on Friday so those are a huge two games back-to-back and I hope they can come away with points in each of them. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild lineup tonight is as follows:  Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, John Madden, Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak, Brad Staubitz, Cody Almond, Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, Eric Nystrom, Greg Zanon, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, Nick Schultz, Cam Barker, Marek Zidlicky and Brent Burns.  Jose Theodore backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Chuck Kobasew was the lone healthy scratch.   Mikko Koivu (hand), Josh Harding (knee), James Sheppard (knee) and Guillaume Latendresse (groin and sports hernia) are on injured reserve. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were as follows: 1st Star Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 2nd Star Martin Havlat, 3rd Star Jared Spurgeon

~ Attendance tonight was 17, 321 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ The State of Hockey News wishes to congratulate Martin Havlat on scoring his 500th point in the NHL and Jared Spurgeon on his first ever NHL goal. 

Wild Prospect Report:

LW – Kris Foucault ~ Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  54GP  20G  21A = 41pts  52 PIM’s  -5

On Sunday the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens battled it out at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, but this afternoon was the Hitmen’s turn as they went toe to toe against the Regina Pats on the same ice.  The result was not what the host Hitmen wanted as they fell 3-2, but the day was good to Wild prospect Kris Foucault who had a goal and 2 penalty minutes in the loss.  Foucault continues his enigmatic pattern of being a flashy scorer who oozes skill and then disappears in the next moment.  The Calgary-native has managed to maintain a respectable pace of points as well as +/- considering how poor the team has performed this season. 

LW – Brett Bulmer ~ Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  54GP  18G  29A = 47pts  103 PIM’s  -11

Bulmer has been showing his mean side lately, racking up the penalty minutes at a prodigious rate but while he logs more time in the penalty box he has been seeing less and less ice time and thus his scoring totals have also flat lined.  While the Wild would like to see Bulmer have a bit of nastiness to his game, I doubt they want it to be a major detriment to his offensive game.  Afterall that is the line that is crossed that separates goon from being a power forward.  The Wild hoped they drafted a power forward with the 39th Overall pick in the 2010 draft.  Its important that Bulmer remember that. 

High School Boys Hockey Report:

Class 1A rankings (according to Hockey’s Hub):

#1  St. Thomas Academy Cadets (19-6-1)
#2   Hermantown Hawks (20-3-2)
#3  Rochester Lourdes Eagles (21-3-1)
#4  Breck Mustangs (17-8-0)
#5  The Blake School Bears (20-3-2)
#6  Totino-Grace Eagles (19-5-1)
#7  Warroad Warriors (17-8-0)
#8  Virginia/Mt. Iron-Buhl Blue Devils (18-7-0)
#9  Little Falls Flyers (20-3-2)
#10  Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers (14-10-1)

Class 2A rankings (according to Hockey’s Hub):

#1  Hill-Murray Pioneers (21-3-1)
#2  Eden Prarie Eagles (18-5-2)
#3  Wayzata Trojans (18-5-2) 
#4  Maple Grove Crimson (20-3-2)
#5  Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights (21-4-0)
#6  Edina Hornets (15-7-2)
#7  Duluth East Greyhounds (19-5-0)
#8  Minnetonka Skippers (16-7-2)
#9  Burnsville Blaze (17-4-4)
#10  Eagan Wildcats (17-6-2)

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!

Ugly road effort was good enough in 4-1 win over the hapless Oilers

Magnus Paajarvi tries to score on Backstrom

People have always wanted the ability to predict the future.  From Ancient Greece where they visited the Oracle at Delphi, to Punxsatawney Phil to Paul the Octopus or maybe something as simple as receiving a fortune cookie people wish to get an advantage by having some sort of knowledge of future events.  Last week, there was news that the zodiac might be changing to account for the Earth’s wobble and many people began to ponder the possibility that their ‘sign’ had changed.  This change constituted a major faux pas of superstition.  It would be tantamount to changing a person’s ‘lucky’ number(s).   Sometimes, technology is used to make a prediction.  Whether its a simulation to find out the Deadliest Warrior like Spike TV’s popular show or at times plays a major role in how match ups are determined in the case of the Bowl Championship Series computer.  I decided to take a similar approach by using the one simulator I felt was appropriate for tonight’s tilt between the Minnesota Wild and the Edmonton Oilers.  The simulator is Konami’s Blades of Steel for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Tonight before the action started on the ice at Rexall Arena the purple clad Minnesota team defeated the green and the gold clad Edmonton squad 14-13 in a shootout.  Is that an omen of things to come? 

The Oracle of Hockey according to me....

The Wild are amongst a whole bunch of teams battling it out for a playoff spot in the dog eat dog Western Conference while the Oilers are a team whose playoff hopes seem fleeting at best.  For Minnesota, this is a game they have to have whether its on the road or not.  So will Blades of Steel be the new Oracle of Hockey for the State of Hockey News or will that be thrown into the trash heap of ideas the same way Fox’s glowing puck was in the late 1990’s? 

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

1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota had great legs to start the period and took advantage of some lazy play by the Oilers to create some scoring chances early.  The Wild’s first goal was the result of some good hustle and persistence as Eric Nystrom made the smart play by threading a pass towards the crease and Matt Cullen was there to put a quick shot on goal and then he followed it up by spinning and turning to slide home the rebound.  The Oilers tried to thug things up as I thought they might as Jean-Francois Jacques, Zach Stortini and Colin Fraser tried to shove around some Wild players but good discipline by Brad Staubitz and company didn’t take the bait.  As always, the goal was significant in giving Minnesota a little more jump in its skates and putting the Oilers on their heels.  Minnesota would add another just about 2 minutes later which again was keyed by both hustle as Brent Burns stepped up to keep a rush going and then firing a shot on goal that was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin but again he gave up a rebound that was threaded back out to Burns who was inexplicably still open and he rifled a wrist shot by the Edmonton goalie to give the Wild a 2-0 lead.  Khabibulin was not sharp and really fighting the puck but after Minnesota got its two-goal lead I really felt the team sort of sat back and relaxed a bit.  It was still hustling back defensively but it was no longer carrying the play offensively.  The Wild were able to get some sticks on some shots and help Anton Khudobin from facing a deluge of shots.  Minnesota would also be lucky as the puck didn’t seem to settle at the right times for them to capitalize on the few instances they found some time and space in the Wild zone.  Penalty killing, the Wild were absolutely outstanding.  They did a great job at neutralizing Kurtis Foster‘s big shot from the point and some hard physical work by Clayton Stoner and Mikko Koivu kept Edmonton from having much of anything on the man advantage.  A few gaffes in the period; one a bad decision by Pierre-Marc Bouchard to try a diagonal pass from deep inside his zone nearly turned into disaster as Taylor Hall pounced on it, and then Cam Barker who lost his edge and that nearly turned into a goal for Ales Hemsky.  Lastly, some big props have to go out to Anton Khudobin who delivered a giant save late in the period on a sharp angle shot by former Bloomington Jefferson Jaguar Tom Gilbert when Khudobin leapt across his crease to preserve a 2-0 Wild lead.  Those are the types of plays that win games. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  This period is easy to sum up.  Lazy or pathetic, take your pick.  The Wild really stopped skating and anticipating and the result was a parade to the penalty box, taking four minor penalties in the period.  The Oilers were able to create a few real dangerous chances, as Linus Omark nearly outwaited Khudobin as he flopped around his crease but luckily for him Kurtis Foster’s one-timer would go high over the goal.  The Wild penalty kill had some strong moments, especially when they gave the Oilers 1:40 of 5-on-3 time and it was smart, hard-working play by guys like Mikko Koivu stole valuable seconds from the Oilers.  Khudobin’s penchant for dropping to his pads early was likely causing the Oilers to think shelf automatically and Minnesota was very fortunate they couldn’t hit those windows.  He also was getting caught out of position, and I expect the Oilers will try to work some plays against the grain to take advantage of this.  The Wild had a few token chances on goal themselves but nothing real threatening and with the power plays the ice was permanently tilted towards Minnesota’s end.  The Wild were very fortunate Edmonton’s power play executed so poorly that at least one of their big shots didn’t find the back of the net to get the home crowd back into the game.  I have zero doubt Minnesota’s penalty killers had to be feeling pretty gassed since they played way more than they should have.  I have to admit I almost want to demand a recount after seeing the Wild had registered 9 shots on goal in the period and the Oilers just 12. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  Ever hear the sports cliche about the score not being indicative of the play?  That is a great way to explain the 3rd period which in many ways was a lot like the 2nd period.  Sloppy, lazy play where the Oilers had good pressure going in the Wild zone but their inability to finish their chances killed them and allowed Minnesota to escape with a 4-1 win.  One player for the Oilers that needs some credit was Liam Reddox who was flying all over the ice and making himself a huge pain for the Wild.  A classic sequence was a great chance off the rush for Magnus Paajarvi, and then the Wild get lucky when Tom Gilbert loses an edge and falls as he had skated in back into his zone for a puck and it is gathered up by Nystrom who again fed a pass to Bouchard who dangled around a sprawling Khabibulin to really put a dagger into the Oilers’ back.  The game got chippy and I liked seeing Minnesota willing to defend themselves but they need to be smart.  Burns’ fight with Zach Stortini was both stupid and potentially dangerous for the Wild.  With Marek Zidlicky already out of the lineup, the Wild must have Brent Burns stay healthy.  He is their best defenseman at both ends of the ice and is the only blueliner that can just take it up the ice and create a scoring chance when its needed.  Losing Burns for Stortini was not a fair trade.  Then a few minutes later, Brad Staubitz’ scrap with Jean-Francois Jacques will not make him real popular with Head Coach Todd Richards.  Staubitz may feel he was simply defending his teammate but earning an instigator in the last 5 minutes will give Richards a $10,000 fine and the Wild pugilist an automatic one-game suspension.  That will mean Minnesota will be without a true tough guy against the Flames tomorrow night.  Minnesota to their credit would bury another goal on the power play as Andrew Brunette proves he still has terrific hands as he pounced on a rebound.  Yet the story of the period I thought was the plethora of missed chances for Edmonton.  Dustin Penner had a few great opportunities but fired it high, and Ladislav Smid shoveled a shot wide on an open net.  Paajarvi ruined the shutout, but in all honesty Minnesota did not deserve a shutout. 

Watching Khudobin play is like watching Asian Carp fly out of a river when a boat goes by, flopping around at times but for whatever reason shooters keep missing.  Yet that ignores the fact Khudobin also made quite a few quality stops as well, making 31 saves for his 2nd straight victory.  I love hearing Khudobin interviewed, because of his candid straight-from-the-heart answers, and he is making a strong case to be re-signed.  I agree with Fox Sports North’s Rob McClanahan that the team will opt for Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore as soon as he’s healthy but with the way Khudobin’s played so far (knock on wood) the Wild are in no panic to rush them back in the lineup giving them valuable time to recover completely.  Defensively I thought the Wild were again very solid.  Consistent backchecking again helped erase most mistakes made by the Wild’s blueliners.  Clayton Stoner was very solid; playing physical and really is becoming a good shut down defender. 

Offensively the Wild didn’t have a lot of great chances but to their credit they finished some of those chances and they put Edmonton in a hole early.   The team’s lack of energy and poor passing meant Minnesota really was playing rope a dope throughout most of the game.  Minnesota cannot expect to win many games playing like this.  So yes, a win is nice; but if they feel they played well they’re fooling themselves.  Notch a game for Blades of Steel

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, Andrew Brunette, John Madden, Eric Nystrom, Kyle Brodziak, Brad Staubitz, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, Chuck Kobasew, Cal Clutterbuck, Jared Spurgeon, Cam Barker, Greg Zanon, Clayton Stoner, Nick Schultz and Brent Burns.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Anton Khudobin.  Marco Scandella and Jose Theodore were the ‘healthy’ scratches.  Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) and Guillaume Latendresse (sports hernia) are still on the mend. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Anton Khudobin, 2nd Star Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 3rd Star Liam Reddox

~ Attendance tonight at Rexall Center was 16,839.

~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate Andrew Brunette on scoring his 250th goal of his NHL career, as well as Pierre-Marc Bouchard for registering his 200th career assist. 

Wild Prospect Report:

LW – Brett Bulmer ~ Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  42GP  14G  21A = 35pts  66 PIM’s  -9

Brett Bulmer is now bearing down for the 2nd half of the season.  He is just 5 points short of last season’s totals of 40 points in 65 games.  In his most recent game, Bulmer had an assist and was a -1 in a 5-2 loss to Medicine Hat.  The Prince George, British Columbia-native has been playing a more complete game even showing some versatility from simply being used as a power forward as he has been used in a shutdown role.  After being criticized a bit early in the season for lacking consistency in effort, Bulmer has remedied those issues to being one of the Rockets’ most talented players each night.  Bulmer’s better play has corresponded with the Rockets climbing back up to 6th in the Western Conference. 

G – Darcy Kuemper ~ Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  39GP  (28-8-1-2)  1.80GAA  .933%SP

It continues to be a banner year for Wild prospect goaltender Darcy Kuemper who is still atop of the WHL’s goaltender standings in wins, goals against average and save percentage.  The 6’4″ netminder is literally and figuratively a big reason why the Red Deer Rebels currently sit in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.  Kuemper is your prototypical bid bodied goaltender who has both size and athleticism to move quickly and efficiently across his crease.  Positionally sound he uses his big frame to its fullest advantage.  Puck handling was an issue for Kuemper this season but he has made improvements in that area of his game.  The Rebels, led by top rated 2011 draft prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are making plenty of noise and so far appear to have a good shot at taking home the Ed Chynoweth Trophy as WHL Champion.  With Kuemper between the pipes, the Rebels have had a chance to win each night and if you add a little offensive punch is a proven formula for success. 

Minnesota Hockey Report

Top 10 Rankings-Boys (According to Hockey’s Hub)

Class 1A:
#1  Hermantown (13-0-1)* – the state’s last undefeated team
#2  St. Thomas Academy (8-3)
#3  Breck (8-4)
#4  The Blake School (11-2-2)
#5  Hibbing/Chisholm (12-4-1)
#6  Totino-Grace (11-1)
#7  Virginia / Mt. Iron-Buhl (12-5)
#8  Warroad (11-4)
#9  Little Falls (12-1-2)
#10 South St. Paul (9-4)

Class 2A:
#1  Edina (9-2-2)
#2  Duluth East (12-2)
#3  Eden Prairie (10-3)
#4  Hill-Murray (10-3-1)
#5  Benilde-St.Margaret’s (11-2)
#6  Wayzata (12-3)
#7  Minnetonka (10-3-1)
#8  Maple Grove (10-4-1)
#9  Eagan (10-4-1)
#10 Burnsville (9-3-2)

Girls High School Hockey Spotlight:

Centennial Cougars (Northwest Suburban Conference) ~ 12-6 record

Most recent game:  Centennial 4, Anoka 2

Sporting sweaters that look remarkably close to those warn by the Washington Capitals, the Centennial Cougars are off to a reasonable start, currently sitting in 2nd place in the Northwest Surburban standings.  Head Coach Mark Domschot‘s squad has struggled to find consistency at times after a close game with conference bottom dweller like North Metro but even though it may not be relishing big blowouts but more often than not they’ve found a way to win.  The Cougars are led by sophomore playmaker Lauren Kolak (5 goals, 18 points) and a trio of snipers like senior Lauren Anderson (9 goals) juniors Kayla Fuechtmann (8 goals) and Katie Armstrong (9 goals).   However the Cougars’ greatest strength may be in the crease where senior Erika Hansen carries the mail, with a 12-3 record, a super stingy 1.34 goals against average and a ridiculous .951% save percentage with 6 shutouts to her credit.  The Cougars play tonight at home against the North Metro Stars. 

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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