Wild’s undefeated streak in Boston ends, as Bruins win 9th straight in 4-1 victory

Jarome Iginla

Since the Wild joined the NHL, I have jumped in with both feet and thus I'm a suscriber to the Hockey News.  Beyond their annual Yearbook, two other issues that I really look forward to each year are their Future Watch issue and Draft Preview.  These two issues are important for any hockey rubes who really want to understand their club through the eyes of people not connected with it.  The Future Watch issue polls 17 NHL scouts to compile lists of prospects from all of the league's teams to find out who the top ones are and thus the relative prospect strengths of the organization.  They then rank all 30 NHL franchises by the strengths of their prospect pool; with the lists handicapped by the average place where a team typically makes its first selection in the draft.  Spoiler alert for Wild fans.  Do not read if you want to read this for yourself in the Future Watch issue.  

The Hockey News  Future Watch Issue

The Wild were ranked 4th (earning itself an A- grade) by this group of scouts consulted by the Hockey News.  Not too shabby for Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher and Assistant GM Brent Flahr, as the years before their arrival the Wild's prospect pool was nearly bereft of quality talent due to poor drafting.  Now the team seems to have a pipeline of talent that has provided valuable depth and given the team options to solve its own problems.  Imagine where this team would be without Darcy Kuemper or Erik Haula right now?  

Ryan Suter

Boston has also done reasonably well for itself in regards to drafting and developing players.  They earned a ranking of 15th (earning a B- grade).  The strength and depth of the Bruins is a bit deceptive as its benefitted from its solid farm system, particularly on the blueline where younger players like Torey Krug, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski have filled in for injured defenseman like Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid are not accounted for in this ranking because they're older than the 21-and younger prospect requirement.  The Bruins are again a very strong team, and the Wild need every point they can get.  Will the Wild slay the bear this evening?  

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Matt Moulson

1st Period Thoughts:  Charlie Coyle estimated he had at least a 1,000 fans at the game tonight and he gave them a reason to get out of their seats early as a saucer pass by Mikko Koivu was taken by Coyle who got in behind Matt Bartkowski and he lifted a shot up that was deflected up and over the goal by Tuukka Rask.  The Wild had good energy to start the game, out hustling the Bruins for the loose pucks early.  Minnesota still had some dicey moments as the Bruins managed to get the Wild's defense to chase theme down deep in their own end which opened up their point men for big shots from the point that had Darcy Kuemper struggling to see the puck through a forest of screening Boston skaters.  The Wild would escape unscathed and they'd go back on the attack where they'd draw the first power play of the game as Andrej Meszaros tripped up Zach Parise.  On the power play the Wild would try to work a redirect from the high slot as a point shot by Ryan Suter was deflected on goal by Dany Heatley.  Minnesota had a hard time getting shots through to Rask, but perhaps their best potential chance did not even result in a shot at all.  Mikko Koivu would kind of slowly carry the puck into the Bruins zone where he'd dangle around a defender and find himself all alone that I think even surprised the Wild captain as he tried to move in for a backhand but the puck would roll of his stick at the last moment and he was unable to pull the trigger.  The Bruins tried to answer back with a scoring chance of their own, and long-time Wild killer Jarome Iginla took the puck towards the blue paint where he tried to jam it inside the right post but Kuemper and a scrambling defensive effort by Jonas Brodin was able to keep it out before Boston could pounce.  Minnesota would counter with its top line and Mikael Granlund threaded a diagonal pass to Jason Pominville who partially fanned on the one-timer resulting in a weak shot but the line continued to outwork the Bruins for the puck along the boards and they'd set up Ryan Suter for a wrist shot from the high slot that was steered wide by Rask.  The Bruins would try to catch the Wild sleeping as a long pass found Brad Marchand who would race in for what appeared to be a breakaway only to have his stick lifted at the last moment by Suter.  Marchand was not happy with Suter and as Kuemper froze the puck he'd give the Wild defenseman a shove and Parise would skate over to return the favor.  Minnesota had to feel good about how the period went.  They were hustling well offensively and blocking shots defensively.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota had a good scoring chance early as Coyle set up Koivu for a quick shot that was stopped by Rask.  The Wild were still hustling well, using small passes to negate the physical game of the Bruins.  Unfortunately, the Bruins would take the lead as Iginla fired a shot that was partially blocked by Brodin that caused the puck to flutter and the puck would dive down and beat Kuemper 5-hole, 1-0 Boston.  Minnesota would regroup and the Coyle-Koivu combination would work their magic as Coyle drove deep into the Bruins' end before working a pass into the slot where Koivu gathered it up where he worked it to his backhand and his shot was stopped by a diving Rask.  I really liked the way the 4th line was looking with Justin Fontaine along with Erik Haula and Heatley.  I thought the line looked less like a liability on the ice that it had in the last few games and Fontaine's injection of speed made a huge difference.  Fontaine situational awareness also to a few turnovers in the Wild's favor.  Yet, not everyone on the Wild was having that good of a game.  The 3rd line of Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Nino Niederreiter was struggling mightily.  Jared Spurgeon and Suter would get caught in a long shift and Nino Niederreiter and Kyle Brodziak seemed to have a clear opportunity clear the zone, but Brodziak would cough up the puck to Carl Soderberg who would take the puck down beneath the goal line and he'd swing a pass back to Loui Eriksson out front for a easy goal to make it 2-0 Bruins.  The Wild didn't get too deflated and they kept working, biding their time for an opportunity and they'd get one late.  On a draw in the Wild end, Granlund would win the draw back to Suter who gathered up the puck and get tripped up and from his knees he'd make a long breakout pass to Pominville who had a step on Meszaros and he'd race into the Bruins' zone where he'd step into a stick shattering slap shot that beat Rask off the left post and in to cut the Boston lead in half, 2-1.  It was a huge goal for the Wild and on the Boston bench, Head Coach Claude Julien was barking at this players for the late-period breakdown.  The goal was huge in making the Wild feel as though they were still very much in the game after Rask had made some tremendous saves to keep Minnesota at bey to that point.  Keep Kyle Brodziak off the ice, he's a disaster waiting to happen.  Other than that I've been pleased with Minnesota's puck support.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The period would start with both teams avoiding big risks offensively that could lead to prime scoring chances the other way.  Both teams were cautious, waiting for a mistake they could exploit as Minnesota started to work the puck deep and the anxiety of the home crowd started to rise.  Minnesota got a great shift from its top line as Parise set up Granlund in the slot that was stopped by Rask and then gloved out of the crease by Kevan Miller.  The line kept battling well, setting up Ryan Suter for a point shot that was redirected just wide.  The Bruins would extend their lead as Patrice Bergeron would take a shot from just inside the right faceoff circle that drew a rebound by Kuemper was tapped home by Reilly Smith, 3-1 Boston.  Minnesota's top line would get a quick breakout and Granlund found some time and space and Dougie Hamilton would sprawl to block the shot and Granlund would patiently pull the puck around him before firing a shot on goal that was blocked aside by Rask.  The top line kept buzzing, activating the defense as Spurgeon set up Pominville for a quick shot that Rask fought off.  Between shifts for the top line, the Wild were using their 4th line of Haula, Heatley and Fontaine a lot as their speed seemed to cause problems for the Bruins.  With the time fading away, the Wild started juggling their lines with less than 4 minutes left to play even if the combinations were a bit puzzling.  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo chose to break up the top line by placing Parise on a line with Koivu and Heatley while he put Niederreiter with Pominville and Granlund.  Neither combination did much of anything.  Minnesota would then pull Kuemper for an extra attacker with a little over 2 minutes left to play.  The Wild could never get set up in the Boston zone and Iginla would bury an empty netter to seal a 4-1 Bruins' victory.  

The first goal was ugly for Kuemper, who waited too long to close down his 5-hole but beyond that he played ok this evening.  Kuemper had 25 saves in the loss.  Defensively the Wild did a reasonable job at blocking shots and keeping Kuemmper's workload manageable.  While at times I felt Minnesota's blueliners were giving the Bruins a little too much respect as well as shying away from contact they actually did a pretty good job at moving the puck quickly and not allowing Boston to cause too much havoc on the forecheck.  Penalty kill again had no work for the 2nd straight game, ironically both hae been losses.

Offensively, the top line of Parise, Granlund and Pominville were the straw that stirs the Wild's drink.  They were the only line that threatened the Bruins consistently all game long.  Mikko Koivu was pretty good for the first half of the game and then fell completely off the radar.  When Koivu sort of fell off the tracks the 2nd line disappeared as well.  Koivu looked tired as he just couldn't seal off Reilly Smith, but the Wild need Koivu to be assertive and shooting as he was even though they were not finding the back of the net.  Matt Moulson was completely MIA other than watching him trying to win a few battles near the blue paint, and much can be said of Charlie Coyle who spent a lot of time riding the pine (which I am sure was no fun when you consider how many people he knew showed up just to watch him).  I also felt the 3rd line of Cooke, Brodziak and Niederreiter was pretty rancid most of the game.  The 4th line was dramatically better with Fontaine along with Heatley and Haula.  I think its time the Wild need to consider giving Haula shot on the 2nd line.  Haula has wheels, great hands and excellent instincts on top of not being a defensive liability.    

The Wild again did not play all that bad, pumping 34 shots on goal, but their inability to bury its chances means that unless Kuemper plays a perfect game the Wild are hard pressed to win games.  It might sound mean, but Koivu's return has prompted a scoring drought as the club reshuffled its lines.  Moulson has not been able to develop much in the way of chemistry its seems counter intuitive in having more talent has yielded less production.  The team cannot afford to feel sorry for itself and they better be ready for a vicious battle with the Islanders.  No rest for the wicked, especially on St. Patrick's Day.  

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Matt Moulson, Erik Haula, Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin, Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner.  Ilya Bryzgalov backed up Darcy Kuemper.  Mike Rupp, Cody McCormick, Niklas Backstrom and Nate Prosser were the healthy scratches.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game according to 98.5FM the Sports Hub were: 1st Star Tuukka Rask, 2nd Star Jarome Iginla, 3rd Star Charlie Coyle

~ Attendance was 17,565 at TD BankNorth Garden.

Iowa Wild Report:

Record:  25-25-6-4  60pts  Last in Midwest Division

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #22 Brad Winchester ~ 17G 15A = 32pts

2. #51 Zack Phillips ~ 11G 17A = 28pts

3. #24 Jonathon Blum ~ 7G 21A = 28pts 

4. #27 Carson McMillan ~ 11G 13A = 24pts

5. #25 Warren Peters ~ 8G 11A = 19pts

Top 3 PIM's:

1. #20 Curt Golgol ~ 170 PIM's

2. #14 Corbin Baldwin ~ 108 PIM's

3. #22 Brad Winchester ~ 87 PIM's

Top Goaltenders:

1. #31 Johan Gustafsson (11-13-2)  2.90GAA  .908%SP  1SO

2. #33 John Curry (7-7-2)  2.31GAA  .928%SP  1SO

Recent Score:  Iowa 2, San Antonio 1

The Wild would strike first as Raphael Bussieres dangled around a Rampage defender before rifiling a shot by Scott Clemmensen to make it 1-0 Iowa.  San Antonio would score early in the 2nd period as former Wild winger Jed Ortmeyer set up Anthony Luciani for a quick wrist shot that beat Johan Gustafsson.  The Wild were pinching and activating their defense against San Antonio, peppering Clemmensen with shots but the Des Moines-native was solid keeping the game knotted at 1-1.  Iowa would finally break the stalemate as Steven Kampfer would take a pass from Jake Dowell off the rush and he'd fire a laser of a snap shot by Clemmensen with less than 5 minutes left in the 3rd period.  Kampfer's goal would hold as Iowa won its 3rd game in a row.  Gustafsson had 28 saves in the victory.  

Wild Prospect Report:

D – Mathew Dumba (Portland, WHL) ~ I wonder if Seattle is sick of playing the Winterhawks as the two clubs seem to meet just about every other game.  Either way, its worked out in the Winterhawks' favor as they blitzed Seattle 7-0 on Saturday night.  The Wild's blue chip offensive defenseman had a monster game, contributing a goal and 3 assists in the victory.  Dumba has 8 goals, 23 points, along with 37 PIM's and is a +31 in 26 games played this season.  

F – Louie Nanne (Sioux Falls, USHL) ~ The former Edina star had a goal in the Stampede's 4-2 victory over Fargo on Sunday.  The RPI-committ has 4 goals, 8 points, with 10 PIM's and is a -8 in 31 games played this season.

C – Adam Gilmour (Boston College, H-East) ~ It was a disappointing finish for the Boston College Eagles as they fell 4-2 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.  No doubt the team will still advance to the NCAA Tournament but their Top Seed might be in jeopardy after this defeat.  Gilmour, anchoring the 4th line did his best to chipping in an assist, 3 shots and was a +1 in the loss.  The former Muskegon Lumberjack has 7 goals, 19 points and 10 PIM's in 37 games played this season.  

D – Gustav Olofsson (Colorado College, NCHC) ~ Olofsson's freshman season came to an end on Sunday night as the Tigers fell to North Dakota in Game 3 of their best-of-3 series on Sunday night.  The Gavle, Sweden-native had an assist and 2 shots finishing a +1 in a losing effort.  Olofsson finishes his freshman season with 4 goals, 9 assists and 20 PIM's in 31 games played 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 time 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!

Hard work and smart play yields a quality 3-1 road win over Boston

Pierre-Marc Bouchard skates by Bruins bench...

Boston and Minnesota both have a storied hockey history.  Both areas are hockey hotbeds in the United States and share mutual accomplishments such as developing NHL talent to the 1980 Miracle on Ice team which a seminal event in American sports history.  Boston during the 1970′s was one of the best teams in the NHL, led by perhaps the most athletically gifted defenseman in the history of the game in Bobby Orr, and a collection of scoring forwards like Johnny Bucyk and Phil Esposito.  The Big Bad Bruins of those days had plenty of toughness led by the no-nonsense play of Terry O’Reilly.  Going into the early 1980′s the Bruins routinely bullied the Minnesota North Stars into submission where Head Coach Glen Sonmor decided enough was enough.  After calling then North Stars’ General Manager Lou Nanne for the “ok” to send a message, and after receiving Nanne’s approval Sonmor met with his team to explain how his team should not take even the slightest act of intimidation on the part of the Bruins.  The team took heed, and on February 26th, 1981 at the old Boston Garden history would be made as the two teams combined for 67 penalties and 406 penalty minutes which was a record that stood for nearly 30 years.  The North Stars did not win that game, losing 5-1 but the message was sent and Minnesota went on to blitz the Big Bad Bruins in the post-season. 

Check it out for yourself http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ng-lRa0HKc&feature=related

The Wild will never go berserk quite like that but part of me would love to see Minnesota show that kind of sandpaper every once in a while.  Not because I am eager for a full-line brawl, but because I think the game is played with passion and heart and I think a good fight can inspire your team and something is gained bonding-wise through a brawl.  You have your teammates back and its a collective experience that none of those guys that played that cold night in Boston.  So will the Wild step up to the challenge against a very well-rounded Bruins team or will they struggle to establish consistency and stumble this evening?

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Minnesota had good jump in its skates to start the game, but Boston was moving well too and Brad Marchand threaded a cross-ice pass to Steven Kampfer who wound up and fired a slap shot on goal that was directed aside by the leg pad of Jose Theodore.  Boston had another golden opportunity a few minutes later as Milan Lucic skated around Cam Barker for a close-in chance that was pushed away by Theodore and Nathan Horton gathered up the puck and turned and fired a shot that was just blocked away by the Wild goalie who found himself under siege early in the game.  Mikko Koivu would try to assert himself offensively as he made a nice power move to get a little space from Denis Seidenberg, where he fired a wrister that was stopped by the blocker of Tuukka Rask.  Boston countered with its top line of Marc Savard, Lucic and Horton and it was Savard pulling the trigger on a quick snap shot that was Theodore just managed to catch a piece of to deflect it wide of the mark.  The Bruins were also bringing it physically as Marchand leveled Brent Burns with a vicious hit behind the Wild goal.  The Wild would be scrambling a bit in its own zone as they attempted to weather the Bruins’ zone.  Minnesota was hustling back to backcheck, and this also gave them opportunities to counter attack and Kyle Brodziak would find Pierre-Marc Bouchard behind the defense and he’d race in and fire a wrist shot that was stopped by a very aggressive Rask who was went way out of his crease to challenge the shot.  The Wild were starting to turn momentum into their favor as some great forechecking by Brad Staubitz who crushed Kampfer and the puck was gathered up by Eric Nystrom who tried to feed a pass to Patrick O’Sullivan who was waiting near the opposite post that just failed to click.  Minnesota started to move its feet and challenge the Bruins, as Martin Havlat hounded Zdeno Chara who was carrying the puck through his own zone, but unfortunately the Wild’s Brodziak would take a hooking penalty that would put Boston on its first power play.  The Bruins would have some problems with Minnesota’s penalty kill early as their passive pressure was working well, as they created some turnovers clearing the zone with relative ease.  Minnesota perhaps got a little lucky as Matt Cullen may have gotten away with a little take down of Horton that drew the ire of the home crowd.  The Wild would get the big kill but Boston would have another great chance as Shawn Thornton would race into the Minnesota zone where he’d fire a low slapper that was kicked into the slot by Theodore that just was out of the reach of Greg Campbell.  The Wild’s counter attack would create another great chance off the rush as Kyle Brodziak attempted to feed a pass to John Madden who chipped a shot up and over the goal.  Boston was still dictating the pace of play early on and they’d draw a tripping penalty on Brent Burns when Milan Lucic actually grabbed and pulled down the Wild defenseman and as Burns tried to sweep way the puck he’d trip up Lucic for the penalty.  On the penalty kill the Bruins moved the puck quicky as Seidenberg blistered a shot from the point that reached Theodore who could quite find it before he snow angled over the top of it to get the whistle.  Cal Clutterbuck would again showcase his ability to be dangerous on the penalty kill as he picked off a Chara pass and he’d race into the Boston zone where he’d drive a slap shot on goal that was steered wide by Rask.  Minnesota would get the big 2nd penalty kill where they went on the attack and work the puck down low but it nearly backfired as the Bruins were able to create a 2-on-1 late but fortunately they ran out of time and the period would end with both teams knotted at 0-0.   

Minnesota would nearly create a turnover on the forecheck as Mikko Koivu intercepted a pass by Denis Seidenberg but was unable to control the puck in his skates.  The Wild was moving its feet well and its energy line of Clutterbuck, O’Sullivan and Cullen was able to create some havoc as Cullen found a little space before pulling the trigger on a shot that was knocked down by Rask but he’d fumble it but Clutterbuck wasn’t able to get a stick on it before he pounced on the loose biscuit.  Minnesota continued to press the attack and some great hustle and stick work by Havlat would drop a pass back to Eric Nystrom who was wide open on the back side and he hammered a slap shot that was gloved by Rask.  The Wild were not giving up much offensively to the Bruins as David Krecji got rocked by a big shoulder check by Greg Zanon.  Minnesota was dictating the pace of play and the Wild would get a bit lucky as Brent Burns got (barely) hooked down by Shawn Thornton.  Thornton was outraged and threw his stick angrily once he got to the sin bin, but Minnesota took full advantage of the fortunate call.  Just a few seconds into the power play, Havlat would pick up the draw and skate towards the slot where he got off a quick backhander that beat Rask to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.  With the boo’s raining down from TD BankNorth Garden, the officials Wes MaCauley and Dean Morton had to explain things to Bruins’ bench boss Claude Julien who was rather incensed by what he felt was a bogus call.  As the puck drop and play resumed Minnesota went right back on the attack and the 2nd line would again create some terrific chances as Bouchard found Havlat alone in the slot and he rifled a shot that was snagged out of the air by Rask.  Boston would try to answer back, and Minnesota would find itself scrambling a bit in its own end and it was only a matter of time before the pressure yielded a power play as Patrick O’Sullivan was tagged with a holding call.  On the Bruins’ 3rd power play of the game Minnesota’s penalty killers were solid, using good active sticks to deny passing lanes and never letting Boston get into any kind of rhythm.  The Wild did a terrific job of closing on the Bruins’ puck carriers, creating turnovers and sweeping the loose pucks down to the Boston end of the ice.  As Minnesota got its 3rd successful penalty kill, the boo’s would return at TD BankNorth Garden as they were frustrated by their team’s lack of scoring chances.  The failed power play seemed to demoralize the Bruins a bit and Minnesota began to go back on the attack and a nice little jump into the play by Marco Scandella to use his 6’2″ frame to protect the puck as he carried it to the Boston crease turned into a nice little rebound chance for Havlat that Rask struggled to control.  The Wild would get a little careless with the puck and the Bruins pressed the play and a turnover in their own zone turned into a shot near the crease as Tyler Seguin got a chance that Theodore stopped and the rebound was lifted up and over the Wild goalie by a pinching Steven Kampfer to tie the game at 1-1.  The Wild tried answer back with some energy as an excellent forechecking effort by Cal Clutterbuck would yield a turnover and as Minnesota continued to outhustle the Bruins this set up a chance for Cam Barker who stepped into a slapper that was blocked by Johnny Boychuk who was limping severely afterwards.  Minnesota continued to swarm and Havlat and Bouchard worked a cycle as it was Havlat who found some room to fire a shot on goal that never reached Rask and the Wild were keeping Boston contained in its own zone.  The physical play and chippiness started to show itself a little more as Brad Marchand tried to initiate a little after the whistle when he gave Zanon a shove.  In sort of a strange sequence, the officials announced a review of a no-goal that seemed to have everyone confused.  The pace of play started to slow down, but that doesn’t mean it was not intense as there were some tremendous puck battles along the boards.  Minnesota would keep on applying pressure and on a pretty sequence of passes it was Brodziak setting up Havlat who was wide open for what looked like a sure goal only to be denied by a diving stop by Rask as Havlat took just a little too long to release the shot.  With the crowd cheering Tuu-ka Tuu-ka the Bruins would have a great chance of their own as Milan Lucic found himself near the Wild crease where he shoveled shot on goal that was stopped by Theodore before it was swept out of the zone by a desperate clear by Nick Schultz.  The final seconds of the period would evaporate with both teams tied at one goal apiece. 

The Bruins would try to get their forecheck going early, but Minnesota would counter attack quite nicely and a small little pass by Andrew Brunette to a racing Mikko Koivu who had a half step on Boychuk would have his stick lifted just before he could pull the trigger and he went crashing into the net skates first.  Minnesota would continue to presse the attack and some nice little passes to get out of its own zone and go on the rush as Bouchard fired a long-range shot that was steered to the corner by Rask but Minnesota would gather up the puck and the Wild cycled it well down low where Havlat fed a pass out to the point where Burns rifled a shot on goal.  Minnesota would follow that up with its energy line and a bad pass by Andrew Ference was intercepted by Cal Clutterbuck who wasted little time unloading a wicked wrister top shelf glove side to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.  The Bruins tried to answer back but Minnesota was moving its feet well and getting sticks into passing lanes but the aggressiveness of Boston was yielding chances and Jose Theodore was seeing the puck well and making the stops.  Boston kept on attacking and Marc Savard found himself all alone near the Wild crease but his backhand bid was stopped by the glove of Theodore who knocked it out of the air and pounced on it for a whistle.  The pressure gave Boston another power play as Mikko Koivu was tagged with a hooking call.  The Wild’s penalty kill was again applying lots of pressure to the Bruins’ puck carriers and was able to create some turnovers setting up some early clearing attempts that killed valuable seconds off the man advantage.  The stifling penalty kill of the Wild was keeping shots from being registered on goal but it was driving the home crowd crazy.  Timely active sticks were also important as well as keeping traffic from obstructing Theodore’s view of the puck as he steered a big blast from Siedenberg away as Minnesota killed off another Bruins’ power play.  The Wild would immediately go on the rush as the Boston power play expired and Marco Scandella who joined the play would draw a hooking penalty on Boychuk.  Minnesota was very sharp early on the man advantage as they set up a number of nice one-timers that forced Rask to make a few nice saves.  The Wild did not score but they had created sustained offensive pressure, and making smart little plays with the puck to hold the zone and generating chances to fire shots on goal to keep the Bruins penalty kill honest.  Minnesota also started to ramp up its physical play as Zanon started to throw his frame around, again punishing David Krecji who will be seeing visions of #5 in his nightmares for quite a while.  The Wild were moving their feet, and doing what was necessary to get the puck out of danger as Clayton Stoner made a nice little play to cross the red line before clearing the puck deep into the Boston zone.  The Bruins would cough up the puck and Chuck Kobasew blazed a shot that hit rasks left shoulder and then caught the crossbar.  Minnesota was clearly in rope-a-dope mode just hoping to win the little races for the puck and force Boston to bring the puck up the full-length of the ice.  The Wild were even taking their chances to work the puck down low and forcing Boston to defend their end of the ice as Eric Nystrom would win a battle for the biscuit which turned into a wrap around attempt for Andrew Brunette that Rask stopped by hugging the right post.  Minnesota was denying space and time all over the ice and you could hear the anxiety in the crowd beginning to build as they could not seem to get away from the scrappy play of the Wild’s skaters.  The Wild’s play was forcing Boston to take risks with long passes and again active sticks were taking away the passing lanes and Minnesota kept denying Boston from having any flow at all.  With 1:24 left, Tuukka Rask would head to his bench while the Bruins put out the extra attacker.  Boston would win the key draw in the Minnesota zone but a partially deflected point shot by Zdeno Chara would lead to a quick shot by Marc Savard that did not miss by much.  Minnesota continued to hustle and Cal Clutterbuck would win a battle for the puck and he’d push it up to Mikko Koivu who passed it over to John Madden who skated it into the Bruins zone before dishing it back to Koivu for the easy empty netter to seal a 3-1 victory for the Wild. 

Jose Theodore was tremendous for the Wild, making 35 saves in the victory.  He was outstanding, limiting rebounds and seeing the puck very well despite all of the Bruins attempt to create traffic near his crease.  Defensively the Wild were outstanding, supporting their goalie very well and playing physical at the right times to stabilize the pressure in their own zone.  Greg Zanon and Clayton Stoner were especially strong on their skates tonight, delivering hits and making good smart plays to alleviate pressure by carrying the puck out of trouble.  Minnesota had a tremendous effort from their penalty kill, which never let Boston get anything going on the man advantage with outstanding puck pursuit and harassing the Bruins puck carriers all night long. 

Offensively the Wild helped out their cause by providing pressure on the Bruins which helped the team defensively as it did on the scoreboard.  Minnesota only had two power plays but they were able to establish sustained offensive pressure in a way that hasn’t been seen since the early portion of the season.  Martin Havlat again was playing with plenty of initiative and nose for the net and he had numerous chances.  It was good to see him taking his chances to fire the puck and he is at his best when he’s looking to shoot.  The Wild was applying forechecking pressure from all of its lines that frustrated the Bruins and the hustle of role players like Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak and even Patrick O’Sullivan and others proved to be decisive in the outcome. 

This was the type of effort the team has been waiting for and they have a lot to feel good about as they make their way to Pittsburgh for a game on Saturday night.  Pittsburgh has been absolutely on fire, going 19-4-2 in its last 25 games.  The Wild must do its best to keep Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at bey and cash in on the opportunities that present themselves in the Penguins zone.  Update: the Wild will not have have to worry about Sidney Crosby since he is out for a week with a mild concussion.   Minnesota hopefully can rest up and have another wonderful road effort. 

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight is as follows:  Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Chuck Kobasew, John Madden, Patrick O’Sullivan, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, Eric Nystrom, Matt Cullen, Marco Scandella, Clayton Stoner, Greg Zanon, Cam Barker and Brent Burns.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Jose Theodore.  Jared Spurgeon and Antti Miettinen were the healthy scratches, while Marek Zidlicky was out with an upper body injury and Guillaume Latendresse is still on the mend recovering from November surgery. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were 1st Star Martin Havlat, 2nd Star Patrice Bergeron, 3rd Star Jose Theodore

~ Attendance was 17,565 at TD BankNorth Garden.

~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate Team USA on its bronze medal finish at the World Junior Championships after a 4-2 victory over Sweden.  Additionally the State of Hockey News would like to congratulate Team Russia as this year’s U-20 World Junior Champions after shocking a heavily favored Canadian squad by scoring 5 unanswered goals in the 3rd period to erase a 3-0 deficit for the improbable 5-3 victory. 

~ I know this is a hockey-focused page, but The State of Hockey News would like to give a huge congratulations to Minnesota Twins’ great, Bert Blyleven‘s vote to enter Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame on June 24th.  A long overdue accomplishment for a pitcher who had 287 wins and 3,701 strikeouts in a 22-year career.  This time, we will circle you Bert! 

Wild Prospect Report:

LW – Erik Haula ~ Team Finland (U-20 WJC’s)

2010-11 Stats: 6GP  4G 3A = 7pts  10 PIM’s

The World Junior Championships may not have turned out the way many American hockey fans had hoped, but it turned out to be another opportunity to see how good one the Wild’s prospects was in the performance of versatile forward Erik Haula.  It was a tough tournament for Finland who lacked the offensive punch of many of the other teams meant Haula was going to log a ton of ice time and be one the leaders.  Haula demonstrated more of an ability to score goals for himself instead of being the playmaker that he has primarily been at the University of Minnesota thus far.  With fellow Golden Gopher Nick Bjugstad who also had a decent tournament (2 goals, 2 assists) should give Minnesota a huge boost once they return to Don Lucia‘s lineup and after a very underwhelming performance in the Dodge Holiday classic Minnesota’s Pride on Ice can use all the help it can get.  

High School Boys Hockey Report:

*Class 2A Rankings:

#1  Eden Prairie Eagles (8-2)
#2  Edina Hornets (7-2-2)
#3  Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights (9-1)
#4  Wayzata Trojans (11-2)
#5  Hill-Murray Pioneers (7-2-1)
#6  Duluth East Greyhonds (9-2)
#7  Eagan Wildcats (6-3-1)
#8  Apple Valley Eagles (7-2)
#9  Grand Rapids Thunderhawks (10-1-1)
#10  Maple Grove Crimson (7-3-1)

*Class 1A Rankings:

#1  St. Thomas Academy (4-3)
#2  Hermantown Hawks (10-0-1)
#3  Breck Mustangs (6-3) 
#4  Rochester Lourdes Eagles (12-1)
#5  Blake Bears (7-1-2)
#6  Hibbing/Chisholm Bluejackets (9-3-1)
#7  Virginia/Mt.Iron-Buhl Blue Devils (9-4)
#8  Totino-Grace Eagles (7-0)
#9  Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers (7-5-1)
#10  Little Falls Flyers (9-1-2)

*- All rankings are according to Hockey Hub.com

Litchfield / Dassel-Cokato Dragons (Wright County Conference) ~ 7-0-1

The Litchfield / Dassel-Cokato Dragons are in some rarified company at this point in the season as they are just one of 3 teams in the State of Hockey that is currently undefeated.  Their undefeated record has not been without challenges as they rallied back in the 3rd period to earn a 3-2 overtime victory over Mound-Westonka.  Head Coach Chris Olson‘s squad is led offensively by senior forwards Andy Haataja (11 goals, and 18 points) and Quinn Impola (6 goals, 15 points).  While certainly there are questions over the Dragons strength of schedule, which is why they are not ranked amongst the top 10 in Class 1A Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato hopes to prove the doubters wrong come playoff time.  Between the pipes the Dragons rotate between Derek Sherman (3-0-1 record, 1.67 goals against average, .932%SP) and Ryan Koivisto (4-0 record, .75 goals against average, .932%SP).  While I’d have to list myself amongst those that question the Dragons’ strength of schedule I know there are lots of teams that would love to be undefeated as they are right now.  The Dragons next game is tomorrow against conference rival New Ulm.     

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 time 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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