Sometimes the toughest thing to do is to move on from a good moment. its like a hangover. You keep living in that moment of glory from the past, you become distracted from the present. I hope the Wild are not going to be living too much in the afterglow of the dramatic overtime victory on Saturday against the Stars to not take care of business on Monday against that same Dallas squad who will no doubt be feeling they were robbed. So perhaps the team's biggest challenge will tempering that feeling of overconfidence. The Wild certainly had it within them to have played better than they did on Saturday.
Presently, the Wild are sitting in 8th place in the super competitive Western Conference, tied with Vancouver with 59 points. They hold a 4 point advantage over the Phoenix Coyotes who have 3 games in hand on the Wild. We might as well get used to the game by game standings watch because its just the nature of the race. In case you are curious, we'd be 4th in the Eastern Conference. Can the Wild continue to hold serve in this great race or will their weekend's good fortune mean they will stumble in big D?
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1st Period Thoughts: Not a good start for the Wild, Minnesota was not anticipating the play well and the Stars were looking motivated and full of energy. The Stars intensity combined with the hesitant play of Minnesota started to lead to Dallas creating a plethora of scoring chances early. A long stretch pass by Ray Whitney up to Erik Cole saw the veteran speed behind the Wild defense and he'd race in but just before he was going to pull the trigger he lost the puck and the puck would lay in the blue paint before Darcy Kuemper was able to sweep it aside. A minute or two after that, the Wild would have some more good fortune in their own zone as Jamie Benn set up Tyler Seguin for a quick shot that went off the base of the right post and back towards the middle of the crease where it was eventually swept out of danger. Minnesota was not able to get much of anything going offensively. One hard wrist shot by Nino NIederreiter was really the only offensive chance to speak of for the Wild. Frustration was starting to build and Vernon Fiddler would get into a near fight with Stephane Veilleux. Part of the Wild's problems stemmed from poor passes out of the zone which made it tough for the Wild to attack through the neutral zone with speed. The Stars kept pressing and their pressure would draw a penalty as Torrey Mitchell would earn a minor for high sticking as he got his stick into the face of Antoine Roussel. On the power play the Stars 29th ranked power play looked very sharp and dangerous. Minnesota's penalty killers just couldn't seem to clear the zone and that feeling of panic would be amplified when Marco Scandella broke his stick forcing Stephane Veilleux to give up his twig. The loss of the stick would allow the Stars to create some prime chances as they set up Seguin on back door passes that Kuemper made some great saves on. The Wild would somehow escape unscathed on the man advantage but Minnesota did not seem to gain any energy after the big kill. The Stars kept attacking and their effort would be rewarded as a long range shot from the point by Vernon Fiddler that was going wide of the net would deflect off the leaning body of Roussel and by Kuemper to make it 1-0 Dallas. Minnesota had no pushback at all after Roussel's goal, and the Stars would apply pressure on the forecheck and this would draw another Wild penalty as Justin Fontaine sent a puck into the stands for a delay of game call. Dallas' power play would add to the Stars' lead as a blocked Alex Goligoski shot by Torrey Mitchell who was hobbled by the block, the puck stayed in the zone where Goligoski fed Erik Cole and he'd snipe a shot by a well-screened Kuemper to make it 2-0. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo called a timeout to chew out his team and I can't say it worked. Minnesota still looked timid and uninspired and the Wild would take another penalty late as Niederreiter would spend two minutes in the box for interference. The Wild would thankfully escape the period without any further damage, but it was a paltry 1st period effort against a team that had played the night before. There is no excuse the Wild should've been outshot 12-3.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild started the 2nd period on the penalty kill as they had nearly 1:30 of power play time to kill on Niederreiter's penalty. Minnesota looked a lot sharper on the kill as they were able to clear the zone and even showed a little anticipation as they stole a puck in the neutral zone that led to a shorthanded shot from the blueline by Nate Prosser that drew a save from Kari Lehtonen. The Wild were showing more initiative as Jason Zucker as worked a nice little play with Charlie Coyle that was denied by Lehtonen. The Stars would counter attack as Ray Whitney was set up perfectly by Rich Peverly only to be stoned by Kuemper. Minnesota would answer back with a great chance of their own as Matt Cooke set up Justin Fontaine by Lehtonen managed to make a big leg pad save. The Wild would earn its first power play of the game on the play as Antonie Roussel took Kyle Brodziak aggressively into the end boards where he'd earn a roughing penalty. Yet on the power play it was a complete buzzkill for Minnesota. Poor passing, lack of focus led to a power play that had great difficulty even entering the offensive zone to say nothing of registering any shots on goal. The Stars seemed to gain momentum from Minnesota's poor execution and they would draw another Wild penalty as Justin Fontaine got his stick into the face off Seguin. The Wild penalty killers did their best to deny the Stars from having the middle of the ice, using good active sticks to help clear the zone and prevent the back door plays. Minnesota nearly escaped, but in the closing seconds of the power play Ray Whitney would manage to sneak a shot through Kuemper to make it 3-0. The penalties kept coming for the Wild as Mikael Granlund would take a lazy high sticking penalty as he got his stick into the grill of Sergei Gonchar. Minnesota's penalty kill would try to get some offense going of its own as Kyle Brodziak blocked a shot and raced in on a shorthanded chance but he didn't have the wheels to turn it into a breakaway and instead fired a heavy wrist shot that was steered aside by Lehtonen. The Wild got another big kill but the penalty woes conotinued. This time from the bench as their heckling of the officials would be noticed by NHL referree Gord Dwyer who had enough of it and Minnesota found itself on the penalty kill again. Wild alternate captain Ryan Suter tried to talk to Dwyer who clearly was a little upset and Minnesota wasn't going to find any relief. Kuemper would make some more great saves in the closing seconds of the period, but Minnesota still trailed 3-0 going into the 3rd. A tiny bit better than the 1st period; but still too many guys standing and reaching instead of skating and hustling. After an extra day off, that kind of (lack of) effort is inexcuseable.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild were still not winning the races for the loose pucks as they appeared tired and just sort of going through the motions. Dallas was still taking its chances to rip shots on goal to keep Minnesota defending instead of mounting some kind of feeble attack. Maybe feeble isn't the right adjective to describe it, degenerative sounds more appropriate. The Wild would have another power play as Jamie Benn was tagged with a roughing minor. On the power play Minnesota would create a few decent scoring chances on some strong play by Charlie Coyle to use his big frame to protect the puck and work it back to the point for a shot by Jonas Brodin and then moments after that it was Keith Ballard ringing a shot off the post and out. As Minnesota's power play couldn't bury the goal the puck would leave the zone where Darcy Kuemper tried to race out to the boards for the puck but he'd lose the race to Jordie Benn who tried to stuff it into the open net but his attempt was thwarted by Kuemper tossing his paddle to disrupt the shot and that would be whistled for unsportsmanlike play and Dallas would have a penalty shot. Jordie Benn was the unlikely shooter but he'd make the most of it as he moved in patiently and getting Kuemper to guess and drop early before beating him with a slick backhand goal, 4-0 Dallas. Ouch. The frustration would boil over with some more Wild penalties in the closing minutes of the period, personified the Wild's lack of focus and discipline in this game as theyw were shutout 4-zip. Pathetic.
Darcy Kuemper cannot be blamed for the outcome as he made 32 saves in the loss with questionable help in front of him for most of the game. Defensively the Wild were giving up a number of prime chances to the Stars. On the penalty kill, the Wild were far too passive as they gave the Stars' power play far too much time and space. Most of the defensive issues were caused by the Wild's lack of hustle and not moving their feet. There was a lot of standing and reaching out there and the fact the Wild committed 7 lazy penalties tonight.
I am not going to bother to talk about the Wild's offensive problems. The team simply never showed up. They had an extra day off and they looked like the exhausted club out there and not Dallas who had played the night before in Nashville. There is no excuse for that. None at all. The team should've been rested well enough to at least battle for the two points tonight. There needs to be some serious soul searching after this debacle of an effort. KFAN's Brandon Mileski quipped on Twitter, "Perhaps the Dallas GM should hold a closed door meeting with the Wild after this game" in reference to the effect the meeting seemed to have on the Stars tonight. All kidding aside, how in the heck can you be that woefully unprepared to play?
The Wild's challenge won't get any easier on Thursday when Chicago comes to town. You can bet the Blackhawks won't allow themselves to come to St. Paul as uninspired as the Wild did in Dallas tonight. Sounds like it might be time for a bag skate if they don't want to work hard during the games.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Dany Heatley, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Justin Fontaine, Torrey Mitchell, Stephane Veilleux, Erik Haula, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner. Johan Gustafsson backed up Darcy Kuemper. Mike Rupp was the lone healthy scratch tonight.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Mike Heika were: 1st Star Alex Goligoski, 2nd Star Jordie Benn, 3rd Star Kari Lehtonen
~ Attendance was 11,191 at American Airlines Arena.
Iowa Wild Report:
Recent Score: Iowa 1, Lake Erie 0
It was a tale of opposites in the Wild's 2-game weekend series with the Lake Erie Monsters. On Friday night, the Wild crushed the Monsters 6-1. On Saturday night, goals were in very short supply but the ultimate result was the same. Lake Erie played the game with the kind of fire one would expect from a club that had been embarassed the night before. The Monsters peppered John Curry with shots on goal. Lake Erie kept up its siege but Curry kept shutting them down. The stalemate was finally broken early in the 3rd period on the power play when Warren Peters bang home a rebound off a point shot by John Landry to make it 1-0 Wild. Lake Erie did all they could to score the game-tying goal but Curry stonewalled the Monsters to earn a huge shutout win for the Wild. Curry had 45 saves in the shutout. Iowa's next game will be on Wednesday against Texas.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Mario Lucia (Notre Dame, H-East) ~ The Fighting Irish finished the weekend with another win as they swept former CCHA foe Lake Superior State in a 4-2 win on Saturday night. Lucia had a goal to finish what was an impressive weekend for the former Wayzata star. He is 2nd on the team in points (20) and tied for first in goals with (12) in 23 games played this season.
D – Dylan Labbe (Shawinigan, QMJHL) ~ The St. Benjamin, Quebec-native keeps finding his way onto the scoresheet as he chipped in an assist in the Cataractes 5-2 loss to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Labbe also dished out two hits in the victory. The 6'2" defenseman has 5 goals and 20 points and 16 PIM's in 43 games played this season.
D – Mathew Dumba (Portland, WHL) ~ It was an eventful evening for the Wild's blue chip prospect defenseman on Sunday. The Winterhawks rolled to a 5-0 victory, and Dumba chipped in two assists as well as dropping the gloves late in the 2nd period and finished the game a +2. Dumba has a goal and 4 assists and is a +6 with 11 PIM's in just 3 games played this season.