Zucker’s debut dazzles as he helps Wild to huge 3-2 home win over Detroit

Mikko Koivu & Zach Parise & Dany Heatley

Its Hockey Weekend America, a new attempt to celebrate hockey in the United States.  Did that get you excited?  Nope?  Me neither.  In my opinion it doesn't hold a candle to Hockey Day Minnesota which actually has authentic tradition to draw from.  It seems odd to celebrate hockey in February when in many cases the ice has melted or is starting to in most parts of the nation.  Yet on this day, their is an outdoor game being played in Chicago's Soldier Field.  The Hockey City Classic between the Miami (OH) and Notre Dame followed up by the University of Minnesota versus the University of Wisconsin.  I understand the NHL missed out on the Winter Classic due to the lockout so this is the 'alternate' version of that 'spectacle' for the league.  The Wild and many other American teams are going to be playing across the National Hockey League as part of this celebration but I am not sure how many Minnesota fans are in a celebratory mood after an embarrassing shootout loss to Colorado on Thursday night.      

Matt Cullen

The team's inspirational story Josh Harding has been placed on Injured Reserve until the foreseeable future and the team now has called up Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker.  Detroit comes to town, and while they may appear not to be as sharp as previous Red Wings' teams the Wild's most recent game proves they can be beaten by even the worst, most banged up teams in the league.  Needless to say expectations are pretty low, so will the Wild live up to those lowered expectations or will they give us a surprise by earning a victory?  

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Wild vs. Red Wings

1st Period Thoughts:  Detroit's Petr Mrazek was tested early as the top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and The Wild's newcomers were noticeable early as Jason Zucker demonstrated that extra gear in his game as he scooted into the Red Wings' zone before dropping a pass off to Devin Setoguchi who rifled a shot on goal that was steered away by Mrazek.  Minnesota's hustle from its 4th line would draw a penalty as Mike Rupp forced Joakkim Andersson to try to hold him up in the offensive zone giving the Wild its 1st power play of the game.  On the man advantage the Wild struggled to create much of anything offensively as they had a hard time getting established in the Detroit zone.  Other than few shots from long range, the Red Wings never were really threatened and the Wild came up empty.  After the failed power play the Wild seemed to be a little out of sync, perhaps a sign of the jumbled lines.  Detroit stopped moving its feet and the Red Wings would strike first as some poor defensive play and indecision would give Damien Brunner a chance to chip a puck on goal that surprised Darcy Kuemper to make it 1-0 with a small chorus of boo's over Minnesota's lethargic play.  Minnesota moved its feet a bit better after the goal and they tried to work the puck deep and beating Detroit in battles for the puck along the boards.  Johan Larsson demonstrated some pretty good strength as he banged Brian Lashoff along the wall.  Minnesota's 2nd line tried to be a little too fancy with the puck and again the Red Wings were quick to try to capitalize on the Wild's mistakes as lost battle down low as Justin Abdelkader backhanded a pass out front to Tomas Tatar who thought he snuck a shot underneath the arm of Kuemper but the Wild goalie kept it out.  They would review the play but the puck never made it through and over the goal line and Minnesota got a little lucky by still just being down by a goal.  The Wild started to get sloppy with the puck and the team started to ice the puck; and after one sequence of two quick icing infractions the crowd let the team know of its displeasure.  Darcy Kuemper had to come up with some huge saves late as the Wild became careless in its own zone and stupid decision by Ryan Suter combined with a bad change which occurred because of a line eager to return to the bench after the consecutive icings as Cory Emmerton moved in all alone and was stonewalled by the Minnesota goalie.  The Wild had to feel as though they escaped by being down just 1-0 after being so sloppy and so frantic through the the period.  Koivu needs to learn to shoot the puck when he has the chance, passing up opportunities to shoot only helps Detroit.  Another flawed approach is the idea of playing dump and chase against a puck possession team like Detroit.  It plays right into the Red Wings' hands if you're just going to give the puck to them.  While I understand the lineup has more speed than it normally does, then you have to tell those players who are fast to be aggressive and play that way but they seem hesitant to move much deeper than the faceoff dots and that's why the dump and chase fails to amount to much.  Overall the Wild are trying to be far too cute with the puck when they should know that has not been a formula for success this season.  This game should be at least 3-0 Detroit if not for some huge saves by Kuemper.  Another period where it seems as though only the Wild goaltender shows up, when have I said that before?  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Red Wings would not take long (just 20 seconds into the period) to add to their lead as Henrik Zetterberg entered the zone and made a long backhanded pass near his blueline which is normally a huge no-no but instead it was one-timed by Pavel Datsyuk who beat Kuemper high to make it 2-0.  Minnesota would try to answer back as Tom Gilbert joined the rush as he entered the Detroit zone with speed where he attempted to work a pass over to Jason Zucker but that just failed to connect.  Cal Clutterbuck would get a little space and he'd wire a heavy shot that broke off the top part of Petr Mrazek's stick.  A few moments after that, Clutterbuck would make a nice pass to himself off the boards and he'd motor by the Red Wings' defense for a break away but his wrist shot was blocked aside by Mrazek on Minnesota's best chance to this point in the game.  Minnesota's hustle had improved but they were unable to get any second chances when they did manage to get shots on goal.  A few minutes later Mikael Granlund set up Mike Rupp for a quick shot that Mrazek deflected up into the netting behind the goal.  This gave Minnesota a draw in the Detroit zone and the top line would take advantage of the situation.  After a fantastic effort by Parise down low with the puck he'd try to jam a shot through Mrazek who made the stop and the puck squirted out to the high slot where Dany Heatley hammered a slapper by the Red Wings goalie to cut the Detroit lead in half 2-1.  The goal energized the Wild and the 2nd line would cause some havoc as a nice play along the wall by Setoguchi made its way over to Matt Cullen who chipped a pass to Zucker who turned on the jets and flew into the Detroit zone and he'd get of a quick snap shot that was stopped by Mrazek but Minnesota couldn't make the Red Wings pay on the rebound.  The Wild would be persistent and Zucker's speed again was a major factor as he chipped a puck along the boards and he raced past the Detroit's defense and moved in and fired a shot by Mrazek, stick side to tie the game at 2-2.  The good feelings were going to continue as the 4th line would notch a goal just about 30 seconds later as a loose puck was picked up by Torrey Mitchell who spun and let go a backhander that fooled the Red Wings goalie and just like that it was 3-2 Minnesota.  A scary moment occurred a few minutes after the Mitchell goal as Setoguchi got his stick up into the grill of Kyle Quincey who was just flattened by the hit and in a lot of trouble as the Red Wings training staff helped the former Mississauga Ice Dog to the Detroit locker room.  Setoguchi would be led to the box for a double-minor for high sticking.  On the penalty kill the Red Wings tried to move in close and work for an ugly goal but two outstanding saves at point-blank range by Darcy Kuemper kept Detroit at bey as Koivu chipped the puck down the length of the ice.  Minnesota's penalty killers then would control the pace of the power play as they got sticks into passing and shooting lanes and the Wild would escape with a huge kill.  The Wild would go on the attack late as Zach Parise had a great chance late that was fought off by Mrazek and Minnesota would end the period with an appreciative applause by the fans.  Great period, set up by the energy created by the wheels of Jason Zucker who should make everyone forget the floundering play of Mikael Granlund.  The goals were created by two things the Wild have lacked; one, speed and two, keeping it simple and taking any chance to shoot and when they had those elements good things happened.  They need to stick with that in the 3rd.  Zucker's goal was the first NHL goal by a player trained in the state of Nevada.  Kuemper made up for the soft goal he gave up at the beginning of the period as he came up with some giant saves on the penalty kill.  Hopefully the Wild can finish what they've started.    

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Wild were moving their feet well to start the period and their hustle would yield some scoring chances in transition as Granlund tried to to take advantage of a fall by Lashoff to set up Mitchell who was driving down the slot but he pushed his shot wide of the mark.  Larsson would show a little bit of his game as he'd pick up a puck in the neutral zone and drive in and he'd try to fire a shot that was blocked but he did not hesitate and slapped the rebound on goal forcing Mrazek to make a save.  Minnesota's good effort was causing Detroit fits as Lashoff tackled Parise for an obvious penalty.  The Wild's power play again was a practice in futility as Minnesota struggled to get established in the offensive zone and the result was no pressure at all on the man advantage and huge opportunity missed.  Minnesota kept working hard, winning the little battles for the puck along the boards and the clock steadily evaporated.  Clutterbuck, Mitchell, Parise, and Kyle Brodziak were terrific down the stretch.  Detroit would catch the Wild's defense on a long pass and Nate Prosser tripped up Tatar who got back up and had a chance all alone on Kuemper who dove out and made a huge save.  Prosser would get sent to the box for tripping and this put the spot light on the Wild's penalty kill.  Minnesota's penalty killers did a fine job of providing timely pressure, taking advantage of key points where Detroit's puck carriers would get caught up near the boards on the backhand to pounce and clear the zone.  Good active sticks and great hustle forced Detroit to settle for shots from the perimeter and the Wild would get another huge kill.  The Wild were content to just work the puck deep, dumping it in as they crossed the red line and going for a line change to keep their legs as fresh as they could.  Detroit would swarm all over the Wild zone and Drew Miller came close to tallying the equalizer as he spun a backhander that skittered through the Minnesota crease.  The Red Wings would pull Mrazek with about a minute left but wouldn't be able to produce much in the way of offensive pressure as the Wild battled well along the wall and would earn a 3-2 victory.  

Darcy Kuemper did a tremendous job for being a goaltender who probably thought he was going to be sitting on the bench for this one until just prior to the drop of the puck as Niklas Backstrom had to run back to the locker room on a few occasions to puke.  Kuemper did give up a softy early in the 2nd but he came back with some outstanding saves in the 2nd and 3rd period that really allowed the Wild to earn a win.  29 saves in his first NHL victory which has to be awfully memorable for the former Red Deer Rebels star.  Defensively I thought Brodin proved he has to be paired with Suter in order for the former Predator to feel comfortable and Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo dare not break that combination up unless its a matter of complete necessity.  I thought Nate Prosser did a nice job in relief of Justin Falk and while he's not a flashy defender the team seems to play well when he plays.  

Offensively the Wild had one of their most balanced scoring efforts since the season opener with the 1st, 2nd and 4th lines lighting the lamp this evening.  A big reason for that was the speed of Jason Zucker who injected a huge dose of energy to a line that could use it.  Having watched Zucker play in Houston as I have, I can say what you saw is pretty typical of the Las Vegas-native who has the wheels and is contagious with his teriffic effort to will himself scoring chances.  The top line wasn't very dominant but it still managed to do its part in chipping in a goal and the game winner was scored by the 4th line who seemed to be more effective without Zenon Konopka in the lineup.  Torrey Mitchell also had a great game; apart from his goal in using speed to be effective on the forecheck on a mix-and-match line with Rupp and Granlund.  I thought Cal Clutterbuck had more jump in his skates and made some good things happen offensively too.  Johan Larsson was decent in his debut but he's not a flashy player but he certainly possess the strength to work well along the boards which he did but its not the kind of play that draws a lot of attention.  

This was a quality comeback for a team that really needed it.  I was a bit afraid the team was going to take its foot off of the gas after it took the lead in the 2nd period.  But they didn't let up and seemed to want it more than Detroit who really didn't put much of a scare other than a few isolated opportunities in the 3rd period.  I wouldn't go predicting the playoffs just yet but it was a nice performance that hopefully the team can build off of.  They now have a few days off to get healthy and it will be interesting to see if the team makes any roster changes in the meantime as players get healthy.  It wasn't perfect, the Wild were sleep walking in the 1st period and luckily for them Kuemper made some huge saves to keep it close which allowed the team to eventually rally back.  Maybe Hockey Weekend in America wasn't so lame afterall?!?!  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster this late afternoon was: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Johan Larsson, Cal Clutterbuck, Mike Rupp, Mikael Granlund, Torrey Mitchell, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Tom Gilbert, Clayton Stoner, Nate Prosser and Jared Spurgeon.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Darcy Kuemper.  Zenon Konopka was the lone 'healthy' scratch as Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Justin Falk were out of the lineup due to illness.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Jason Zucker, 2nd Star Darcy Kuemper, 3rd Star Torrey Mitchell

~ Attendance was 19,117 at Xcel Energy Center.  

~ Johan Larsson wore #47 in his NHL debut joining Marc-Andre Bergeron as the only other player to wear that number for the Wild.  

~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate the Golden Gophers' Women's hockey team on earning their 40th consecutive victory with a 3-2 overtime victory over Bemidji State.  

Wild Prospect Report:

Adam Gilmour  Adam Gilmour

F – Adam Gilmour (Muskegon, USHL) ~ It has been a good weekend for the 6'3" forward and Boston College recruit as he netted 2 goals and an assist in 2 games against the U.S. National Development Team and Youngstown respectively.  The Hanover, Massachusetts-native has 17 goals and 38 points in 48 games played.

D – Nick Seeler (Nebraska-Omaha, WCHA) ~ It has been an up and down season for the Mavericks' freshman.  After starting season on the top pairing Seeler has struggled to get ice time, serving on UNO's 3rd pairing.  Seeler tallied an assist in the Mavericks' dramatic 6-5 overtime win against Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday night.   

F – Mario Lucia (Notre Dame, CCHA) ~ Lucia got Notre Dame on the scoreboard first with his 2nd period tally in the Hockey City Classic in Chicago earlier today.  That was his 10th goal of the season, and he has 19 points in 23 games.  

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!

Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Detroit Red Wings 1/25/2013 @ 6:30PM at Joe Louis Arena

Minnesota Wild (2-1-0)  4pts  (1st Northwest)

2.00 Goals For per Game (23rd in the NHL)

1.67 Goals Against per Game (5th in the NHL)

15.4% Power Play (22nd in the NHL)

90% Penalty Kill (5th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #15 Dany Heatley ~ 3G 1A = 4pts

2. #11 Zach Parise ~ 1G 3A = 4pts

3. #96 Pierre-Marc Bouchard ~ 1G 1A = 2pts

4. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 0G 2A = 2pts

5. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 1G 0A = 1pt

Top 3 PIM's:

1. #28 Zenon Konopka ~ 12 PIM's

2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 4 PIM's

3. #22 Cal Clutterbuck ~ 4 PIM's

Top Goaltender(s):

1. #37 Josh Harding (1-0-0)  0.00GAA  1.00%SP 1 SO

2. #32 Niklas Backstrom (1-1-0)  2.52GAA  .906%SP






Detroit Red Wings (1-2-0)  2pts  (5th Central)

1.33 Goals For per Game (28th in the NHL)

3.67 Goals Against per Game (26th in the NHL)

0.0% Power Play (29th in the NHL)

57.1% Penalty Kill (29th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #13 Pavel Datsyuk ~ 1G 2A = 3pts

2. #55 Niklas Kronwall ~ 0G 2A = 2pts

3. #40 Henrik Zetterberg ~ 0G 2A = 2pts

4. #18 Ian White ~ 1G 0A = 1pt

5. #24 Damien Brunner ~ 1G 0A = 1pt

Top 3 PIM's:

1. #22 Jordin Tootoo ~ 15 PIM's

2. #93 Johan Franzen ~ 14 PIM's

3. #11 Daniel Cleary ~ 8 PIM's

Top Goaltender(s):

1. #35 Jimmy Howard (1-2-0)  3.64GAA  .892%SP

2. #50 Jonas Gustavsson (0-0-0)  3.16GAA  .875%SP

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Mikko Koivu celebrates


So, I'm afraid I need to start with some criticism of the supposedly new and improved Minnesota Wild.  The crazy part is that the criticism that will be put forth today is nothing new.  They are problems that have long been an issue for as long as this team has been in existence.  For those of you who have been here since the beginning, you know it's nothing new and that it's even more annoying with the obvious improvement in talent.  Now it's not all doom and gloom, and I promise to end on a positive note.

Once again, the Minnesota Wild are plagued with…wait for it…lack of scoring.  I know, nothing new.  Thankfully, at this time, I can forgive the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu,  and Dany Heatley.  Three games in, and they have already tallied ten points.  In particular, we have pretty much seen the talent that has been Dany Heatley.  I can say without a doubt that Wild fans, Wild coaches, Wild teammates and Heatley himself are hoping that he keeps up with his new-found sense of urgency.  The problem with lack of scoring needs to be more directed at the second and third lines.  At this time, the second line has two points and the third line has 4 points, that's right folks 6 points total for the 2nd and 3rd lines combined.  Teams that win, teams that make playoffs, teams that go far in the playoffs, are teams that get at least somewhat regular points from their 2nd & 3rd lines.  Really good teams have solid, powerful first and second lines.  Right now, it feels like it's all first line or bust at this point.  Like I told you, this is not really a shock for longtime Minnesota Wild fans. 

The other major issue really goes hand in hand with the lack of scoring.  As the old saying goes, you can't score if you don't shoot.  Well that is once again is coming true for the Wild.  If you needed a shocking stat for the day, it's this.  The only player on the team that is not on the first line who has at least ten shots on goal, is Cal Clutterbuck.  Now considering how he's played in the first three games, I'm not surprised it's him of all players, as he looks like he really wants to play and win.  But if you want to make that point even more scary, he only has three fewer shots on goal than the entire second line put together.  As for that second line, Mikael Granlund has three shots, Devin Setoguchi has 3 shots, and Matt Cullen has seven shots.  13 shots in 3 games from the entire line.  Zach Parise had 8 shots in one game.  So yes, if you wanted to know why the second line has only two points, look no further than the shots on goal.  The second line clearly needs to step up and be a true second line and start generating offense and its not going to be doing that if its not going to put pucks on goal.  Averaging one shot per game as Setoguchi and Granlund have done just isn't going to get it done.  So while some Wild fans are very impressed the team has managed to register at least 30 shots in its first 3 games, which I will admit is an accomplishment, the numbers are a little decieving.  When you consider that amongst its forwards which have registered 77 shots total this season.  40 shots have come from the top line (51.9%), while 37 (49.1%) have come from its bottom 3 lines.  There is something wrong when a defensive defenseman like Clayton Stoner has more shots in 3 games than does a guy who scored over 20 goals for you last season in Kyle Brodziak who's registered a single shot this season.  As Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100% shots you don't take" and its time the bottom 3 lines do their part to shoot the biscuit more or all the Wild are ever going to be is a one-trick pony. 

So as I promised, I'm going to end this on an upbeat note.  We're already seeing the first call up of the season, due to an injury to defenseman Jared Spurgeon.  Playing tonight in Detroit, will be none other than 2010 first round pick, Jonas Brodin.  There have been those saying that we desperately need help on the blue line, and they just may be getting their wish.  Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to personally witness Brodin's play with the Houston Aeros when they were playing in Milwaukee.  Brodin looked and most importantly performed like a first round pick.  Having had this time in the American Hockey League to get used to the North American game has definitely prepared him for his NHL debut just four games in this abbreviated season.  Heck, considering he's been playing since September this season, he's probably in better shape than all of the Wild's defensemen put together.  I know I'm excited to see how he handles the NHL game, as it's also a well known fact that success in the AHL does not always equate success in the NHL.  Personally, I think he'll do just fine, and that the front office will have a hard time sending him back to Houston.  I'd also like to point out the fact that he won't be particularly tired from the travel from the call up.  After their game in Milwaukee, the Aeros were heading straight to Grand Rapids, Michigan where the Aeros are playing tonight.  Not exactly a long trip from Grand Rapids to Detroit.

Oh, I have one additional positive note.  For the first time in the Wild history the Wild should truly be able to take advantage of a Detroit team that seems to have seen better days.  However, I'm also cautious as it's when you underestimate a team, it's when you fall the hardest.  Clearly Detroit will want to take these two points, especially in this shortened season, each and every point is more critical than in seasons past.  Look to see Detroit come out energized tonight.  Hopefully, Minnesota can come out more energized than their opponent.

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!

Josh Harding stands tall as Minnesota earns 1-0 home upset over Detroit

Wild vs. Red Wings

Sports experts often make assumptions based on how teams match up ‘on paper’ and who is to blame them?  Goliath should’ve absolutely crushed David based on the numbers of physical size, strength and skill as a warrior.  There is no way Iowa should’ve lost to Minnesota today, in its bid to take back Floyd of Rosedale.  Iowa was 5-2 going into the game, and was a bowl team last year with one of the better defenses in the nation.  Minnesota Golden Gophers on the other hand were 1-6, having only managed to beat Miami (OH) in by the skin of their teeth victory.  The Hawkeyes had all of the confidence in the world going into the 4th quarter, driving down the field under the rushing of Marcus Coker who ran for 252 yards scoring a touchdown to put Iowa up 21-10.  I mean seriously, who loses a game when your running back manages to pile up 250+ yards?  Well, Minnesota did, when Lawrence Maroney put up 258 yards to only have Minnesota lose a heartbreaker to Wisconsin back on Oct. 15th, 2005.  Ouch!  Yet, as improbable as it was, the much-maligned Gophers offense marched down the field as Marqueis Gray willed Minnesota to a touchdown to take a 22-21 lead.  A failed two-point conversion opened a window for the Hawkeyes to win the game with a field goal but the Gophers defense stood tall and Floyd of Rosedale stays in Minnesota for another year.  Wait a sec, what does this have to do with hockey?  Maybe I’m stretching things just a tad but isn’t it awfully similar to the challenge the Minnesota Wild has tonight as the Detroit Red Wings come to town?  Throughout much of the last 10 years, the Hawkeyes hold a decisive advantage in victories over the Gophers and the same can be said for the Red Wings over the Wild. 

‘On paper’, Detroit has a decisive advantage in terms of firepower and the collective experience and strength of its defensive core.  Like the Gophers offense, the Wild’s offense has sputtered throughout much of the season.  Most notably, team captain Mikko Koivu still hasn’t managed to find the back of the net and at $6.75 million per season the heat is starting to collect under Minnesota’s 2nd highest paid forward (behind Dany Heatley‘s $7.5 million) in the media and from fans on local radio shows and message boards.  So ‘on paper’ it looks as though Minnesota has no chance even though the last time these two clubs met the Red Wings only managed to beat the Wild in overtime.  So can the Wild give Minnesota another major upset to relish this evening?

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Backstrom stops Bertuzzi

1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota started the game with good jump and purpose to its game, moving its feet well and establishing a good pace of play.  The Red Wings seemed to struggle a bit with how Minnesota was moving with speed and being aggressive in the offensive zone.  The 4th line of Darroll Powe, Brad Staubitz and Colton Gillies would have first real quality shift of the game as a physical forecheck by Colton Gillies created a turnover as he leveled Jakub Kindl, took the puck and put it out front into the slot where Staubitz got off a quick shot that was shut down by Jimmy Howard and the former University of Maine star stopped Staubitz’ rebound chance as well.  The physical shift set the tone and Minnesota followed it up with more tenacity as the 3rd line of Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, and Nick Johnson bottled up the Red Wings in their end, and when they broke it out it was Clutterbuck crushing Tomas Holmstrom with an open ice hit just inside the Wild blueline that sent his glove and stick flying.  Guillaume Latendresse was the latest addition to the top line and I must admit I thought he played rather hesitantly throughout the period and that’s not a good thing when your best asset is your sniping ability.  A classic example of this occurred when a turnover near the Wild blueline turned into a 2-on-1 for Latendresse and Heatley and Latendresse would skate in hoping to draw Niklas Kronwall towards him so he could dish it to Heatley for a one-timer, but Kronwall waited until the last minute to do so and when he finally decided to take a shot the puck was knocked off his stick by the Detroit defenseman squandering a tremendous opportunity.  Minnesota continued to apply pressure and another physical shift would make more good things happen as their aggressive play turned into a 3-on-2 where Brodziak fired a shot on goal that was stopped by Howard but the rebound would glance off the skate of Nick Johnson and flutter up and over the sprawling Detroit goalie to put the Wild up 1-0.  The goal would be reviewed, the replay clearly showed Johnson stopping in front of the crease as he was attempting get a stick on the rebound only to have the puck take flight and into the goal.  There was no kicking motion, and by league rules, it is not a kicking motion of you’re turning your skate to stop but the boys in Toronto thought differently and it was ruled a ‘no goal’ after their ridiculous explanation of a ‘distinct kicking motion’ brought a large chorus of boo’s.  You can judge it for yourself here.  I am sure this had to put a little doubt in the minds of the Wild, but a few minutes later those anxious feelings disappeared on another 2-on-1 rush.  Again it was a turnover in the Wild zone that was quickly transitioned into a 2-on-1 as Koivu backhanded a pass off the boards up to Heatley who raced up the ice with Latendresse.  This time Heatley wouldn’t look to pass and he flung a wrister high that snuck underneath the crossbar and into the twine to put Minnesota up 1-0.  Minnesota kept their tempo high and this also helped in the defensive zone as they were backchecking well and taking away time and space from the Red Wings.  Detroit would earn its first power play on a roughing call on Latendresse.  Minnesota’s penalty kill was aggressive as Detroit tired to work the points and fire shots from range with the benefit of a screen but Josh Harding was seeing the puck well.  Darroll Powe nearly had a breakaway but Detroit was able to hold the zone but rather than be angry at the missed chance he raced back and stole the puck and cleared the zone.  Minnesota would kill off the penalty and Latendresse would pick it up and go in on a breakaway only to be hooked by Brad Stuart giving the Wild its first power play of the game.  A great start for Minnesota, and their persistence through a little adversity early on was impressive. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  The 2nd period was one where the Red Wings re-established momentum while the Wild more or less played rope-a-dope.  Minnesota had a good scoring chance early as some great puck movement set up Mikko Koivu right in front of the goal crease but his bid was stopped by Howard.  Detroit then started to pour it on, and Darren Helm was stopped on a great save by Josh Harding.  Part of what was helping Detroit take over the period was the fact Minnesota wasn’t moving its feet as well, and were simply opting to chip the puck off the glass or the boards.  This plays right into Detroit’s plan of attack as you simply are committing needless giveaways.  Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi were buzzing around the Wild zone but Josh Harding continued to come up with save after save.  Many of the Detroit’s best shifts were when Elk River, Minnesota-native Nate Prosser was on the ice and they were counting on his hesitant play and it was working.  The Wild were only able to work the puck into the Detroit zone and a few token shots on goal, but those gave only a brief respite for Harding who had to be at his best as he had a lot of traffic near his crease but he continued to make the stops.  Minnesota was content to ice the puck, and had to feel relieved to have escaped the period still leading 1-0. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Wild was able to find its hustle and work ethic again and Minnesota was making Detroit work really hard to create scoring chances.  While you couldn’t really say Minnesota was looking to create much offense of their own, the Wild were being physical but using the glass and boards less and not allowing Detroit to simply control the puck with impunity and getting caught standing and watching.  However, lets give credit to Josh Harding who was razor sharp moving from post to post in his crease very efficiently stopping Zetterberg in dramatic fashion as he fell back to lay on the loose puck.  The Wild were throwing their bodies around, and Devin Setoguchi would get tangled up with Todd Bertuzzi but Setoguchi’s stick would rake Bertuzzi on the beak giving him a pretty awful nosebleed and result in a Detroit power play for 4 minutes.  On the man advantage, the Wild were not giving the Red Wings much time and space as well as being tough near the crease and not allowing Tomas Holmstrom to become too much of a pain in his office near the crease.  The Wild had a few close calls as Justin Abdelkader ran out of ideas and he flung a shot near the crease and the puck skittered on through where luckily for Minnesota there were no Red Wings nearby.  One person who clearly has not learned his lesson was the teary-eyed Todd Bertuzzi who had a swab in each nostril look across the ice at Setoguchi in the penalty box where he (judging by my ability to lip read) either said, “you’re dead” or “You’re going to get it.”  Either way, Minnesota would kill off the penalty and the Wild continued to relish the role of the counter puncher.  Guillame Latendresse found a bit more space in a 2-on-1 and this time he took a shot that was stopped by a shoulder save by Howard.  Clutterbuck lined up Todd Bertuzzi for a huge hit that got the crowd going.  Moments later Kyle Brodziak would hustle for a loose puck and he was hauled down by Bertuzzi giving the Wild a power play.  Minnesota wasn’t able to get anything going offensively as they were simply way too passive in their approach and a terrific opportunity was squandered.  Detroit went back on the attack and Harding would fend off a few attempts to just throw a shot near the goal and hope it would ricochet in to no avail as Marco Scandella and Justin Falk were very strong in the closing moments making a number of small but key plays to alleviate pressure and lifting the puck out of the zone.  Detroit would pull Howard with just over a minute left, and Devin Setoguchi did a nice job on the forecheck to kill some valuable seconds off the clock.  However, the shutout bid was nearly thrown away by Harding himself who played a puck and then considered taking a shot at the empty net ala Ron Hextall but instead passed it up the middle of the ice that was intercepted by Zetterberg and Harding barely had time to get in front of his shot and the Wild would escape with a 1-0 victory. 

Josh Harding was absolutely brilliant, making 36 saves for the shutout.  He was seeing the puck well, even amidst all the traffic Detroit likes to create.  Harding got some good help from his defenseman who were quick to sweep away rebounds and prevent Detroit from having the 2nd chances they are so lethal on.  Justin Falk and Marco Scandella both were outstanding down the stretch and the fact they were on the ice in the closing moments says a ton about the confidence Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo has in these guys.  I thought Nate Prosser was ok, but at times he was a bit hesitant.  Marek Zidlicky continues to be very inconsistent in his play. 

Offensively, the Wild should’ve won 2-0.  Nick Johnson’s ‘kick’ was a goal.  There was no ‘distinct kicking motion’ unlike what NHL referee Brad Meier said.  Johnson was racing up the ice and turned his skates to stop and the puck rode up his skates and floated into the back of the net.  Either way, the Wild really only had anything you could recognize as offense in the 1st period and beyond that the team really wasn’t trying to score.  I do not think that is what Mike Yeo has talked about when he’s said, “attacking in waves” because if that’s true then the Wild were in low tide throughout the 2nd and 3rd periods.  I felt Minnesota’s power play did a fine job of thwarting itself, with poor decisions to attempt weak cross-ice passes that are easy to disrupt and in all honesty its only a matter of time before that turns into a shorthanded goal the other way.   

I thought Nick Johnson had another very solid game for the Wild, and I thought it was also one of the better games for Darroll Powe as well.  Both players were hustling and being a pain on the forecheck and their hustle was a big reason the Wild won this game.  Clutterbuck seems to be back to his old self after a sort of a quiet start to the season; where he’s getting involved physically and thus getting under the opponents skin.  The Wild get a brief period to rest up and practice before heading to Detroit for a game on Tuesday night.  Either way, another upset for Minnesota and in regulation no less! 

Wild Notes:

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

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Josh Harding, 2nd Star Dany Heatley, 3rd Star Justin Falk

~ Attendance was 17,233 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ Nate Prosser wore #39 for the Wild.

Houston Aeros Report:

Record: (5-0-1-2)  12pts  1st West Division

Top 5 Scorers:
1. #17 Casey Wellman ~ 7G 2A = 9pts
2. #14 Jon DiSalvatore ~ 2G 5A = 7pts
3. #22 Jeff Taffe ~ 2G 4A = 6pts
4. #26 David McIntyre ~ 4G 2A = 6pts
5. #37 Justin Fontaine ~ 3G 3A = 6pts

Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #25 Warren Peters ~ 22 PIM’s
2. #26 David McIntyre ~ 13 PIM’s
3. #24 Jordan Hendry ~ 10 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:
1. #31 Matthew Hackett (4-0-2)  1.79GAA  .942%SP
2. #34 Dennis Endras (1-1-0)  1.53GAA  .938%SP

Most Recent Game: Houston 4, San Antonio 2

Houston got off to a slow start in San Antonio, where the Rampage jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Bill Thomas.  Houston would answer back, with the help of a power play as Kris Foucault found a little room before firing a laser of a snap shot that beat Tyler Plante.  With the Aeros right back into the game, the Rampage would strike back right off a faceoff as Mark Cullen drew it back to Greg Rallo one-timed a shot right over the shoulder of Matt Hackett that caught the Houston goalie completely off guard giving San Antonio a 2-1 lead.  Houston would take over, thanks to its prowess on the man advantage where they’d strike twice in the 2nd period on power play tallies by Chay Genoway and Jeff Taffe to give the Aeros a 3-2 lead with less than a minute left in the period.  The Rampage tried to press for the equalizer but Hackett was strong between the pipes and Casey Wellman provided the dagger with an empty netter to seal a 4-2 victory.  The Aeros play the Oklahoma City Oil Barons this evening.  UPDATE:  Houston lost 5-4 in a shootout to Oklahoma City.  Houston trailed 3-0 at one point but rallied back to tie the game with goals from Carson McMillan, Jarod Palmer, Justin Fontaine and Casey Wellman.  Hackett started the game, but he was pulled after the 1st period and Dennis Endras relieved to give up just 1 goal on 13 shots but he ultimately earned the loss since he was there for the shootout. 

Wild Prospect Report:

C – Erik Haula (Minnesota, WCHA) ~ I can only imagine Wild Assistant General Manager Brett Flahr is ecstatic with the way Haula has been putting up monster numbers so far this season.  Haula again was huge for the Gophers as he lit the lamp twice and added an assist in a 5-0 rout of Alaska-Anchorage last night.  The Pori, Finland native is amongst the top scorers in the nation with 7 goals, 17 points in just 7 games and is a major reason the Golden Gophers are 6-1. 

LW – Jason Zucker (Denver, WCHA) ~ While Haula has been downright explosive this season, it has been a more modest start to Jason Zucker’s season where he has 3 goals, 8 points in 5 games.  Zucker was held scoreless and a -1 in the Pioneers 7-2 drubbing at the hands a surprisingly strong Michigan Tech squad that is making waves across the WCHA with a 5-2 start.  UPDATE:  Zucker had a goal and an assist in Saturday’s rematch against Michigan Tech that ended in a 2-2 tie. 

C – Charlie Coyle (Boston, H-East) ~ Coyle, one of the key acquisitions in the Brent Burns is your classic power forward.  Big frame, decent skater and the intangible of knowing how to protect the puck, possessing decent hands as well.  I think most Wild fans were hoping Coyle would be showing something more in the goal scoring column but he’s still finding ways onto the score sheet registering 2 assists in a 2-2 tie to Massachusetts.  So far Coyle, playing as 2nd line center has 7 assists in 5 games.  UPDATE:  Coyle had a goal (his first of the season) and an assist in the Saturday night tilt that resulted in a 5-4 overtime victory for the Terriers. 

C – Zack Phillips (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Phillips was a point machine for the Sea Dogs last season and he continues to be an offensive juggernaut for the talented Saint John club as they crushed Chicoutimi 6-0.  The Fredericton, New Brunswick native had a huge night against he Sagueneens as he lit the lamp twice and added two helpers.  Phillips currently has 11 goals, 25 points in 14 games! 

About Derek Felska

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

Bertuzzi celebrates his 1,000th game as Red Wings prevail in 2-1 shootout win over the Wild

Tomas Holmstrom tries to screen Backstrom

Last week, it was Hockey Day Minnesota (as well as Hockey Day in Canada), where it was a 13-hour celebration of the game in the State of Hockey but today it was Hockey Day In America as well as the Heritage Classic in Canada.  Hockey fans around the nation were supposed to don their favorite hockey sweaters and enjoy watching hockey going on all throughout the day.  Well that certainly is more than a good excuse for me to spend a day watching hockey.  The weather has decided to cooperate as the air again turns frigid and the region gets blanketed with a downpour of ice and snow.  So much for that mid-February thaw that turned the outdoor ice in Moorhead to slush in their 2nd game.  No matter what, as the playoffs get closer and the trades continue to happen throughout the league the level of intensity and the importance of each game is that much more apparent.  As the legendary college and pro coach ‘Badger’ Bob Johnson would say, “Its a great day for hockey! so will the Wild manage to earn another two points against the Red Wings this afternoon? 

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1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota was counterpunching well to start the game, creating some turnovers on some irresponsible passing by the Red Wings as Eric Nystrom had a nice scoring chance that was steered aside by Jimmy Howard.  The Red Wings was carrying the play, but Minnesota was quick to retreat as they circled the wagons around Niklas Backstrom‘s crease early and often.  Kyle Brodziak was flying all over the ice as Minnesota was outworking Detroit early.  A slashing penalty on Johan Franzen gave Minnesota its first power play but the Wild were really passive almost as they seemed to fear what Detroit could do shorthanded.  One Red Wings player who really was impressing me early on was Darren Helm whose speed and versatility makes you wonder what he could be capable of with more ice time.  Minnesota’s stifiling 1-2-2 really began to slow the pace of play down and the first period would end with both teams knotted at 0-0.  It was a solid first period of play against an explosive opponent. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  Scoring opportunities that were few and far between as they were in the first were even more scarce in the 2nd.  Minnesota was still playing a patient 1-2-2 as they looked to simply defend against the Red Wings and their controlling puck-posession style.  A pair of Wild penalties, which were pretty marginal to say the least on John Madden and Cody Almond respectively threatened to put Minnesota behind on the scoreboard.  Minnesota’s penalty kill was aggressive, shadowing the puck carrier very effectively and forcing Detroit to the perimeter.  Pavel Datsyuk managed to skate into the slot area for a few chances, but Niklas Backstrom was able to make the save and Minnesota’s defenseman did a fine job of tying up Detroit forwards like Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen before they could get their sticks on the rebounds allowing the Wild take escort the puck out of danger.  During Almond’s penalty the Wild’s penalty killers stepped up their aggressiveness and their hustle put Detroit on their heels and even creating a few scoring chances in the process.  Hustle by guys like Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, John Madden and Cal Clutterbuck attacked Detroit’s point men and were able to put a few dangerous shots on goal that really was the best offensive pressure the Wild had all period long.  After the successful penalty kill the Wild tried to go on the attack and some nifty help to hold the zone by Brent Burns drew a tripping penalty on Niklas Kronwall.  The power play started off well, with the Wild creating a good scoring chance on a sharp angle shot by Cal Clutterbuck but Detroit’s defense was able to tie up Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak before he could get his stick on.  The rest of the power play was pretty miserable.  Too much passing, no attempt to drive the Red Wings’ penalty killers deep made it easy for them to post themselves near the blueline and force Minnesota’s power play to regroup.  I liked the hustle I was seeing out of the role players but you’re not going to beat anyone just playing defense.  Niklas Backstrom was extremely solid, coming up with some huge saves at point blank range.  The fact the Wild were able to be close in this game was all due to his strong play in the crease. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  As one would expect, the Red Wings would continue their assault in the Wild zone as Jiri Hudler drove deep before dropping a pass back into the slot to Niklas Lidstrom who ripped a laser of a wrist shot by a well-screened Backstrom to give Detroit a 1-0 lead.  I must say, it was very obvious there were lots of Red Wings fans in attendance as they were pretty loud after Lidstrom’s goal as there were some boo’s that tried to offset their impact.  Minnesota would answer back a few minutes later after a nice steal of the puck by Martin Havlat who got just enough of the puck to push it back to Burns who threaded a perfect pass back to Havlat who raced in on the breakaway where he beat Jimmy Howard on a quick wrist shot, 5-hole, tying the game at 1-1.  Minnesota would earn a power play when Johan Franzen knocked over Niklas Backstrom for an goaltender interference penalty.  The Wild’s power play was clicking well early, as they stormed the crease after a shot by Havlat that Howard sprawled to the ice to control.  Minnesota had much better puck movement on this man advantage as they set up a few one-timers from Brent Burns but all too often the shots were not on goal.  Minnesota would come up empty on the power play, but they had continued the momentum they had from Havlat’s tally.  The goal got Minnesota’s legs working a bit better but the Wild really had to work hard to make create any kind of scoring chance.  The Wild were playing desperate hockey, with guys dropping quickly to block shots, diving to poke pucks away and the pace of play was tremendous.  Martin Havlat was clearly Minnesota’s most dangerous offensive player and he was using all of his tricks to find time and space to fire shots on goal but he was really the only Wild forward who was able to put the Red Wings on their heels.  Pierre-Marc Bouchard was look pretty passive and weak, being knocked off the puck rather consistently all game long.  Backstrom was also rock solid, making several great saves but perhaps most impressively was his ability to absorb the puck and not give up any rebounds.  Brent Burns was taking it upon himself to lead the rush on occasion, showcasing his excellent athleticism but unfortunately when he attemtped to do that he was often by himself so he was rather easily thwarted by the Red Wings defense. 

Overtime Thoughts:  Minnesota tried to go on attack early in the power play but after an initial rush they spent most of the extra session attempting to defend its lead.  The Wild’s aggressiveness nearly backfired when Greg Zanon broke his stick on a shot form the point and this turned into an odd-man rush for Pavel Datsyuk who was chased by Havlat but it was a stick-less Zanon who forced Datsyuk to settle for a low percentage shot and the Wild would escape.  The Red Wings would have an even better chance a few moments later when Daniel Cleary found himself all alone near the Wild crease and he patiently tried to out wait a sprawling Backstrom who was shadowing the movement of the puck with his glove before robbing his forehand chance with an highlight reel stop.  Detroit would nearly add another when Henrik Zetterberg rang a wrist shot off the crossbar and this would bring the game to overtime.  Minnesota was looking pretty tired, especially its forwards but their best scoring chance would come off the stick of Antti Miettinen who pulled the trigger on a wrist shot that forced Howard to make a leg pad save and unfornately the Wild were unable to pounce on the rebound so the game would go to a shootout. 

Shootout Thoughts:  The Wild would elect to shoot second, so the Red Wings would send out its first shooter Pavel Datsyuk.  Datsyuk would take a pretty direct approach to the Wild goal where he made a quick backhand to forehand deke that just managed to elude a poke check attempt by Backstrom and he lifted it into the net to put Detroit up 1-0.  Minnesota’s first shooter was Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Bouchard would take a fairly slow approach where he tried a forehand to backhand deke but he just wasn’t able to lift the puck quite high enough and Howard was able to make the stop with the glove.  The Red Wings’ next shooter was Jiri Hudler and the skilled Czech-born forward skated down the middle of the ice where he wound up and blasted a slap shot that missed high stick side by quite a wide margin.  Minnesota’s next shooter was Matt Cullen, and the Moorhead-native took a pretty slow approach where he attempted to get Howard to open up with a few quick stop and go type moves but as he waited he’d lift a wrist shot that was stopped rather easily by Howard who didn’t bite on the fakes.  This put the game into the hands of Todd Bertuzzi who could seal the game with a goal.  Bertuzzi, with a loud drone of boo’s behind him as he approached the Wild crease rather slowly where he beat Backstrom rather efficiently with a forehand to backhand deke to give Detroit a 2-1 shootout victory. 

Niklas Backstrom was absolutely brilliant, making 38 saves in the loss.  He kept Minnesota in the game far longer than it deserved to be.  What will not show up in the stats is just how many saves he made through screens with more than a few Red Wings near his crease on almost every stop.  Defensively the Wild were pretty good at keeping Detroit from having the 2nd and 3rd chances off rebounds on the odd chance Backstrom actually gave up a rebound opportunity.  The Wild’s penalty kill was again perfect, being aggressive on the puck carriers and never allowing Detroit to just mesmerize them with their great puck movement. 

Offensively the Wild had a tough time, and this was where the team missed Mikko Koivu the most.  Without Koivu the team has been reduced to just one scoring line and that will have to change if they Wild expect to beat quality teams like Detroit as the homestretch for the post-season starts to heat up.  On the power play, the team needs to have a little more diversity.  I realize Brent Burns has a great shot, but Jared Spurgeon was completely uncontested from the high slot and he needs to pull the trigger once in a while to draw a little more attention defensively from the opposition’s penalty killers. 

It was good to see the team push the Red Wings and earn at least a point in the standings but Minnesota must keep rolling.  On Tuesday they take on Edmonton, who has been playing some great hockey as a spoiler but those are two points Minnesota must come away with.  Cody Almond tries hard but he just isn’t Mikko Koivu.  Perhaps the team ought to consider bringing in Patrick O’Sullivan who has been scoring at a rather brisk pace with the Aeros or Casey Wellman whose development has sort of flatlined in Houston because the team needs to attempt to replace the offense lost by Koivu’s absence.  Hopefully they can build on today’s solid effort. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster this afternoon was as follows: Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, John Madden, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen, Chuck Kobasew, Cody Almond, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck, Martin Havlat, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, Cam Barker, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky and Brent Burns.  Jose Theodore backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Marco Scandella and Brad Staubitz were the healthy scratches.  Mikko Koivu (hand), Josh Harding (knee), James Sheppard (knee) and Guilaume Latendresse (sports hernia & groin). 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were: 1st Star Niklas Backstrom, 2nd Star Jimmy Howard, 3rd Star Pavel Datsyuk

~ Attendance this afternoon was 18, 912 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ Last night the Houston Aeros would travel up to Rockford to take on the Ice Hogs after suffering a 2-1 shootout loss to Milwaukee the night before.  Houston would take the lead early on a wicked wrist shot by Jon DiSalvatore and then add another when Justin Falk scored his 3rd goal of the season to take a quick 2-0 lead.  The Ice Hogs would answer back with a goal from Ryan Potulny to cut the Aeros lead to one just before the end of the first period.  Houston would not waste much time to push their lead back out to two, when Maxim Noreau rifled a shot by Hannu Toivunen to put the Aeros up 3-1.  Rockford would respond with a goal of its own as Brandon Pirri found the twine behind Matthew Hackett.  In the 3rd period, Rockford would tie the game just prior to the 5 minute mark as the rough and tumble power forward Kyle Beach chipped a shot over Hackett, but the Aeros would regroup.  A turnover in the neutral zone would set up a quick 2-on-1 for Robbie Earl and Chad Rau and it was Earl feeding Rau for the go-ahead goal, 4-3 Houston.  Jed Ortymeyer would add an empty netter to seal a 5-3 victory.  Hackett had 22 saves in the victory.   

About Derek Felska

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

Persistent Wild overcome mid-game let down to stun the Red Wings in 4-3 overtime thriller

Consider this an official warning but I am about to get on my soap box.  Now while that may not seem all that unusual for a hockey blog, but this normal set up is going to stray a little bit from tonight’s game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild.  So anyways, here we go. 

I was randomly checking out Yahoo! hockey blogger ‘Puck Daddy’ Greg Wyshynski and I noticed an article of his pertaining to the recent withdrawal of press credentials by the New York Islanders to long-time hockey writer / blogger Chris Botta.  You can see ‘Puck Daddy’s’ article here

This may not seem all that noteable but as a person who blogs as well as really has been wanting for that elusive opportunity of press credentials it sort of struck a chord.  While the NHL has no universal policy regarding bloggers as it has left that decision up to the league’s 30 teams and I can assure you each team handles bloggers very differently.  Some teams are extremely open to bloggers while others treat them like 2nd class people.  Teams certainly hold the right to give credentials to those journalists and bloggers they wish, and in all honesty I don’t have a big problem with that whole idea, yet it seems a bit weak that a team would suddenly revoke any journalist / bloggers credentials simply because they wrote a few unflattering articles about their organization.  Afterall, is a journalist supposed to have integrity and report what they see with a level of objectivity?  Apparently this is not the case on Long Island and that is very disturbing.  The New York Islanders are currently at the bottom of the NHL’s standings, just fired their head coach Scott Gordon and look to be spiraling towards another abysmal season.  That wouldn’t be so bad but this team has been bad for quite a while and it help doesn’t appear to be right around the corner either.  Islanders General Manager Garth Snow seems to be on the hot seat and now the team axes the credentials of its most notable team-focused blogger.  Botta is not your typical A blogger who actually used to be officially sponsored by the team as well as being a former member of the team’s management for nearly 2 decades so you can see how this move is both surprising as well as coming off as rather harsh.  Hockey fans are passionate people, but they also respect honesty no matter how brutal it may be towards their favorite team.   I understand every team has its share of ‘homers’ too, but I think its wrong to revoke a writer / blogger’s press credentials just because they’re not writing glowing articles about your organization.  Honestly, when the team’s record is 4-11-3 as the Islanders currently stand how much positive things are really left to say? 

Fans like Botta and myself spend lots and lots time attempting to provide frequent entries for fellow fans to digrest and with the exception of a very few, for virtually no compensation other than the love of the game.  This is no slight to Bloguin, Most Valuable Network or even Yahoo!, but most bloggers make nothing at all, and they provide plenty of insight that often many mainstream media sources often utilize or reference.  We’re not martyrs to our sport, but there is certainly a significant comitment  of time and energy.  I am not trying to say anything as grandiose that we’re necessary for the league, but the NHL could use all the media coverage it can get, whether on the blogosphere or otherwise.  Yet like any journalist, most bloggers tend to call things as they see them.  I must admit, I too temper some of my opinions to a degree to not come off as some sort of message board rant but I still will not hesitate to criticize or give credit to those that deserve it.  However, the Islanders apparently do not want that type of writer to cover their team.  No fan wants to bash their favorite team yet if the team is performing poorly on the ice, front office, etc what sort of fan would they be if they did not call them out on it?  If that writer / blogger continues to walk the company line and write only favorable articles they would be labeled a “Kool Aid” drinker and few would take them seriously because they can’t be objective enough to say something is wrong or needs to be fixed.  The same could be said of the fan who constantly is negative and eventually their message is lost because people see them as a ‘hater’ which means there has to be a balance.  So with all that being said, is the Islanders position so fragile that they fear a blogger may poke holes in their practices or do they have the cajones as an organization to withstand that?  Clearly the Islanders chose the former and for that they have pushed away a fairly well-respected member of their fanbase.  So what if he’s being critical, so what if he’s asking tough questions, but what did the Islanders expect this guy to do?  To back down or beg for his credentials back.  Now that he’s back on the “comfort of his couch” he has nothing else to do but needle this organization even more vociferously than before.  Does a team that has amongst the worst attendance in the league wish to push any of its fans farther away than it already has with its string of horrible seasons?  Apparently Islanders owner Charles Wang does, apparently GM Garth Snow does.  While they certainly can stymie Botta’s access they can’t stymie his blogs followers and they may start something far more intense and pointed than a few questions from a blogger or writer.  At least its something you hope they considered before making the move that they did.  End of rant…

Pheew, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest a few quick notes about tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.  It marks the return of Brent Burns to the Wild’s lineup after a two game suspension for breaking Florida’s Steve Bernier‘s orbital bone in a stupid stick to the face that has already prompted a roster move in the reassignment of Justin Falk to the Houston Aeros.  Marco Scandella, who certainly possesses a bit better puck skills than the more seasoned Falk has played well as of late and will very much be tested tonight against Detroit who again looks like an elite team.  The Red Wings have that lethal combination of a prolific and balanced offense and a stingy defense which really puts a ton of pressure on their opponents to decide which poison is the more palatable one.  The Wild are still amongst one of the league’s lowest scoring teams, but they’ve had success against some of the best teams in the league thus far.  Traditionally the Wild have not fared well at Joe Louis Arena, but who knows, this team seems to have the ability to surprise as of late.  So will they surprise us with a win tonight?   

The game would start with a very slow and cautious pace as Detroit was in no hurry to play run and gun as they went about their methodical puck possession type of game.  The Wild tried to counterpunch early as Martin Havlat stole a puck and tried a long diagonal pass to Matt Cullen that just did not settle for him to get a shot on goal.  The Red Wings steadily started to ramp up their pressure and Jose Theodore was forced to make a few stops near his crease of Detroit’s attempts to use their lively boards to good use.  Minnesota was playing a patient, safe game but they were also moving their feet well and pressing offensively at the right time as Eric Nystrom dove to reach a puck as it slid into the Detroit zone before sliding into Jimmy Howard who gave him a shove in retribution.  Fortunately for Nystrom and the Wild, the officials chose not to give him a goaltender interference penalty.  The Wild would get an early opportunity to go on the power play when Henrik Zetterberg reached out and hooked Greg Zanon.  On the power play Minnesota tried to get the Red Wings moving, and then pass it back across the grain but the puck just wasn’t settling for the Wild.  The Red Wings were challenging well enough not giving the Wild a lot of time to think and make a play, but in the closing seconds of the power play Martin Havlat fired a wrist shot on goal that skittered through the crease and off the boards which was picked up by Brent Burns who let loose with a wrister of his own that found its way through the legs of a screening Eric Nystrom and by Jimmy Howard to give the State of Hockey a 1-0 lead.  The Red Wings tried to take back the lead and a pass by Mike Modano to Niklas Kronwall was turned into a nice scoring chance but Krownall’s backhanded bid missed wide left.  The Wild seemed content to sit back and play a 1-2-2 and the Red Wings were more than happy to take advantage of the extra time and space to generate speed through the neutral zone and try to create offense off the rush.  Minnesota would get a rare chance off a careless turnover in the Detroit zone as Casey Wellman rang a shot off the pipe, and a few moments later the Wild had another great scoring chance when Antti Miettinen drove a slapper on goal that was steered aside by Howard.  Miettinen would follow up his shot and carry it beneath the goal line and pass it out to the slot narrowly missing fellow Finnish countryman Mikko Koivu but the puck woudl find Marek Zidlicky who dragged it over to his left before unloading a slapper that was turned aside by Howard.  Minnesota would retreat back defensively but their strategy appeared to be working as Justin Abdelkader, perhaps a bit frustrated by the gritty play of the Wild would hook Scandella to give the State of Hockey another power play.  On the man advantage the Red Wings were much more passive, but they were solid positionally and the Wild were unable to create much pressure offensively.  At times the Wild were being a little too passive, and this led to a few shorthanded rushes for the Red Wings that were thwarted by a fine defensive play by Burns and a nice save by Theodore.  At the end of the power play, Cam Barker would race into the Red Wings zone and rifle a heavy wrister that forced a big rebound from Howard that went right to Nystrom who one-timed a shot that Howard was just able to reach with his paddle to keep his team down only by 1-0 going to the 2nd. 

The Wild were forechecking well early to start the 2nd, as they forced the puck deep and then chased it into the zone.  Minnesota was also trying the long outlet pass and Cal Clutterbuck would win a race for the loose biscuit and he’d fire a sharp angle wrist shot that seemed to sneak through the leg pad of Jimmy Howard and into the goal.  The goal would be reviewed to see if it somehow snuck in through the side of the goal, but the replay clearly demonstrated it snuck in around the post and in and the goal stood to give the Wild a 2-0 lead to a shocked Joe Louis crowd.  The Red Wings tried to get back into the game and they nearly cut into the Wild’s lead as Pavel Datsyuk stripped the puck from Mikko Koivu and he dished a pass to a wide open Zetterberg who dangled around an exhausted Greg Zanon and into the slot where he snapped a shot high and wide of the goal.  Minnesota would counter attack and Havlat found Nystrom with a nice saucer pass and he got a quick shot off that was shut down by Howard.  You could sense the Red Wings frustration was building as Niklas Kronwall tried to run Brad Staubitz that nearly caught him, but the Wild pugilist stayed calm and Minnesota went back on the attack.  Some more nice hustle by Robbie Earl freed some space for Koivu who fired a shot on goal that was followed up by Earl who tapped at Howard for a rebound before it was frozen for a whistle.  The Red Wings were just trying to put any shot they could on Theodore as Ruslan Salei, Modano, and Brad Stuart blasting slap shots that was directed aside by the Wild goaltender.  Detroit’s pressure finally drew a hooking on Casey Wellman putting the Red Wings on the power play for the first time in the game.  As the Red Wings went on the power play, they were able to draw another penalty as Pavel Datsyuk demonstrated remarkable balance as he skated through a hook of Nystrom and Minnesota scrambled for the touchup as the Red Wings would enjoy a long 5-on-3 man advantage.  On the 5-on-3 the Wild were playing a nice tight triangle, taking away shooting lanes and forcing the Red Wings to settle for point shots and the pucks were missing the net as Theodore was moving efficiently between the pipes.  A nice play by Greg Zanon with about 23 seconds in the man advantage where he denied a cross-ice pass and then was able to flip the puck up and out of the defensive zone was huge.  Wellman would return giving the Red Wings 20 seconds of 5-on-4 play as they continued to make quick passes but Minnesota’s hustle was again good enough to kill off the remainder of Nystrom’s penalty and another Zanon clearing attempt caromed off of Modano and into the crowd for a key stoppage.  The Red Wings had a great initial chance after the killed power plays as Brad Stuart connected with Todd Bertuzzi for a nice bang-bang play but his shot would hit the side of the goal.  Detroit would go back on the power play a few moments later as Matt Cullen was jobbed by a pretty dive by Darren Helm.  The Red Wings set up a point shot for Nicklas Lidstrom that Theodore absorbed.  The Wild’s penalty kill was playing very well postionally, and Theodore was poised as ever.  Minnesota was anticipating well and not chasing and their active sticks would further serve to frustrate the Red Wings’ power play as they managed to kill off another one.  The Wild would start to assert itself a bit more offensively as Eric Nystrom would start to battle down low after nearly connecting on a nice bang-bang play by Cullen that just failed to click.  However it was Detroit that would find the back of the net late in the period as some great work down behind the Wild goal by Patrick Eaves who moved it to Abdelkader who gathered it up and moved towards the front of the goal for what looked like a wrap around but was instead a cross-crease pass to Helm for an easy tap in goal to cut the Minnesota lead in half, 2-1.  Minnesota would have one last scoring chance late in the period as Robbie Earl chipped a puck to himself and then chased it down before threading a perfect saucer pass to a crashing John Madden who just pushed a shot wide of the goal and the Wild would take its one-goal lead into the 3rd despite being outshot 18 to 3 in the period. 

In the 3rd period the Red Wings started to really pressure early, and Detroit would be given another ‘gift’ penalty when Matt Cullen was tagged with a weak hooking call that he protested all the way until he sat in the sin bin.  Detroit would move the puck down low with Johan Franzen who moved out towards the front of the goal as he was shadowed by Zanon and his shot would deflect off the Wild blueliner and then float underneath the arm of Theodore who had left his post anticipating the quick post to post pass to a waiting Tomas Holmstrom.  A few minutes later after the Red Wings would win the draw and pull it back to Brian Rafalski who flung a wrister that was stopped by Theodore and Patrick Eaves would jam at the puck, but Theodore would sprawl to make the stop and then Eaves gathered up the loose biscuit and beat the Wild goalie on the wrap around to give Detroit a 3-2 lead.  At this point it appeared as though the Wild were toast, because they had to work so hard to create even a single shot on goal as they struggled to deal with Detroit’s superior speed.  Minnesota would move their defenseman up and pinch whenever it was possible, but at times this nearly cost them as Detroit was quick to chip it out of the zone and catch Minnesota shorthanded.  Mikko Koivu would draw a penalty with some good hustle, and on the delayed penalty Minnesota pulled Theodore for an extra attacker and Minnesota began firing slap shots on net, including a cannon of a slapper by Marco Scandella as the Joe Louis crowd boo’d over the lack of a whistle as Detroit did manage to touch the puck a few times before they finally got the officials to stop the play.  On the power play the Wild struggled to get set up in the offensive zone.  The Wild were still pinching and as they tried to draw a puck back to the point to a waiting Brent Burns he’d get jammed near his skates and Darren Helm looked to be going off to the races and a sprawling Burns managed to swing his stick and push the puck down the ice to Theodore and prevent what would’ve been a breakaway opportunity.  Minnesota would come up empty on the power play and you could sense the level of anxiety increasing for the Wild.  Detroit seemed content to defend its lead but Minnesota was persistent.  With just under two minutes left to play, Nick Schultz took the initiative to carry the puck into the zone where he’d fire a backhander on goal that was kicked out into the slot by Howard and Mikko Koivu was right in the slot to bury it to tie the game at 3-3.  The stunned boo’s were priceless.  Minnesota would press the issue in the closing minute and a half, mounting rush after rush as Miettinen, Koivu and company would take their shots on goal forcing Howard to make fairly easy stops as the horn sounded sending the game to overtime. 

In overtime, the action would be back and forth with the Wild showing more assertiveness than the Red Wings who appeared content to wait it out for a shoout.  The Wild were taking every oppportunity to start the rush as Brent Burns was really showcasing his skill as he went on an end to end rush dangling around defenders and carrying the puck down low where he slid a pass out front that was nearly pounded in by Martin Havlat who was shut down by Howard.  Minnesota was undaunted and it was some tremendous effort by Marek Zidlicky who helped his forwards Madden and Havlat down low by picking up the loose biscuit and then buying some time by turning sharply in the corner as he was shadowed by Zetterberg.  Zidlicky then flung a shot on goal that Martin Havlat tried to jam home but Howard would make the stop but was unable to control the rebound and John Madden would move in and tap it into the back of the net for the game winner. 

Jose Theodore was outstanding, making 41 saves in the victory.  While the Wild did a pretty good job the first period and a half at keeping the Red Wings’ opportunities at a distance he still made a number of quality saves from close range to give Minnesota a chance to win this game.  He was tremendously poised and the goals he did allow you could hardly fault Theodore for.  Defensively the Wild were fairly solid, but part of the problem was Minnesota was more or less daring the Red Wings to go on the attack for much of the game.  The Wild’s blueline performed fairly well tonight, helping support the play at both ends of the ice.  Burns really is showing he is an elite defender, establishing that balance as a responsible defenseman with the ability to turn up the offense when his team needs him to. 

Offensively the Wild were not able to get much going on the power play but they showed good resiliency by activating its defense to get the goals it needed to get this game to overtime.  It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be.  Clutterbuck’s goal was a great example of what can happen when you simply put a shot on net and hope for the best.  The Wild could learn a lot from that.  Even during the 3rd period when they were trailing, they were at times waiting for the perfect shot when the right answer is just blast a shot on goal and maybe you’ll get lucky.  The Red Wings did precisely that when Minnesota had Detroit confounded throughout most of the 1st period.  You could sense a huge sense of relief from Mikko Koivu when he finally managed to find the net at even strength when he notched the game tying goal. 

Before I talk about the Wild’s next game against the New York Rangers tomorrow night, there is one other thing I have to address.  I was watching this game on NHL Center Ice and I had to watch the Fox Sports Net Detroit feed, with play-by-play man Ken Daniels and former player and Red Wings’ analyst Mickey Redmond were absolutely obnoixous all game long as they whined and complained about the Wild’s style of play.  I have to admit, when we had Jacques Lemaire here Daniels and Redmond’s commentary was very similar and annoying.  “Its as fun as watching paint dry” blah blah blah, chuckling about what would be more fun to watch than watching the Wild.  Well, the allegedly ‘boring’ team won tonight, and perhaps they ought to think about the incredible amount of interference Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock‘s system creates.  The near constant interference by Red Wings blueliners that disrupts the flow of the game, but there is no whining about that.  Or how about they criticize the skillful diving of players like Darren Helm that disrupts the flow with ludicrous penalties?  Why?  Because that would require objectivity and the homercast of Daniels and Redmond couldn’t handle that with their diminishing fanbase finding reasons not to come to games as it is. 

Minnesota has another tough challenge as they return to the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center as they face the New York Rangers who have been playing fairly well as of late.  Sure, the Rangers got slammed 4-0 by the Colorado Avalanche this evening, but the good thing is they too will be playing their 2nd game of a back-to-back like the Wild will.  As tough as it may be, after such a hard-fought emotional win they need to push that to the back of their minds and do whatever they can to earn another 2 points tomorrow night. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster for tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen, John Madden, Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Wellman, Brad Staubitz, Robbie Earl, Kyle Brodziak, Eric Nystrom, Brent Burns, Cam Barker, Greg Zanon, Marco Scandella and Nick Schultz.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Jose Theodore between the pipes for the Wild.  Clayton Stoner was the lone healthy scratch while Chuck Kobasew and Guillaume Latendresse are still battling groin injuries.  Meanwhile Pierre-Marc Bouchard pledges to return soon but we’ve been hearing that for months I don’t know about you but I’ll believe it when I see it. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Patrick Eaves, 2nd Star Darren Helm, 3rd Star Mikko Koivu.  It is ridiculous that Jose Theodore did not earn a star in this game, same for Brent Burns who was fantastic all game long. 

~ The attendance for tonight’s game was 20,066, which I don’t believe for one second.  There were far less than 20,000 at this game. 

~ The State of Hockey News would like to send our most sincere condolences to the family of long-time NHL coach Pat Burns who passed away today at the age of 58 after battling Colon, Liver and Lung Cancer respectively.  Burns, was an intense coach who always seemed to create success anywhere he went.  Many felt Pat Burns was cheated out of a spot in this year’s Hall of Fame class and I’d have to agree.  While I advocated strongly the last few years for Dino Ciccarelli to be apart of this year’s class, its too bad Burns wasn’t also included as his all time coaching record 501-353-165 of which included winning a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003 and three Jack Adams awards as the league’s best coach with 3 different teams (Montreal ’89, Toronto ’93, Boston ’98).  His sense of humor, his knowledge and his generosity will certainly be missed.  This Labatt is for you Pat!!!

~ The Houston Aeros would also be successful against the Red Wings’ affiliate this evening in a convincing 5-0 rout.  Maxim Noreau scored twice on the man advantage as the team’s leading scorer Jarod Palmer would add a 3rd power play tally as they frustrated the Griffins all night long.  Jon DiSalvatore had a 1 goal, 2 assist night while Joel Broda, Jean-Michel Daoust, Jared Spurgeon and Brock McBride contributed all contributed helpers.  Anton Khudobin was perfect, making 27 saves in the shutout.  

Houston Aeros Report:

2010-11 Record: (8-6-1-2)  19pts  5th West Division

The Houston Aeros seem to be finding their groove despite having to deal with some call ups that has forced the team to call up guys like Brock McBride and Chris Freidheim from the ECHL.  The Aeros have adopted a style of game very similar to the Wild as they forecheck but stay responsible defensively grinding out 1-goal games.  The Aeros won their most recent game, a 3-2 win over rival Chicago, who is having one of its worst years since joining the AHL back in 2002.  Just like its parent club, the Aeros do not have one standout offensive player but rather takes a scoring by committee approach where almost any player on the roster could be the hero for the night.  Perhaps one side effect of all the call ups is that it has given increased ice time to role players who so far have stepped up their game nicely this season.  A perfect example of this has been the strong play of Carson McMillan who in just 17 games has already scored more points (9) than he did all of last season when he played 56 games (just 8 points).  While you will never mistake his production for some budding elite scorer, his ability to chip in offensively this season has been crucial to the Aeros early success.  McMillan was an above-average scorer in junior, has managed to add some points while still playing a physical, gritty style which was the reason the Wild drafted him back in 2007 (7th round, 200th Overall).  Houston Head Coach Mike Yeo has to also be very pleased by the play of 1st year pro, Fridley, Minnesota-native Jarod Palmer who leads the team in points (10) and a nice +6 rating.  Defensively, the Aeros should get a boost from the return of Justin Falk who looked fairly capable in his stint with the Wild showing confidence beyond his years.  While I am sure getting sent down was disappointing, he certainly opened a lot of eyes by his steady play.  I really believe Marco Scandella’s strong play the last two games really has management wondering if they have a young force on its defense and are hoping to see if he can continue to make the most of his opportunity.  The Aeros have also been the benificiary of some great play between the pipes by both of its goaltenders, Anton Khudobin and Matthew Hackett.  For the most part they have split the duties making 9 and 8 starts respectively, with Khudobin leading the way with a wickedly low 2.07 goals against average and a gawdy .934 save percentage.  While the Wild play Detroit, the Aeros will be battling the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate as they travel to Grand Rapids to take on another old IHL rival, the Griffins who currently sit in 4th place in the West Division.  The Aeros then travel back to Chicago Saturday for a rematch of Wednesday’s game and then back to Houston for a game against in-state rival Texas on Sunday afternoon. 

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!